In under a week, two activists have been assassinated and three more narrowly survived murder attempts in southern Iraq, where tensions between pro-Iran groups and a Western-leaning government are claiming new victims.
One of them was Riham Yaaqub, a 29-year-old athletics coach who was deeply involved in anti-government protests and who was shot dead in the southern province of Basra on Wednesday.
Five days earlier in Basra, activist Tahsin al-Shahmani died after being shot more than two dozen times.
The targeted killings sent shivers down spines in Iraq's civil society, already deeply disturbed by the July killing in Baghdad of Hisham al-Hashemi, a government adviser and widely respected scholar on jihadism.
"The government and security forces have done nothing, but everyone knows the killers are the same... (they) killed Riham, Tahsin, and Hisham al-Hashemi," said Ammar al-Hilfi, a prominent activist in Basra.
The list of victims is long: dozens of activists have been killed in Iraq in recent years, including during bloody protests in 2018 over a public health crisis in Basra that had put more than 100,000 people in hospital.
Then, in October, widespread rallies erupted across Baghdad and the south against a government seen as corrupt, inept and beholden to neighbouring Iran.
Protest-related violence left nearly 600 dead, including some shot dead while walking home from demonstrations.
Still others were kidnapped, assaulted or threatened.
On Monday, three more activists in Basra -- Ludia Rimon, Fahad al-Zubaydi and Abbas al-Subhi -- were heading to the Shahmani family home to offer their condolences when a car full of armed men began firing at them.
The trio managed to escape, wounded and shaken but alive.
- Spree of violence -
The city's activist collectives have been left reeling by the sudden spree of violence.
"During the month of August, there have been six assassinations or attempted killings," said Mehdi al-Tamimi, who heads the city's Human Rights Council.
In total over the last year, Tamimi told AFP, the city has been hit by eight such murders and seven attempted killings.
Basra is oil-rich but infrastructure-poor: electricity grids, water networks and roads are some of the most badly maintained in the country and the rule of law is weak.
Yaaqub began speaking out during Basra's 2018 protests, appearing on several media outlets despite limits on the public role of women in her conservative hometown.
Two years ago, she was targeted by an online smear campaign for having met with the US consul in Basra.
This week, online accounts began republishing a 2018 article from Mehr, an Iranian news agency close to Tehran's ultra-conservatives, accusing Yaaqub and others of belonging to a "network woven by the Americans to target Iran in the region."
Other activists, journalists and researchers have faced smears accusing them of links to Western embassies or intelligence services.
No group has officially claimed responsibility for the propaganda campaigns or the killings and authorities have yet to hold anyone to account.
But online accounts that appear to be supportive of Iran and its allies in Iraq have become increasingly bold in their threats to activists.
The United Nations and Western embassies have blamed "militias," urging Baghdad to fully protect free speech.
"It is unconscionable that the perpetrators of these horrible acts continue to act with impunity," the US State Department said after Yaaqub's killing.
- The fight goes on -
Yaaqub was killed just as top US diplomat Mike Pompeo was meeting his Iraqi counterpart Fuad Hussein in Washington, part of the first senior Baghdad delegation to visit the US in several years.
Heading the team was Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhemi, who has struggled to fulfil his pledge to rein in powerful Tehran-backed groups who act independently of state forces.
Kadhemi was already reviled by Iran-backed groups, which have openly accused him of being a US "agent", while their personnel have burned American flags as they stepped on portraits of the premier.
Immediately after ascending to the premiership in May, Kadhemi ordered the offices of one armed group in Basra closed, but efforts to silence activists continued.
Last month, a senior Iraqi official said the government suspected "possible assassinations" as a reaction to Kadhemi's policy of extending state control.
Following Yaaqub's killing, Kadhemi announced he had sacked Basra's police chief and dispatched his interior minister Othman al-Ghanemi to Basra to handle security.
Basra's civil society network isn't optimistic.
"The government is weak compared to militias," Hilfi said.
"But this will only make us more determined. Now, more than just demanding our rights, we will demand those of our martyrs."
Fri Aug 21 2020
Mourners gather around the Iraqi flag draped coffin of slain activist Rihan Yaaqub during her funeral in the city of Basra on Thursday, August 20th 2020. AFPRelaxpic
COVID-19: Dua lagi kluster baharu dikesan di Selangor, Melaka
Dua lagi kluster baharu COVID-19 dilaporkan hari ini melibatkan Selangor dan Melaka, hasil saringan individu bergejala. Ketua Pengarah Kesihatan, Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah berkata, kluster di Selangor itu dikenali sebagai Kluster Hentian yang melibatkan daerah Hulu Langat. Sementara Kluster Bukit pula katanya dikesan di daerah Melaka Tengah, Alor Gajah dan Jasin di Melaka.
