Family of Iraqi activist 'abducted by masked men' appeals for help
The mother of Saba Mahdawi, a doctor and activist who had been providing medical aid to protesters, said she has been kidnapped by "armed, masked men on pick-up trucks" as she headed home from demonstrations in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square late on Saturday evening.
Mahdawi’s mother said the 35-year-old was taken at 11.20 at night from the Bayaa area in the Karkh District in Baghdad.
“We don’t know where she was taken,” she said, adding that an hour before, she had told her she was on her way home.
“She did nothing wrong, I swear to God!” said Mahdawi’s mother.
“She’s just a civil activist. She is not affiliated with any party, anywhere. It’s just that she and her friends made a group – even us at home helped them. And she got taken,” she added.
Eyewitnesses have confirmed that armed men seized Mahdawi in central Baghdad, driving her away while she screamed and called for her mother.
Authorities have been criticised for inaction, as witnesses claim to have reported the license plate of the car that drove Mahdawi away.
Fellow activists have launched a social media campaign to bring awareness to Mahdawi’s abduction, using the hashtag #وين_صبا (#Where_is_Saba).
The Iraqi Human Rights Commission confirmed on Sunday that Mahdawi had been abducted the previous evening, but did not say who had seized her.
The Commission urged security forces to investigate the matter and other "organised kidnapping operations" in recent weeks.
It called Mahdawi's abduction "a mark of shame for the whole of Iraqi society".
The crackdown on Iraq’s anti-government protesters has been brutal, with at least 265 protesters killed and over 11,000 injured since October 1.
This protests are fuelled by grievances around unemployment and corruption, mainly directed at the political elite, but they have also challenged Iran and its perceived out-sized influence on national politics.
Iran backs various armed groups in Iraq, including the powerful paramilitary Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), also known as the Hashed al-Shaabi.
Many activists fear violent reprisals from these heavily armed pro-Iran groups if the rallies continue to counter the Islamic republic’s influence.
Read more: Amnesty calls on Iraq to stop using new tear gas grenades which kill protesters
Activists have been targeted since the beginning of the protests, with observers saying that the tactics are meant to intimidate and put pressure on activists, bloggers and media figures to stop supporting the demonstrations.
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