Iraqi protesters call for accountability after killing activists | Middle East News


Hundreds of people protest in Baghdad demanding an end to impunity following the assassination of dozens of pro-democracy activists.

Hundreds of Iraqis have protested in central Baghdad to demand that authorities hold accountable the killers of dozens of activists associated with a long protest movement.

More than 70 activists have been the target of assassination, assassination attempts and kidnappings since a pro-democracy protest movement erupted against government corruption and incompetence in 2019.

“We are here to say we want to end impunity in Iraq,” Hussein Al-Faili, an 18-year-old student from Firdos Square, a key protest site, told AFP news agency on Sunday.

“We want freedom! This revolution started because of that and we will not stop until we win ”.

Dozens also showed up in the southern city of Nasiriya, where tensions have risen after a hospital fire killed at least 60 people Monday.

Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi on Friday announced the arrest of four suspects in the uninterrupted shooting of a prominent academic and government adviser to Hisham al-Hashemi a year ago.

Iraqi state television aired short clips on Friday afternoon of the alleged confession of Ahmed al-Kenani, a 36-year-old police lieutenant, who said he had used a gun to assassinate al-Hashemi.

A security source told AFP Kenani that she was affiliated with Kataib Hezbollah, a pro-Iranian militia.

But Faili said the arrests were not enough.

“We want the big man who ordered the murder,” Faili said.

Iraqi protesters react during a rally calling for support for the principles of justice and responsibility [Saba Kareem/Reuters]

Mostly young protesters on Sunday sang against “political and treacherous parties” while others remembered their murdered comrades in tears.

Iraq, still battered and impoverished after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion and the turmoil that followed, has been a battleground for influence between enemies Washington and Tehran, which has supported paramilitaries and politicians.

Activist Shatha Al-Qaisi said, “This campaign … seeks support from around the world to stop the bloodshed. It is not a politicized movement.”

The High Commission on Human Rights reported that nearly 35 activists have been killed in Iraq since an anti-government protest movement ravaged Iraq in October 2019.

Many expect the killings to continue, as Iraq plans to hold early elections in October, which had been a key demand of anti-government protesters.

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