Iraqi Activists, Journalists Terrorized by Armed Groups

By Omar al-Jaffal for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

On May 8, in al-Batawin area in central Baghdad, gunmen stormed into the apartment of civil activists who have been advocating for political reform for two years. The gunmen captured seven activists, mostly students, and took them to an unknown location.

The increase of armed groups' attacks on civilians has sparked fear in Iraqi society, and activists are calling on the government to work on releasing their colleagues immediately and to arrest the kidnappers.

The activists were indeed released two days after their abduction, but the perpetrators have yet to be arrested. The Iraqi government and the Ministry of Interior remain silent on the identity of the criminals.

Yet the minister of interior announced the release of the kidnapped activists himself, and his media adviser talked about “intensive operations by the minister” to return the kidnapped to their homes. The adviser, however, did not name the perpetrators, saying that they will be identified later on. This has yet to happen.

This incident raised once again concerns about the ease of movement of armed groups in Iraq's cities and questioned the ability of the security forces within residential areas to protect Iraqis.

In another incident, the security forces wrongly arrested five young men in Karbala governorate on charges of “hanging around” — an offense that is not found in the Iraqi law. One of the arrested men was killed in the detention center on May 5, and the victim’s family accused the police of Karbala of torture. The police denied the charges.

Social media users have made a link between the two incidents, accusing the security forces of being unable to capture the true culprits who are terrorizing Iraqi cities, while arresting young men on petty charges such as congregating in small groups.

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