Iraq: a series of assassinations of militants plunges the country into fear

Iraqi students protest in Basra, Iraq on January 28, 2020 (Photo illustration). REUTERS / Essam al-Sudani

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In Iraq, a series of assassinations plunges protesters into fear. In less than a week, in Basra, in the south of the country, two activists were murdered and three others were injured.


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His name adds to the long list of Iraqi protesters killed by unidentified militiamen. On Wednesday, Riham Yacoub, a young activist from Basra was riddled with bullets. She was driving her car when men riding a scooter and armed with assault rifles killed her instantly, injuring the other three passengers.

Riham Yacoub "  has joined the caravan of martyrs  " exclaims on Twitter an Iraqi activist. Who will be next?  », Can we read elsewhere. “  How far will they go?  ".

Since his death on Wednesday, many have wondered about this escalation of violence in Basra. Riham Yacoub was a doctor and fitness coach, threatened with death several times. For two years, she had participated in protest movements to denounce the decay of public services and the corruption of local authorities. Charismatic, she was found at the head of the processions of demonstrators.

Another militant killed

His assassination came a few days after the murder of another activist, Tahseen Osama, also killed in cold blood by militiamen. In response, demonstrators surrounded the region's governorate building. Throwing stones and molotov cocktails, the security forces responded with live ammunition.

These assassinations sparked outrage from Western Chanceries, all of which demanded justice. Faced with this violence, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kazimi sacked the city's police chief on Monday and called for an investigation. Al-Kazimi had promised, when he took office in May, to protect the demonstrators against the repeated assaults of these outlaw militias. But for the Iraqis who take to the streets, these promises have gone unheeded.

In total, since last year, there have been "  eight assassinations and seven attempted assassinations in Basra,  " recalls Mehdi al-Tamimi, head of the city's Human Rights Council. For all these assassinations, no official investigation has so far led to arrests or even given leads on the perpetrators. But most of the militants kidnapped or having escaped assassination attempts claim to have received threats, by telephone or on social networks, made, they assure, by "  militias  ". A term used in Iraq to refer to armed pro-Iran factions.

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