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  • A makeshift memorial with personal belongings of those who were killed at an anti-government protests is displayed at Tahrir Square in Baghdad.

    A makeshift memorial with personal belongings of those who were killed at an anti-government protests is displayed at Tahrir Square in Baghdad. | Photo: Reuters

Published 15 December 2019

“The inaction of the government indicates, at the very least, acquiescence, and in some cases complicity," Amnesty International’s Middle East Director.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (Unami) said last week it had received “credible allegations” that thousands of demonstrators have been kidnaped by “unknown armed men,” since protests erupted in October against rampant political corruption in the country.

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Activists Salman Khairallah Salman and Omar al-Amri were seen for the last time on Dec. 11 as they were going to Baghdad’s Kadhimiya district, where the two friends wanted to buy tents for a camp in the capital’s Tahrir Square, the protest movement’s epicenter.

Since that moment, the two militants’ families and friends have no knowledge of their whereabouts.

Salman and al-Amri disappearances are the latest in a series of abductions, which Amnesty International described  Friday as part of a “campaign of terror” against protesters.

“The authorities’ utter lack of action over the past weeks has paved the way for this horrifying new stage in what is clearly a full-on attempt to crush the protests in Iraq through instilling fear among the population,” said Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf.

“The inaction of the government indicates, at the very least, acquiescence, and in some cases complicity, in the enforced disappearances, torture and unlawful killings of people who are on the streets to claim their human rights.” 

A friend of both missing activists, Mustafa Mauyad, said many protesters now fear for their lives. 

“We heard in the days leading up to the abduction, security forces had begun questioning tent sellers in the district where they vanished about people purchasing tents for the protests,” he said, adding that “the family are extremely scared. I feel like I’m facing a real threat as I could be next.”

According to a Reuters tally, more than 440 people, mostly unarmed protesters, have been killed since the beginning of the protests, around 17,000 have been injured. It is not known how many people have disappeared. 

On the other hand, violence in the Arab country has also seen some sinister and disturbing acts of killings carried out by armed and unidentified groups.

Last Thursday, a teenager was lynched and strung up by his feet from a traffic pole in Baghdad after he allegedly shot at protesters.

Versions on what exactly happened are unclear, but Iraqi security officials said an angry mob beat to death the 16-year-old boy after he opened fire in Baghdad’s Wathba Square, killing two shop owners and four protesters. 

However, activists told The Independent he was in reality killed by the security forces who then handed the body to the mob who stabbed him multiple times and strung up the corpse.

This act followed the assassination of 25 protesters in Baghdad’s Khilani Square by gunmen in pick in up trucks, while mysterious knife attacks targeted more than a dozen protesters in Tahrir Square.

Unami’s chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert warned the “acts of violence that are gang-driven, arising from external loyalties, politically motivated or intended to settle scores, risk placing Iraq on a dangerous trajectory.”

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