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Protest in Iraq met with deadly response and internet shutdown

In July, protests erupted in the Basra Governorate of Iraq and spread to other cities, demanding the government eliminate corruption and provide jobs and quality public services to citizens.

In the first two weeks of protests, 13 protesters were killed, hundreds injured, and over 750 arrested.[1] By the end of the protests, nearly 30 had been killed.[2]

Several journalists received warning messages or direct threats from security forces or pro-government militia; at least five were forced to sign statements saying they would no longer cover the movement.[3]

Authorities shut off the internet on 14 July to limit coverage of the protests. Social media were completely inaccessible for several days, even after the internet was partially restored on the evening of 15 July. The Iraqi government initially denied any role in this, until Communications Minister Kazem Hassan al-Rashed admitted the government had disconnected the internet and blocked social networks for security reasons: ‘Demonstrators had been abusing them’.[4]

Protests continued into September, and security forces continued to employ violent tactics against demonstrators. In the wake of the protests, the security forces of the Ministry of the Interior arbitrarily arrested 25 peaceful demonstrators, usually during raids at their homes in the night or early morning.

Protests in Iran in early 2018 also led to a government shutdown of internet services.

 

[1] Gulf Centre for Human Rights, Iraq: Protect the Right to Peaceful Demonstration, Release All Detained Demonstrators and Reopen Access to the Internet: Assassination of Human Rights Lawyer Jabbar Mohammed Al-Karm in Basra, 24 July 2018, available at https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1912

[2] Al Jazeera, ‘Iraq: Deadly demonstrations continue in Basra’, 9 September 2018, available at https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/inpictures/iraq-deadly-demonstrations-continue-basra-180909065142017.html

[3] Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, n.d., available at http://www.jfoiraq.org/en

[4] Reporters without Borders, Iraqi Authorities Obstruct Media Coverage of Protests, 25 July 2018, available at https://rsf.org/en/news/iraqi-authorities-obstruct-media-coverage-protests

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