A new wave of assassinations targeting political activists in Iraq has evoked the memory of the thousands killed, injured and kidnapped during the 2019 anti-government protests in the country.
With many predicting a fresh round of protests, Iraqi activists are accusing militiamen linked to the Sadrist movement of standing behind the latest violence.
On Monday, several protesters were attacked in the central city of Najaf, three activists were assassinated in the southern city of Nasiriyah and fierce clashes broke out between demonstrators and security forces in the Wasit governorate.
Ahmed al-Helo, an Iraqi activist from the central Babylon governorate, accused militants from Saraya Al Salam, the military wing of the Sadrist movement, of physically assaulting and beating him on Monday evening.
Circulated video footage showed al-Helo’s battered body as he was telling the story of how he was attacked by the hooligans.
In Najaf, gunmen kidnapped Iraqi poet and political activist Youssef Gibran, who is known for his harsh criticism of Iran and its proxy militias in Iraq. Activists also accused Sadrist followers of committing the kidnap.
The mother of the slain Iraqi activist Mohannad al-Qaisi, who was killed during the Najaf riots last year, published a recorded speech holding Moqtada al-Sadr, the cleric who leads the Sadrist movement, fully responsible for the deaths and abduction of activists.
“You ordered your followers to carry out the Najaf massacre last year,” she said, noting that many can testify to the cleric’s involvement in the violence.
Activist and blogger Ali al-Sonboli, also from Najaf, reported on raids, kidnappings and beatings targeting demonstrators who posted their opinions, especially those relating to the Najaf massacre, on social media.
He warned that the violence against activists is taking place under oversight from local authorities and police stations.
“The situation in Najaf is very worrying, amid the militias' domination of the security environment,” said Sonboli, adding that activists do not know who to turn to when it comes to deterring the violence of criminal militias.