Iraq: activist shot dead in Baghdad after nominating himself for elections

Targeted killings of civil society figures are rising, fuelling anger at government

An aerial view of Baghdad, Iraq July 11, 2020. Picture taken on board a helicopter. Picture taken July 11, 2020. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani
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A prominent Iraqi activist has been shot dead by unknown gunmen in Baghdad, the third targeted killing this month.

Hisham Al Mashhadani was killed late on Saturday by an armed group in a village near Taramiyah district, north of Baghdad, where ISIS fighters are known to operate.

He had nominated himself for the coming parliamentary elections as a member of the Azim Alliance, led by Iraqi politician Khamis Khanjar.

“Such ongoing killings are considered terrorist acts as they target the country’s national security, as well as impact the credibility of the coming elections,” said Ali Al Bayati, a member of the semi-official Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights.

“The state must end impunity by taking real steps to refer to security officials whose responsibility is to end the violence through investigation,” he said.

Mr Al Bayati said statements of government condolences were not the solution. He said the government’s responsibility was "to fix the rule of law, otherwise the external view of Iraq will be that it is under the control of non-state groups”.

Mr Al Bayati told The National: "This is a clear sign of failure, which the international community is responsible for as well."

Mr Khanjar said the murder "sends a dangerous message before the elections,” in a statement on Twitter.

The death of Al Mashhadani came weeks after the killing of another prominent activist, Ihab Al Wazni, in the southern city of Karbala.

Al Wazni’s assassination triggered outrage at the government’s lack of action to provide civilian protection, basic public services and jobs.

Al Wazni was a vocal opponent of corruption, the stranglehold of Tehran-linked armed groups and Iran's influence in Iraq.

Just 24-hours after he was killed, journalist Ahmed Hassan was targeted.

He survived the attempt on his life and was put in intensive care after receiving two bullets in the head and one in the shoulder, doctors told local news outlets.

Witnesses said Mr Hassan "was targeted as he got out of his car to go home," in Diwaniya in the south of the country.

Iraq’s protest movement grew in popularity in late October 2019.

It has been directed at the post-2003 political system and an elite class that Iraqis accuse of pillaging Iraq’s wealth while the country grows poorer.