GCHR’s 30th Periodic Report on Human Rights Violations in Iraq

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has documented the human rights situation in Iraq during the past five years since the start of the popular movement, including by publishing 29 periodic reports detailing the grave violations taking place in the country. They can be viewed here.

The 30th periodic report, describing the demonstrations that accompanied the fourth anniversary of the start of the popular October movement, covers various types of grave violations, including assassinations, domestic violence leading to death, and targeting of journalists. In addition, a separate section documents demonstrations of employees and retirees, and the targeting of journalists in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

The 4th anniversary of the start of the October Popular Movement

On 01 October 2023, security forces dispersed a demonstration in Al-Tahrir Square in Baghdad, in which hundreds of human rights defenders and other activists participated, to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the start of the October Popular Movement on the same day in 2019 throughout the central and southern governorates of the country. 

During the demonstration, the protesters raised the same slogans as they did during the popular movement, demanding comprehensive reform, eliminating rampant corruption, and stopping policies of suppressing public freedoms. They raised pictures of protesters who gave their lives for a homeland that provides all citizens with a future in which social justice prevails and their civil and human rights are respected.

On the same day, similar demonstrations were launched in most of the governorates of the central and northern regions, including Dhi Qar Governorate, where press reports stated that thousands of citizens demonstrated in Al-Haboubi Square in the centre of the city of Nasiriyah, to participate in commemorating the fourth anniversary, raising pictures of protesters who lost their lives during the protests. They demanded that the authorities uncover the killers of the demonstrators, carry out comprehensive reforms, and eliminate corruption.

The third Blood of Sky Festival

On 27 October 2023, the family of Safaa Al-Saray – who died during the popular movement, held the third Blood of Sky Festival at the Al-Rashid Theater in Baghdad, to remember Al-Saray and hundreds of other protesters who lost their lives during the Popular October Movement after they faced bullets with their bare chests. There was a large public presence at the festival hall, which was completely filled, and civil society activists, poets, and artists participated. There was a screening of a documentary film about the Popular October Movement, poetic and dramatic works, and an art exhibition.

On the night of 28 October 2019, riot police force stationed on the Al-Jumhuriya Bridge overlooking Al-Tahrir Square in central Baghdad directly targeted human rights activist Safaa Al-Saray, with a tear gas canister hitting him in the head. He was taken to hospital and, despite the medical attention he received, lost his life two hours later.

Prominent civil society activist assassinated in central Baghdad

On 16 October 2023, prominent civil society activist Ali Mahmoud Abboud Al-Sabawi was assassinated near the Al-Saadoun Street tunnel in central Baghdad by assailants using a silencer pistol. Reliable local reports confirmed that two gunmen riding a motorcycle carried out the assassination and fled.

Al-Sabawi, who is originally from Mosul, has actively participated in the popular movement since its start on 01 October 2019. His Facebook page is full of several audio recordings he made, some of which urge citizens to participate in the Tahrir Square protests.

On 01 October 2023, when he participated in the demonstration that began in Al-Tahrir Square, he posted on his Facebook page a photo of himself holding a banner on which he wrote the goals of the popular October movement, according to his point of view, which included holding the killers of demonstrators accountable and bringing justice to the victims of the protests.

Woman candidate threatened ahead of provincial council election

On 08 October 2023, Zina Hafez Al-Salihi, a candidate for the provincial council election in Diyala Governorate, announced her withdrawal from running in these elections. She explained in a post on her Facebook page that the reason was the threats she received, which amounted to threats to kill her son.

On 13 October 2023, after she deleted her previous post, Al-Salihi announced in a new post that she had reversed her previous decision and was returning to participate as a candidate in the elections after she received support from the local population.

Al-Hamdaniya district disaster and rampant corruption in construction contracting

On 26 September 2023, a fatal fire broke out in a wedding hall in the town of Qaraqosh (Bakhdida) during a wedding attended by approximately 1100 guests. A total of 132 citizens lost their lives and more than 150 others were injured with varying degrees of severity. The fire occurred due to non-compliance with safety and security measures, as there was only one entrance and exit to the hall, as well as the use of highly flammable materials in the process of building the hall, which is in violation of the applicable safety code.

