Iraqis protest ‘end of impunity’ as killings of activists go unpunished

Hundreds of Iraqis protested in central Baghdad on Sunday to demand that authorities hold accountable the murderers of dozens of activists involved in a long-running protest movement.

Murders, attempted murders and kidnappings have targeted more than 70 activists since a pro-democracy protest movement erupted in 2019 against government corruption and incompetence.

“We are here to say that we want to end impunity in Iraq,” Hussein Al-Faili, an 18-year-old student, told AFP from Firdous Square, a major protest site.

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

Dozens also showed up in Nasiriyah, an insurgent Shia city in southern Iraq, where tensions were running high after a hospital fire that killed at least 60 people on Monday.

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

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

A security source said AFP Kenani had ties to Kataeb Hezbollah, a hard-hitting pro-Iran armed faction.

But Faili said the arrests weren’t enough.

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

The boisterous crowd in Firdous Square listened to a young man sing a melancholic melancholic melancholy.

This was followed by a recording of a poem by iconic young activist Safaa Saray, who died in 2019 after being struck in the head with a tear gas can during a demonstration.

The mostly young protesters chanted Sunday against “political parties, traitors and militias”, while others remembered their murdered comrades in tears.

Another young woman, also a student, denounced the presence of “militias and Iranian interference in Iraq”.

Iraq, still battered and impoverished after the 2003 US-led invasion and the unrest that followed, has been a battleground for influence between nemesis Washington and Tehran, who have supported paramilitaries and politicians.

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

(AFP)

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