Angry protests in Basra after activist killed by suspected Iran-linked militiamen
Tahsin Osamah Al-Shahmani was shot dead in the Jeneina area of Basra on Friday evening by gunmen believed to be from pro-Iran militias operating in Basra. Over 20 bullets were fired at him, according to local reports.
Dozens of protesters took to the streets afterwards, attempting to reach Basra's police headquarters and calling for the identity of the killers to be revealed.
Security forces deployed to the vicinity of the headquarters to prevent it being stormed by the protesters.
Anti-government protests broke out in Iraq in October last year, in response to high rates of poverty, corruption and unemployment and government neglect of essential services.
Hundreds of protesters were killed by security forces and pro-Iran militias have also targeted anti-government activists for assassination, often with weapons fitted with silencers.
Faleh Al-Ali, another opposition activist, told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service, "Shahmani’s killing indicates a return to militia activity and their use of silenced weapons to eliminate protesters who call for their rights. People will not accept these violations and our calls for our rights will grow louder. We won’t back down.
"The government is responsible for finding the killers of [Shahmani] and bringing them to justice within 72 hours. We won’t remain silent if they don’t. The government has to reveal the results of its investigation into the killing of protesters and stop delaying and procrastinating. The factions which assassinate protesters are known and the government can bring them to account if it wants," he added.
A security official in Basra, who preferred to remain anonymous, confirmed to The New Arab’s Arabic service that a local militia was behind Shahmani’s killing.
"The preliminary investigation into the incident, which depended on CCTV cameras and eyewitnesses revealed some details regarding the perpetrators of the incident and the case is now being thoroughly investigated," the official said.
The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights warned in a statement that targeted killings of activists could continue and linked the issue to the lack of progress in apprehending the murderers of Hisham al-Hashemi, an expert on militant groups who was shot dead in Baghdad on 6 July.
"We reiterate our previous warnings regarding the targeting of activists. The killing of Tahsin [Shamani] in Basra province shows a weakness in the intelligence services and a lack of security information," the statement said.
"The failure to reveal details of past assassinations, including the murder of security expert Hisham al-Hashemi has encouraged the gangs which silence freedom of expression and opinion to resume their crimes," it added, holding the government responsible for the security of activists and citizens in general.