Qaraqosh, or Bakhdida, is an Iraqi Syriac town located about 32 km southeast of the city of Mosul, and it is the capital of the Al-Hamdaniya district of Nineveh Governorate.

After the accident, on 30 September 2023, the Civil Defense Directorate confirmed in press statements that it monitored the existence of, "7,000 projects violating safety conditions, including event halls, hotels, restaurants, and private projects.”

GCHR shares the sorrow and sadness of the families of the 132 victims who lost their lives and wishes the wounded a quick recovery. GCHR calls on the Iraqi government to ensure that those responsible for the tragedy will face justice, and that the applicable safety codes will be met in other buildings across Iraq so this tragedy won’t be repeated.

Blogger Nour BM murdered

On 25 September 2023, during the daytime, blogger Noor Al-Saffar (Noor BM) was killed in the Al-Mansour area in Baghdad after an unknown gunman shot him with three bullets from a pistol he was carrying, hitting his neck and stomach, killing him instantly. He fled on the motorcycle he was riding, as shown in this video which recorded the killing. 

Al-Saffar, who used to post on TikTok and Instagram modelling women’s clothing and makeup as part of his work, was perceived as being transgender because he dressed as a woman in his social media posts, although he identified as male and said he was not transgender in a December 2020 interview. He had accumulated a following of over 370,000 across Instagram and TikTok.

Journalist faces death threats

On 12 September 2023, Najaf Guide newspaper denounced on its Facebook page the threats directed at its editorial board member, journalist Ahmed Al-Silawi, by a person associated with one of the political parties operating in Najaf Governorate. In its post, it also called on security services to address the complaint submitted to them by Al-Silawi in relation to these threats.

In a subsequent post on the same page, published on 15 September 2023, the newspaper stated, "The correspondent for the Najaf Guide newspaper, Ahmed Al-Silawi, informed the  Journalistic Freedom Observatory (JFO) that he had received a recorded phone call from the head of a party in Najaf threatening to kill him. Al-Silawi demanded through the Observatory that the official authorities and security forces should protect him and conduct an urgent investigation to find the person that made the threat.” The post also stated, "On the evening of 11 September 2023, he received a phone call from a party leader because of his criticism of the party and its policies. He threatened to kill him and directed insults at him.”

Red Cross names Iraq as one of the countries with the most missing persons

On 30 August 2023, on the occasion of the International Day of Missing Persons, the International Committee of the Red Cross issued a statement saying, "As the world marks the International Day of the Disappeared, countless families in Iraq search and wait, for years sometimes decades, not knowing if their loved ones are dead or alive.”

The statement added, "In Iraq, decades of successive conflicts and periods of violence have led to one of the highest numbers of missing persons in the world. Hundreds of thousands of individuals remain unaccounted for, with nearly as many family members still looking for them, many of whom live in limbo due to the uncertainty around their missing relatives’ fate.”

Feminist protest demands heavier judicial ruling in murder case and calls for Domestic Violence Law to be passed

On 29 August 2023, in the presence of the mother of a murdered child, Musa Walaa, a feminist protest was organised near the Supreme Judicial Council building in Baghdad, in which women human rights defenders, journalists, and other activists participated. The protesters said the sentence for his murder was too light, and demanded that a new, more severe sentence be handed down, to reflect the seriousness of the crime, which was legally considered to be murder, in order to serve as a deterrent to violators of children’s rights. They also called on the authorities to enact the draft Domestic Violence Law.

The Supreme Judicial Council had announced in a statement on 27 August 2023, that the Baghdad Al-Karkh Criminal Court had issued a 15-year prison sentence for the killer of the child Musa, in accordance with the provisions of Article 410/First of the Iraqi Penal Code.

GCHR previously documented on 20 July 2023, that the seven-year-old child Musa was found lying on the ground and had died after the severe torture he was subjected to at the hands of his stepmother.

