Reham Yacoub was a doctor and nutritionist who ran a women’s gym in the south of Basra. She was also a staunch activist against corruption in the government, leading women’s marches in her city as early as 2018, a year before mass demonstrations would erupt across the country.
On 19 August 29020, Yacoub was assassinated when gunmen on the back of a motorcycle opened fire on her car. Three of her companions were also injured and one later died. Yacoub’s death follows a string of recent attacks in a country that has been drained by corruption, war and foreign influence.
Known for organising women’s marches, Yacoub had previously received threats against her life when she participated in training courses supervised by the US consulate in Basra in 2017 and 2018.
Less than a week earlier, Tahseen Osama, a father of four who was known for his frequent participation in anti-government protests, was killed when gunmen stormed his business. His brother was also injured in the attack. Three days later, two prominent activists, Lodia Raymond and Abbas Sobhi, survived an assassination attempt. They are both in stable condition.
The attacks have ignited a new wave of demonstrations as anti-government protesters pin the deaths on Iran-backed militias. The same militias had assisted security forces in clamping down on mass demonstrations that broke out in Baghdad and Basra last October. Nearly 500 Iraqis were killed during the protests and many more are unaccounted for, according to a UN human rights report.
Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice.