The assassination of prominent Iraqi activist Anwar Jassem Mhawwas, commonly known as “Umm Abbas”, has reignited tensions in Iraq’s Nasiriyah city, a hotbed of recent anti-government protests.
Unknown gunmen shot dead Umm Abbas in front of her residence in central Nasiriyah. Two of her sons were seriously wounded.
Fierce clashes had erupted on the eve of the assassination between protesters and security forces, leaving one demonstrator and one security member dead and 18 wounded.
The anti-government protests had erupted in October and slowly died down before coming to a halt over the coronavirus outbreak. Authorities have imposed curfew across the country to contain the outbreak, but that has not deterred activists in Nasiriyah who have continued to stage protests.
Umm Abbas was laid to rest on Sunday.
Activist Raad al-Ghezi told Asharq Al-Awsat that Umm Abbas became involved in the protest movement since its inception in early October. She was recently active in urging people to defy the self-isolation orders imposed by authorities.
He explained that she was moved to action due to the rampant poverty in the city and the authorities’ failure to resolve the people’s problems.
He added that attempts to break the curfew and protest calls had destabilized the situation and led to clashes between demonstrators and security forces. He noted that the majority of influential activists oppose violating the curfew.
Authorities wanted to stoke tensions and Umm Abbas’ assassination was part of this plot, which is ultimately aimed at removing the still standing protest tents in Nasiriyah’s al-Haboubi square, he explained.
Ghezi clarified that as opposed to other regions where the curfew forced the suspension of protest activity, rallies in the hundreds and even thousands had never ceased in Nasiriyah.
Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi condemned Umm Abbas’ assassination, accusing the “likes of men and slaves of agendas” of being behind the crime.