On 15 December, 2020, two men approached Salah al-Iraqi as he stood in his small kiosk selling mobile phones in one of Baghdad’s outdoor markets. One of the men called Salah by name before shooting him with a pistol when he turned towards them. The other filmed the killing on his phone.
Al-Iraqi, 38, was the latest on a growing list of Iraqi activists gunned down by unknown militants since October 2019 when widespread pro-reform protests broke out. Al-Iraqi played an active role in the mass protests against government corruption, high unemployment and the lack of public services.
In his last Facebook post hours before his death, he had written: “The innocent die while the cowards rule.” In the same post he said, “I’m not afraid of you al Kadhimi, nor your militias or the mean people who chase us. You know very well that your bats kidnap, stab and kill the protesters.”
According to his brother Falah al-Shamari, he was a simple kind of man with a pure heart. His love for Iraq and his role in the protests earned him the nickname ‘Al Iraqi’,” he said, and revealed that al Iraqi had received numerous threats and had been wounded four times in the previous year. He lived with a bullet in his leg because he could not afford surgery to have it removed. The bullet was still in his leg when he was killed.
More than 550 protesters were shot dead by security forces and gunmen suspected of links to Iran-backed militias between October and December 2019. Thousands of other people were injured and hundreds were detained.
Human rights groups have also reported the enforced disappearances and unlawful killings of dozens of activists, journalists, lawyers and other civil society members since the start of the protests.
The rallies led to the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, who was replaced in May 2020, by Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Kadhimi, a former intelligence chief, has vowed to investigate the killings and hold those responsible to account. However human rights organisations including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say that the government has so far failed to do so.