Iraq’s Civil Society Under Siege

By Ali Mamouri for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Two years ago, famous Iraqi activist Hanaa Edwar stood up against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki while attending the National Conference on Human Rights in Iraq. She told him that he harbored hatred toward civil society organizations operating in Iraq, and that he was trying to destabilize them by fabricating accusations of terrorism and collaboration against them, instead of arresting the real criminals.

Edwar’s action came after several attempts on the government’s part to crack down on civilian activists — many were arrested and others assassinated. It should be noted that until now there has been no serious investigation in this regard. The relationship between the government and civil society has worsened.

Today, the civil movement in Iraq is facing great hardships, as various parties have issued threats and accusations against it. Every now and then some governmental and militia parties express their dissenting voices against the civil movement, especially those activists in social society, media and journalism.

The last governmental stance was expressed by former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in a speech delivered as part of the Charter of Honor and Social Peace Conference. He said, “We are going through media turmoil these days. This is the will of Western countries, the countries that withdrew their camps and bases and maintained their presence in the form of civil organizations, media outlets and empires.”

Days prior to this speech, Kataib Hezbollah — a militiaman claiming to have close links with the Iranian government — disseminated a video saying that the group had acquired documents about CIA officers attempting to jeopardize stability in Iraq. According to the video, someone by the name of Louis Mendoza, who is in charge of some youth movements waging protests in Baghdad every now and then, met with a leader of these movements in the Iraqi capital. The video also mentions someone called Dwayne Davis carrying out vandalism in Iraq under the umbrella of civil society.

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