Iraqis outraged as doctor assaulted at checkpoint by soldiers

Iraqis outraged as doctor assaulted at checkpoint by soldiers
3 min read
23 April, 2023
A recent attack on a female doctor at a security checkpoint has outraged Iraqis and shed light on similar abuses happening often in the country.
Iraqis often complain of mistreatment by security forces at checkpoints [Getty/archive]

An attack on a female doctor in Iraq has drawn widespread condemnation and brought to light repeated abuses faced by citizens from members of the Iraqi security forces at checkpoints.

On her way to Iraq’s northern Kurdish region, a doctor was attacked with a "hard object" while passing a checkpoint in the Diyala province’s Hamrin region, local news sources said. Her family was with her in the car.

A video shared on social media showed the doctor with blood on her head, as a scuffle broke out between Iraqi soldiers and other men.

Local media said security personnel at the checkpoint "objected to the clothes worn by the doctor’s brother, which resulted in a verbal altercation". One of the soldiers reportedly threw a mug he was holding at the doctor’s head and prevented the passengers in that car from filming the incident.

It was unclear why the soldiers objected to the brother’s attire or what really led to the attack.

Iraq’s Health Ministry said in a statement that the soldiers involved had been detained.

"After communicating with the police command in the [Diyala] governorate and the relevant security authorities, a judicial decision was issued to arrest the checkpoint personnel in order to conduct a proper investigation and hold the aggressors accountable," the statement said.

Assaults have happened repeatedly at security checkpoints in Iraq with citizens often complaining about mistreatment.

"These incidents cannot be classified as a normal phenomenon, but rather isolated incidents that happen here and there, due to verbal altercations or citizens' failure to comply with the orders of the security checkpoint personnel," one security officer told The New Arab’s sister site.

The officer, who wished to remain anonymous, told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed claimed that citizens were partly to blame for these incidents "as they must adhere to the directives…when entering a checkpoint."

Iraqis have expressed their outrage and disappointment and said the process for selecting security personnel should be revised.

One civil activist, Riyad al-Mafarji, stressed the urgent need to add surveillance cameras to checkpoints.

"Recurring assaults at checkpoints cannot be documented as citizens are afraid to film them, and security forces do not allow them to do so," he told Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

Chaos and instability have affected Iraq for decades since the 2003 US-led invasion which ended the rule of dictator Saddam Hussein.

Since then, the country has witnessed sectarian strife, political corruption, the rise of competing militias, and the continued presence of the Islamic State group, which despite being announced defeated in 2017 by Baghdad, continues to carry out attacks.

The endemic corruption in the country means that despite having huge oil reserves, Iraqis continue to face daily power cuts, while many live in poverty.