Pencemaran Sungai Selangor: 13 peratus kawasan mula terima bekalan air
Namun, sebanyak 1,130 lagi kawasan lain masih terjejas sehingga proses pemulihan diselesaikan sepenuhnya.
Perkembangan di Sabah dan usaha mengekang penularannya
Kita bersama Prof Datuk Dr Subramaniam Muniandi, Presiden Persatuan Perubatan Malaysia.
Usaha melandaikan jangkitan COVID-19 di Sabah
Kita bersama Prof Madya Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, Pensyarah Fakulti Perubatan dan Sains Kesihatan USIM.
Debat Trump dan Biden ada butang 'butang senyap'
Usaha itu mengelakkan gangguan sekali gus merosakkan pertandingan seperti yang terjadi pada debat pertama.
Realiti dan cabaran dalam mengekang COVID-19 di Sabah
Kita bersama Prof Madya Kamarul Imran Muda, Pakar Epidemiologi Perubatan Pusat Sains Perubatan USM.
Perniagaan sedang 'tenat', berhentilah berpoliitik seketika - PKS
Ketua Pegawai Eksekutif Akademi Usahawan Mikro (AUM), Azharee Wahid yang menyeru semua pengamal politik tidak kira parti untuk bersatu dan melihat kepada permasalahan dihadapi oleh Peniaga Kecil dan Sederhana (PKS) di seluruh negara yang terkesan akibat pandemik.
Subang Jaya diisytihar sebagai bandar raya
Noraini Roslan dilantik sebagai Datuk Bandar Subang Jaya.
AWANI Ringkas: Bekalan air di Selangor mula pulih Selasa | Mesyuarat MT UMNO ditangguh lagi
Pencemaran Sungai Selangor, polis buka kertas siasatan
Siasatan masih di peringkat awal dan sampel air perlu diambil untuk dianalisis bagi mengetahui punca atau lokasi sebenar pencemaran itu berlaku.
Lima terbunuh, dua cedera parah dalam serangan peluru berpandu di Iraq
Sekurang-kurangnya lima terbunuh manakala dua lagi cedera parah selepas serangan peluru berpandu Katyusha dilancarkan berhampiran lapangan terbang Baghdad, Iraq pada Isnin.
Aktivis Jerman diculik di Iraq
Pasukan Kementerian Pertahanan dan Kementerian Dalam Negeri serta polis melancarkan misi mencari di kawasan itu.
COVID:19: Iraq bina banyak hospital sementara
Iraq membina lebih banyak hospital sementara berikutan peningkatan penularan jangkitan COVID-19 sehingga menyebabkan berlaku kesesakan di hospital awam.
Arab Saudi dan Iraq umum kes pertama COVID-19
DUA negara di Timur Tengah iaitu Arab saudi dan Iraq mengumumkan kes Covid-19 yang pertama, pada Isnin.
Jeneral Tentera Iran ancam serang AS dan Israel
Tentera Revolusi Iran memberi amaran kepada Amerika Syarikat dan Israel akan mengancam keselamatan Jeneral Tentera kedua negara itu jika terus mengancam keselamatan jeneral mereka.
Lima negara mangsa nahas pesawat ditembak Iran tuntut siasatan antarabangsa
Lima negara mangsa nahas pesawat Ukraine yang ditembak jatuh di Tehran minggu lalu mengemukakan rangka kerja melibatkan siasatan dan pampasan kepada negara Iran dalam satu pertemuan di London.
5 topik untuk sembang hari ini
Sebelum memulakan hari anda, berikut lima berita penting perlu anda tahu.
Serangan kedua AS sasar komander Iran di Yaman gagal
Serangan yang tidak berjaya itu menyasarkan Komander Kanan Pasukan Quds di Sanaa, Abdul Reza Shahlai.
Letupan, bunyi siren kedengaran di Baghdad
Bedilan roket itu telah menyebabkan letupan dan kebakaran di kawasan yang menempatkan bangunan kerajaan dan kedutaan asing.
Bursa Malaysia dibuka rendah susulan serangan atas pangkalan tentera AS di Iraq
Pada 9.05 pagi, FTSE Bursa Malaysia KLCI (FBM KLCI) merosot 20.26 mata kepada 1,590.78 daripada 1,611.04 semasa ditutup semalam.