Baghdad Investigative Team
Kidnapping and Torture are still practiced on a large scale in Iraq, especially against opponents and political activists. In this investigative report, we will highlight testimonies and information narrated by Abductees who survived from the death chamber, and whose only charge was demonstrations.
“I was counting the number of blows that were shattering my body, but I stopped when he hit my chest with his rifle butt. I felt that everything stopped, even the air … I flipped over with the chair I was tied to for the whole duration of my abduction… He was not satisfied with that, he came and stood with all his weight above my chest while pressing his shoe on my face which was bleeding “.
The (1st Abductee ),is a young Iraqi activist and protester, says while staring at a dark corner in the rectangular hall where we met , recalling the story of his torture during his abduction which lasted from 27 to 31 October 2019, and trying to hide his grief, which creeps in with the words: “I could not believe that physical torture like the one I was subjected to could happen in a country like Iraq and with people, whose crime is that they only protested against corruption.”
During the five “nightmare” days that he lived, he did not know his fate, the place they took him to, or who hijacked him. He said he did not meet any other abductee, but he was not the only kidnapped demonstrator, as his captors were talking about other abductees and looking for “hunting” his colleagues.
The confirmed cases of kidnapping, according to multiple sources that the investigation team contacted are in the dozens, which is confirmed by a member of the Human Rights Commission, Fadel Al-Gharawi, saying that “since early October 2019 when the protests began until mid-February 2020 ,the commission documented 79 cases of kidnapping or enforced disappearance of activists and demonstrators, including 4 girls, , only 22 of them have been released”.
However, activists in the popular movement are talking about higher numbers, and names that did not reach the commission because many of the families of the kidnapped people preferred to keep silent and mediate their release for fear of facing worse.
According to the investigations team’s follow-up, the abductees’ ages, beliefs and orientations differ, as well as the ways of their abduction and luring, but they are all accused of one crime ,which is “Protesting against the ruling authorities ” which during the interrogation and torture operations was titled “ Receiving external funds, communicating with hostile parties, sabotaging public property. ”
At about 6 pm on October 27 ,the (1st Abductee ) was in Tahrir Square, which is the stronghold of the protests in Baghdad, , when the square was exposed to a wave of deadly tear gas that blocked the sky, one canister of which hit his right shoulder, forcing him to retreat to Saadoun Street to receive treatment and have a break.
He says: “I was lucky that the bomb fell cold and caused me only bruises. I rested a little and then went back to the square to help the paramedics’ work near Al-Aqeelah School near the Jumhuriya Bridge. I stayed there for about an hour carrying the gas injured demonstrators to an ambulance stationed more than 200 meters away. But soon the roles changed and I suffocated, he adds, as he gets up from his chair, on which he was sitting throughout the meeting, and stands on his feet: “ I was coughing, trying to resist fainting, then I stumbled, and I was carried into a tuk-tuk car .This is the last thing I remember. ”
The (1st Abductee ) did not know whether the people in the tuk-tuk were the kidnappers or not “I woke up on the floor of an ambulance, there were two people whose features I could not distinguish, one of them quickly beat me and held me tight, and the other stuck a needle in my vein, and I lost consciousness again”.
Repression and kidnapping: Fuel for Protest
Kidnappings were not common in the early days of the demonstrations. The possibility of death was possible any minute in Tahrir and other protest squares in the governorates as a result of the excessive use of deadly tear gas grenades, which the government did not confirm their quality, source and who used them. At that time, random bullets did not stop. In early October, snipers randomly used to pick their victims.
The High Commissioner for Human Rights documented the killing of 556 people during 4 months, including 158 people who were killed in the first days of October, and 399 between October 25, 2019 and early February 2020, according to UNHCR member Ali Al-Bayati, in addition to the injury of about 24,000 others.
With the killing by various means, kidnapping was present as a tool to spread terror, which was used in many of the protest squares in Baghdad and cities in southern Iraq.
That violence, more than once, turned into fuel for protest. It is the reason of the increase in the number of protesters and the prolongation of the momentum of demonstrations calling for reform, ending corruption and improving services, whose ceiling rose to changing the ruling class and the political system in the country. This is what happened on the evening of November 6, 2019, when an armed group stormed the Al-Senak garage and Al-Khilani Square near Tahrir and opened fire on the demonstrators, killing 25 in what was later known as the “Al-Senak massacre”, which in the morning prompted huge crowds of citizens to go to the square to support the protesters there.
Why the Repression?
Political analyst Kazem al-Miqdadi believes that the demonstrations “threaten the privileges of corrupt political parties who believe that the protests and demonstrations and the youth’s will for change may be a reason for them to lose their wealth and privileges.”
