Sheelan Dara: Iraqi authorities arrest man over gruesome murder

Young pharmacist and protester was strangled, and her parents stabbed to death in Baghdad, activists say

An aerial view shows Iraqi protesters gathering at Baghdad's Tahrir square near al-Jumhuriya bridge which leads to the high-security Green Zone across the Tigris River, during ongoing anti-government demonstrations in the Iraqi capital on November 2, 2019. - Iraqi security forces clashed with anti-government protesters in the early hours of Saturday near the capital's Tahrir Square, leaving one demonstrator dead and dozens more wounded, medical sources said. (Photo by - / AFP)
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Authorities in Baghdad announced on Thursday that they arrested a man suspected of killing a young Kurdish pharmacist who civil activists said was a supporter of the Iraqi uprising, and her parents.

Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi thanked on Twitter the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq “for their co-operation for getting to the perpetrator in record speed”.

The unidentified suspect on Tuesday broke into the home of Sheelan Dara in Al Mansour, Baghdad’s premier neighbourhood, strangled her and stabbed her parents to death, police said.

We have seen so many incidents like this. The authorities should make public the details

Sarah Al Mawla, head of the Human Rights Committee at the Iraqi Bar Association, said Dara was also sexually assaulted.

"She was killed after she was raped and the whole house was robbed," Ms Al Mawla said from Baghdad by WhatsApp, adding that Dara's murder was not political.

Initial reports by Iraqi official media suggested that the suspect who was arrested had accomplices.

Unlike previous killings and summary executions of activists, the authorities said that theft appeared to have been the motive behind Dara’s murder and pointed to valuables being stolen from the house.

A pharmacist, Dara attended demonstrations in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square demanding the removal of all of the country’s main politicians, Iraqi rights advocate Inas Jabbar said.

This would have identified Dara with the downtrodden Arab Shiites who comprise the bulk of the protest movement.

"Sheelan was a single child. It looks that she was killed because she and her family were well-off. Regardless, the authorities should make public the details," she told The National.

“We have seen so many incidents like this and the perpetrators and the results of investigations remained unknown,” Ms Jabbar said.

The non-violent uprising started in October 2019, demanding removal of the entire political class. The authorities and pro-Iranian Shiite militias crushed the demonstrators early this year, using killings and abductions.

But the appointment of Mr Al Kadhimi, a secular reformist supported by the United States, in May helped revive the demonstrations.

Despite vows by Mr Kadhimi to curb rampant crime, Dara’s murder was the latest in incessant attacks in the past few months on supporters of the protest movement.

Within the span of a week last month, three young civilian figures were killed. Among them was Riham Yaqoob, a doctor shot in her car in the city of Basra.

The Daras were one of relatively few Kurdish families in Baghdad.

The city largely emptied of its minority populations as Shiite and Sunni militants terrorised the more liberal components of Iraqi society after the 2003 invasion that toppled former leader Saddam Hussein.

Since 2003, hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled Baghdad, mostly to northern Iraq.