Assassination of Iraqi activist sparks fresh protests in Karbala
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Angry Iraqis poured onto the streets of the southern Karbala city on Sunday in response to the latest killing of a prominent activist, gunned down by unknown assailants.
Unidentified gunmen shot dead Ihab al-Wazni earlier in the day in Karbala’s al-Hadad street, according to Iraq’s Security Media Cell. Wazni played a crucial role in the October protests of 2019, one of the largest movements that country has seen since the fall of the Saddam regime in 2003.
Surveillance cameras in the area captured the moment of the assassination, showing an assailant approaching Wazni’s vehicle, shooting him while inside. The suspect quickly fled the area on a motorcycle, the footage showed.
Kurdistan 24 could not immediately confirm the authenticity of the recording.
In October 2019, waves of protests engulfed Iraqi provinces, including Karbala, over, largely, crippling corruption in the country, which has left much of the Iraqi population impoverished.
Wazni survived a previous assassination attempt as he continued to play a key role in starting and maintaining anti-government protests in the Kabala, according to The National.
Soon after the news, people took to the streets of Karbala to protest the killing of Wazni, whom they described as “the hero of Karbala.” The protesters gathered in front of the Karbala governorate, calling on the authorities to find the perpetrators of the killing.
Social media activists blamed Iranian-backed militias, which have also been blamed for the killing, kidnapping, and assassinations of hundreds of protesters since the movement began.
Prominent Iraqi terrorism expert Hisham al-Hashimi—who was critical of the Iran-aligned militias—was killed outside his home in Baghdad’s Zayouna neighborhood in July 2020.
The October protestors despite asking for a better basic services and job opportunities, were calling for the removal of foreign hegemony of Iraq, mainly the neighboring country Iran.
Due to constant threats on their lives, a significant number of activists and former protestors have since taken refuge in the Kurdistan Region’s capital, Erbil.
“Although we are here, they do not leave us alone; they keep threatening us and want to take us back to Baghdad and arrest us,” activist Maytham al-Mayahi, currently in Erbil, told Kurdistan 24 recently.
“Impunity for the killing of activists since October 2019 has only led to more deaths,” British Ambassador to Iraq Stephen Hickey said in a tweet on Sunday on the assassination of the activist, as he “strongly condemned” the act.
Editing by Khrush Najari