He added, speaking to the investigation team: “They definitely kidnap, snipe and kill, because this is the method of the militias, and the best example of this is the kidnapping of the activist Jalal Al-Shehmani in 2016 and his disappearance from that time until now.”
Al-Shahmani had disappeared, in addition to two other prominent protest activists, Awai Al-Mansouri, who disappeared in 2015, and Faraj Al-Badri, who disappeared in 2018. No party has claimed responsibility for their kidnapping. The three were known for their contribution and leadership of the protests that erupted from time to time for years. Their families agree, during their conversation with the investigation team, that “their abduction was in retaliation for their protest activities” as there are no other reasons for that. The brother of one of the victims says: “The most difficult thing is eternal waiting, and the lack of a grave for his brother to go to and cry.”
There are no statistics regarding the number of abductees or survivors in recent years. Investigations usually end without results, even for those released. With the disappearances, the silence of the released, and the absence of the investigations results, details of the last hours in the lives of the missing are not known, whether they were tortured or were quickly liquidated.
However, survivors reported being subjected to torture and intimidation with innovative methods of physical and psychological abuse, according to testimonies documented by the investigation team. The (1st Abductee) says that what terrified him the most was not the beating, but the unknown substance that the kidnappers used to inject him with every day, and every time it caused him to lose consciousness.
He adds: “I lost the sense of time because when I wake up from fainting, I do not know how long it took, and what added to my suffering was that I was blindfolded for the duration of my detention.”
Kidnapped or Numbers?
After several attempts and interviews with the officials of the Al-Namaa Center for Human Rights, the investigation team obtained a detailed report and information on the cases of murder and kidnapping prepared by the center, which is consistent with the information obtained by the investigation team from several sources.
According to the report prepared between 1 October – 31 Dec 2019, the Center’s monitoring teams “recorded 64 cases of kidnapping and assassination of human rights defenders and activists.”
According to the report, all of the kidnapped “were subjected to torture and ill-treatment to extract false confessions from them by force, and malicious charges were brought against them, most notably spying, espionage and communication for the benefit of foreign countries.”
The investigation team contacted the (2nd Abductee), who is 23 years old, and was kidnapped for 7 days. It was agreed to meet him in a Cafe’ in the Karrada district in the center of Baghdad. On the day specified for the meeting, he requested, over the phone, to change the location in order to ensure his safety.
Throughout our 3 hour meeting with him, he kept looking towards the source of any sound in the place, and his eyes did not lose sight of the Cafe’ door all the time. He said: “I have difficulty breathing, they broke my nose on the first day of the Abduction.”
He said he could not recognize any of his captors or even the place they took him to. He said in a low voice: “They did not remove the blindfold from my eyes… My hands and feet were tied, and I was in a state of terror.” He added, “Not a single day went by without beating, insults and cursing.”
With each question we asked, he paused for a moment before answering, and kept stressing not to mention his name for fear of being pursued by the kidnappers.
When we asked him about the hardest part of his ordeal, he said: “The second day was the worst. They accused me of working for foreign embassies, and when I denied they tied my face with a cloth and poured on water. They repeated this for more than two hours, while striking various parts of my body with iron tools which I did not recognize… At the end of the interrogation, (Al-Hajji), who was leading the investigation and asking questions, asked them to cut my fingers. I heard the sound of running a wood saw and then they pulled my hand towards it. I could feel the saw passing near my fingers.
According to the testimonies of seven of the kidnappers, the methods of torture that were used with them varied, but they were similar in that they were all painful to the extent that they left marks on their bodies and souls. The common charges that they were all accused of were “spying, receiving money from embassies to carry out foreign countries agendas, and inciting others to demonstrate”.
Via WhatsApp, the team contacted the (3rd Abductee), who is 26 years old from Dhi Qar governorate (387 kilometers south of the capital, Baghdad). When asked about the accusation against him, he replied with a laugh: “An agent of the embassy, an atheist and a member of the Joker gang.”
According to him, he used the same smile when they accused him while denying it, but they repeated the same charges against him throughout the six days of his abduction, during which he was beaten and tortured by various means: “The beating included all parts of my body, they beat me with rifle butts and shoes, and when they were unable to force me to confess to what they wanted ,they tied an electrical wire to my sensitive parts”.
As a result of what he was exposed to during the period of his abduction, the (3rd Abductee) still sees more than one doctor to get rid of the physical and psychological effects of what he went through. He says: “Because of what I was subjected to from beating and electric shocks in my thighs and legs, my life has changed, and now it is difficult for me to stand for more than few minutes.”
