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Iraq Country Report

October 2022

Supporters of Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr help injured protesters during clashes with anti-riot forces near the office of the prime minister in Baghdad on August 29, 2022 [Ahmed Jalil/EPA]

Citizens of Iraq have suffered from decades of war, genocide, brutal dictatorship, and political instability. Iraq remains divided by deep religious and ethnic schisms.

Iraq’s corrupt government has continuously failed to meet the needs of Iraqi people, leading to protests with demands for a new government.

Iraq’s security forces, The Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq (KRG) and Iranian backed militias have targeted local activists, killing 475 journalists since 2003. In 2019 anti-government protests, Iraqi security forces responded to protestors with live ammunition and excessive use of force, killing 359 protestors and injuring 6,894 in 7 months. The Iraqi government has not compensated the families of the victims or investigated the perpetrators.

19,000 people have been detained for having ties to ISIS but no charges have been filed or trials held against many of them. Iraqi courts have dismissed medical reports showing evidence of torture-extracted confessions and sentenced many detainees to death. Over 4000 prisoners are on death row. The UN has reported that the ISIS trials are unfair and has urged an end to mass executions.

ISIS remains a threat, with an estimate of 10,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. There has been an increase in ISIS attacks in Iraq, with 371 attacks from mid-2021 to early 2022.

The ISIS genocide of the Yazidi people has left 200,000 Yazidi people still displaced in Iraq. Both ISIS and Iraqi government forces have targeted ethnic minorities in Iraq, such as Armenians, Assyrians, Turkmen, Christians, Shabak, Kakai and Mandeans. There is a lack of security for ethnic minorities. Many remain in displaced persons camps in Kurdistan and elsewhere.

Discrimination and dehumanization of women and LGBTQ+ individuals is common. Men are legally entitled to beat their wives and are immune from prosecution for sexual assault if they marry their victims. Women are subjected to honor killings, with 45 victims in 2021 and 11 women by March of 2022 in Kurdistan alone.

Gangs attack, torture, rape and kill LGBTQ+ individuals, and these crimes are met with silence from the government. As of July 2022, a law is even being proposed to criminalize homosexuality in Iraq.

Genocide Watch considers Iraq to be at the stages of Organization (5), Polarization (6), and Persecution (8) of journalists and human rights advocates due to arrests, torture, and murders.

Due to culturally accepted honor killings, domestic violence, and threats to LGBTQ+ persons, Iraq is at stages Discrimination (3), Dehumanization (4), and Persecution (8) in its treatment of women and LGBTQ+ individuals.

Genocide Watch recommends that:

  • The UN, US, and European Union should invest heavily in resettling and supporting Yazidi and Christian survivors of the ISIS genocide.

  • The UN should appoint a special representative with full staff to search for all 2,700 missing Yazidi people.

  • Iraq’s government and the KRG should hold perpetrators of the assaults on 2019 protesters accountable.

  • Iraq should work with UNESCO and UNHCHR to develop protection measures for human rights advocates.

  • Iraqi legislators should criminalize domestic violence and work with the UN Development Funds for Women (UNIFEM) to develop safe shelters for women.

  • Iraq should outlaw discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

  • Judges in Iraq should enforce anti-torture laws and exclude trial evidence obtained through torture.

  • The Iraq parliament should amend the Anti-Terrorism Law to make use of UNITAD case files an extenuating circumstance under Article 5 so that death sentences must be commuted to imprisonment.

Iraq country report
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