Iraqi Kurdistan, refuge for militants forced to leave Iraq

Audio 02:29

A street in Souleymanieh, in Iraqi Kurdistan (illustrative image).


By: Lucile Wassermann Follow

6 min

It has been a year since the Iraqis took to the streets to demand a new political system.

We remember: for months, tens of thousands of inhabitants had beaten the pavement, until the resignation of the Prime Minister was obtained, at the cost of hundreds of deaths and thousands of wounded.

Today, demonstrations are rare, but the movement is trying to organize itself politically and is preparing a new start on October 1.

Problem: for weeks, the main activists have been targeted, murdered, kidnapped.

Many had to flee for Iraqi Kurdistan.


Redha Ali Al-Aqili, seated on an empty park bench, scrolls through videos on his mobile phone.

On several of them, we see him dominating a human tide, standing on a car, microphone in hand.

He shouts slogans that the crowd in front of him takes to heart.

These moments were captured in Maysan, in southern Iraq, in October 2019. At the time when the Iraqi protests were still in full swing.

For almost a year, Redha, in her twenties, with black hair combed back, was involved body and soul in this movement.

He was one of the leaders, but had to be forgotten after two assassination attempts.


The first time was when I got seven bullets in my car in March.

That didn't stop me from protesting, until about a month and a half ago, but in August they targeted me, my family and me, using rocket launcher, an RPG, and again live ammunition. .


After these attacks, Redha resigns herself to fleeing far from her native region.

With his family, he now lives in exile in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.


All the governorates that rose up in Iraq, and where the activists mobilized, have become too dangerous today, that's why I went to northern Iraq.


Redha is not an isolated case.

Many other activists have been targeted during this year.

Those who survived often left, like him, for Iraqi Kurdistan.

Others have completely left the country.

Return to Baghdad where Doctor Ali al-Bayati, member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, has observed these crimes committed against activists for a year.


It is very clear that these assassinations are aimed at the most active part of the protest to prevent them from regrouping or organizing politically, so that they do not participate in the next elections.


In total in one year, more than 75 activists have been assassinated according to him.

Activists accuse Iranian-backed paramilitary groups of being behind the attacks, but to date no government investigation has identified those responsible.

For Ali Al Bayati, there is little chance that this will happen.


Those who do, are doing it freely right now, and have enough power to do it.

They have military groups, and they are part of the authorities.

They have immunity.


Today uncertainty remains over the future of the movement, and as October 1 approaches, a whole nation is holding its breath.


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  • Iraq

  • Kurds

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