In a separate case, on 06 September 2023, citizens once again expressed their anger on social media about the killing of blogger Taiba Ali, whose father was sentenced last April to only six months in prison, as the case was not considered as murder, but rather as a premeditated honour killing.

GCHR previously documented the murder of blogger Taiba Ali, 22 years old, which occurred on the night of 31 January 2023, in Diwaniyah Governorate in southern Iraq, by her father, who strangled her while she was asleep. The father turned himself in to the police, declaring that he had committed an "honour killing” As he claimed.

Iraq’s Kurdistan region

Mass demonstrations of teachers, retirees and graduates

Mass demonstrations organised by teachers and retirees began in most cities in Sulaymaniyah Governorate in recent weeks, demanding that their salaries be paid regularly and through banks. They denounced the local government’s imposition of compulsory savings on them, as they considered it another legalised method that would lead to the confiscation of their salaries without their consent. This chronic suffering began in 2014. The latest demonstrations across the governorate’s cities began again on 07 November 2023.

In this video, a child in Iraqi Kurdistan, who is only ten years old, talked with great pain about the reason for his participation in these demonstrations, and said, "I came to take my rights. They do not give salaries.” He added, directing his question to the officials, "Won’t you take your son for treatment abroad if he becomes ill? I am like your son… I need treatment outside the country.”

In another protest, unemployed graduates in Sulaymaniyah Governorate, whose number exceeds 30,000 graduates, organise demonstrations on Sunday and Wednesday of every week, demanding that the authorities appoint them to jobs in their specialisations and guarantee a bright future for them and their families.

Journalist briefly arrested

 On 24 August 2023, journalist Islam Kashani was arrested at his home in the city of Zakho, by a security force affiliated with the Asayish (Internal Security Forces), following which another Asayish force stormed his house hours after his arrest. The two forces did not have judicial permission to arrest him or storm his house. He was released on bail the next day.

Kashani works as director of the office of Speda Satellite Channel in Zakho District of Nineveh Governorate, and a presenter of news programs on Xabir Satellite Channel.

Reliable local sources confirmed that his arrest was linked to his opinions that he published on social media networks and television news programs, in which he criticised corruption in the region’s institutions, non-payment of salaries to employees, and poor public services provided to citizens.

Woman journalist remains in prison on alleged malicious charges

Journalist Nala Super is still languishing in the prison of the Women’s Correctional Facility in the city of Erbil after the Criminal Court issued against her on 07 December 2023, a prison sentence of five years and one month after convicting her of allegedly forging the annual registration document for a car.

After the ruling was issued, on 11 December 2022, her father, Super Celal Bey Darkalaei, wrote a letter that was published in local newspapers, stating, "Anyone who has studied the ABCs of law knows that you were subjected to this unjust ruling in the first hearing without any evidence.” He explained, "It is wrong to detain her for seven months including hiding her for about a month without trial, even though she was accused of using drugs at first… finally, they came to the charge of forging a car registration document, but this charge is not consistent with the punishment they imposed on you.”

GCHR has previously documented her arrest, on 16 June 2022, by security forces in Erbil. The reason for her arrest was not known at the time.

Super is a sports journalist who works in the field of commercial advertising. Super was also the first Kurdish woman to open a men’s barbershop.


GCHR calls on the Iraqi government to assume full responsibility in protecting all citizens, including human rights defenders, journalists, civil society and members of vulnerable minorities.

In addition, the relevant Iraqi authorities must clearly and unequivocally identify all perpetrators of the abduction, torture and killing of human rights defenders, peaceful protesters and other activists and bring them to justice immediately.

The authorities must fulfil their constitutional obligations not to violate public freedoms, including freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of the media.

As we witness the continuation of the killing of women and violence against children, the Iraqi Parliament must pass domestic violence legislation into law immediately.

GCHR further calls on the Kurdistan Regional Government to immediately and unconditionally release all civil society activists, journalists and other prisoners of conscience, including journalist Nala Super, who was imprisoned due to some allegedly malicious charges according to her family. The authorities must fulfil their constitutional obligations not to violate public freedoms, including freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of the media.

source\ GCHR


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