Thursday, March 1, 2012

Iraq: Intimidation at Anniversary Protests

Beatings, Detentions in Kurdistan; Blocked Access in Baghdad

Human Rights Watch
March 1, 2012

"(Beirut) – Uniformed security forces clamped down on demonstrations marking February 2012 anniversaries of the start of weekly protests in Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today. Security forces blocked access to protest sites in Baghdad; beat and arrested peaceful demonstrators in Sulaimaniya, Kurdistan; and briefly detained, beat, or confiscated equipment from media workers and prevented others from covering the protests.

Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 15 demonstrators, bystanders, and journalists who were at the demonstrations on the February 17 and 25 anniversaries in Kurdistan and Baghdad, respectively. Activists said that in the build-up to the demonstrations, security forces threatened them with arrest and unidentified people threatened them with violence if they attended.

Security forces are using repressive means to keep peaceful protestors at bay,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “While the level of violence may be lower than it was a year ago, the effect is the same – preventing Iraqis from engaging in peaceful dissent.”....."

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