Updates for August 21-28, 2015
- Protests continued this week is a dozen provinces across Iraq. Citizens are demanding the dismissal of corrupt officials, better services, judicial reform, and better job security. Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) in the provinces of Babil reportedly used water cannons and stun batons to disperse some of the protests, causing injuries and prompting accusations of excessive force.
- Additional reforms have been implemented as a result of the ongoing protests this month, with corrupt officials being imprisoned or resigning. Additionally, new legislation was passed that prohibits any military activity by political parties or the formation of militias and put sanctions on external funding for parties.
- Security operations cleared areas in the provinces of Anbar, Kirkuk, and Salah ad-Din. Particularly significant, ISF and associated militias made progress in areas around Ramadi, including Tawi, Zankora, Albu Cheleeb, Towe, and al-Baghdadi.
- Caught in the crossfire, civilians in Kirkuk and Ninewa are suffering from the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). This week, ISIS kidnapped and executed more than 100 civilians from these areas. In a clash between the Mosul Brigades and ISIS, the destruction of a weapons lab resulted in a leakage of mustard gas, putting many residents in the surrounding area at risk.
- Iraqi refugees and asylum-seekers are experiencing harsh conditions in Turkey and other countries in transit to Europe. The Minister of Foreign Affairs announced efforts to bring 650 displaced Iraqis home from Turkey.
On August 21, protests continued in Hilla, Babil; Tahrir Square; Baghdad; Nasiriyah, Dhi Qar; Diwaniya; Al Khalis, Diyala; Karbala; Maysan; Muthanna; and Al Kut, Wasit where citizens demanded the dismissal of corrupt officials, the improvement of essential services, reformation of the judiciary, and the improvement of job security.
On the morning of August 22, dozens of citizens in Babil who were peacefully demonstrating were attacked by the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) who used water cannons and stun batons to suppress these protests. According to one protester, Ahmed Abo-Eraq, protesters had “many injuries and were taken to the hospital.” Ahmed stated that “the use of force to silence peaceful demonstrations shows the brutality and savagery of those who claim that they are fighting corruption and advocate for reform plans and respecting human rights,” adding that “the protesters would file lawsuits against those who participated in this criminal act.”
Reforms implemented due to protests
On August 25, the Integrity Commission revealed the sentencing of former Secretary of Baghdad Sabir al-Issawi to imprisonment for one year for money laundering.
The same day, the Court of Baghdad convicted Major General Jihad al-Jabri of money laundering and sentenced him to imprisonment for one year.
On August 26, the members of the Provincial Council of Diwaniyah announced their resignation.
On August 27, the Council of Representatives unanimously voted to approve a law reforming rights and restrictions on political parties. The head of the legal committee in the House of Representatives, Mahmoud Hassan, explained that this law prohibits any military activity of the parties or the formation of militias, and additionally put sanctions on external funding for parties, while pointing out that the law will take effect within 60 days. Minister of Parliament, Adnan al-Asadi, warned of the harsh prison sentences for those who violate the newly approved law, with sentences ranging from 10 to 15 years.
Security operations clear areas in Anbar, Kirkuk, Salah ad-Din
Over the past week across Iraq’s western province of Anbar, Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), and pro-government tribal forces made a number of gains against ISIS.
On August 22, ISF and PMUs secured control of al-Qasem bridge in southern Ramadi after intense fighting against members of ISIS, with ISF and PMU forces continuing their progress east of the city.
On August 22, northwest of Ramadi, ISF launched a large-scale operation that cleared the areas of Tawi and Zankora.
On August 22, ISF and PMU forces liberated the Albu Cheleeb and Towe areas, neighborhoods in northern Ramadi, from ISIS control.
On August 25, ISF units, backed by PMU fighters, liberated the al-Juba area in western Anbar from ISIS control.
On August 25, ISF liberated the area of al-Baghdadi, in the city of Ramadi from ISIS control, killing dozens of ISIS militants in the process.
On August 26 in the province of Kirkuk, Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga (Peshmerga) forces captured Daquq and Tuz Khurmato and retook al-Smaq, al-Kabir and al-Sakher villages southwest of Daquq. Additionally, Peshmerga units secured control of the village of Albu Najm.
On August 25, ISIS captured the new deputy governor’s building today in al-Tameem neighborhood of Baiji, a city in the province of Salah ad Din.
ISIS continues targeting civilians
On August 23, ISIS abducted 20 civilians from villages south of Kirkuk and have taken them to an unknown location, accusing them of charges of cooperation with the Peshmerga and PMUs.
On August 24, ISIS executed 14 young men in Mosul by firing squad on charges of cooperation with the ISF.
On August 25, ISIS executed 39 people for their associations with security personnel and 9 more for being found guilty of homosexuality.
On August 25, the Mosul Brigades attacked a plant in the Valley Ekab industrial area located in Mosul, which was allegedly used by ISIS to manufacture hundreds of IEDs. The group destroyed the weapons lab and killed many ISIS members inside of it, however “the lab bombing caused dense leaks of Sulfur Mustard, commonly known as Mustard gas, to spread in the air.” Reports by Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) official Ghias Surja indicate that dozens of people around the plant had to be taken to hospitals in Mosul and hundreds of families near the plant were forced to flee the area for fear of exposure.
On August 27, ISIS kidnaped dozens of people attempting to escape from Hawija in the Hamrin Mountains, southwest of Kirkuk.
Authorities recognize IDPs and persons seeking asylum
On August 26, the Iraqi Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that it is working through the Embassy of the Republic of Iraq in Ankara, in coordination with the Turkish government to secure the return of 650 Iraqis displaced people who have entered Turkey illegally.
On August 27, Fadel al-Ghraou appealed to the international community in a statement representing the High Commissioner for Human Rights for additional assistance to Iraqi asylum seekers on their way to Europe. Al-Gharou added a demand in his statement for the international community to provide immediate assistance to Iraqi asylum seekers in Turkey, Greece and other countries, due to the harsh and difficult situations experienced by Iraqis in these countries. Iraqi asylum seekers must cope with difficult living and health conditions, which have forced a large number of them to escape to the European Union countries on foot or by sea. The commission also accused ISIS of committing “crimes of genocide against humanity,” pointing to previous bombings in the country, the forced displacement of minorities, restrictions on public liberties and other crimes as examples. They recommended as well that ISIS members participating in these crimes should be referred to the International Criminal Court and prosecuted for these crimes in international forums.
Ahmed Ali is a Visiting Senior Fellow and Director of ISHM at EPIC and Sarah Walker is a Research Intern at EPIC. They would like to thank John Chisholm and Tarai Zemba for their research support.
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