The investigation team obtained a copy of a medical report on the case of the ( 3rd Abductee ) ,where his name and information were concealed at his request. The doctor’s diagnosis in the medical report shows that the back of the young man still bore bruises as a result of beating and that his thighs and forearm have wounds.
Medical Reports Documenting Torture Cases
“Saddam Style” Torture
According to the testimonies of people who have been kidnapped, the torture methods used by the kidnappers “bring to mind what the security services were practicing in the era of Saddam Hussein”. This is exactly what the (4th Abductee) -26 years old, said as he was kidnapped in mid-December 2019 by unknown men in four wheel drive car, in his neighborhood in Baghdad, as he was returning from Tahrir Square.
The (4th Abductee ) spent 10 days in his unknown “detention” place, none of which was free of torture “Until now I still hear the sound of that thing penetrating the air towards my back, I don’t know what it is, I think it is an iron or wooden pipe. Until now that strike is still in my mind and its pain is still digging in my back” says the (4th Abductee).
He added, “The second strike hit my left leg, and although its pain subsided, I still walk with difficulty … It was not only beatings, the electric wires used to shock my body for hours.”
The (4th Abductee) refused to allow us to take pictures of the effects of torture, explaining that he has “a psychological barrier towards the camera.”
The reason for his fear of the camera relates to an incident that took place with him on the eighth day of his kidnapping. “A person entered the room where I was being held while I was tied and blindfolded and forced me to wear clothes he was carrying instead of my dirty clothes. When he uncovered my eyes, which were blindfolded from the first day, I saw masked men around me … He ordered me to read a paper in front of the camera … his accent seemed strange, perhaps Syrian. The paper was a confession that I had nothing to do with.
He adds: “I was threatened with members of my family, my mother, father and my brothers, even my friends, they listed all of their full names. I could not resist them.”
The (4th Abductee) was not the only one who was forced to read a confession in front of the camera or the only one who was filmed, as the (3rd Abductee) does not rule out that his captors had filmed him while he was being tortured for future extortion. Likewise, the (2nd Abductee) says: “I think they filmed all the interrogation sessions, and all the torture that they subjected me to”.
The (1st Abductee) ruled that out by saying, “I do not think they filmed me, because I was kidnapped early on when filming was not common, and this was just my luck … Later I heard about the filming of Abductees while they were being tortured or raped.”
The (2nd Abductee) who was released 7 days after being kidnapped in a remote area of his home in Baghdad, believes that his captors were following a security agency. He concluded this from the phrases that his captors used, despite hearing the word “Al-Hajji” during his interrogation on the second day of his abduction: “The whole time I spent abducted, the word“ Sir ”was the word that the kidnappers use the most”.
The researcher in the affairs of armed groups and political analyst Hisham Al-Hashemi does not rule out the involvement of leaders in the security services with the armed groups that worked against the demonstrators, recalling the statement of the resigned Prime Minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, in which he demanded the kidnappers to release their abductees: “Mr. Abdul Mahdi knows who these are by parties and by names, but he did not have the will to hold them accountable in accordance with the Terrorism Law, because these groups are protected by dominant political parties in Parliament and the government.
On November 14, 2019, Abdul Mahdi called in a statement to “release the kidnapped.” He specifically mentioned Dr. Yasser Abdul-Jabbar, Dean of the Higher Institute for Security and Administrative Development at the Ministry of Interior, who was kidnapped two days before the date of the statement, and showed a video clip taken by a surveillance camera at the moment of his abduction in one of the Baghdad streets by unidentified gunmen driving four-wheel drive cars.
“We are witnessing an increase in kidnapping cases carried out by parties suggesting that they belong to one of the state institutions, whether with real or fake addresses,” Abdul Mahdi’s statement said. It also stated that: “We strongly reject these practices and consider this act a crime punishable by law, and the perpetrators should immediately and unconditionally release him.”
A representative of the High Commission for Human Rights, Fadhel al-Gharawi, told the investigation team that “the commission recorded 2,800 arrests of demonstrators by security forces of all kinds.”
On the outskirts of Tahrir Square, security personnel of various military types are deployed, and security personnel in civilian clothes are deployed inside or near the square.
The (2nd Abductee) believes that his movements were monitored inside the square before he was kidnapped. He says, “During the torture & interrogation ordeal, they showed me photos taken of me during demonstrations, one of which was a photo of me sitting with my friends inside a tent in the square.”
On October 4, a Federal Police patrol arrested 5 journalists near Al-Firdous Square leading to Tahrir, without an arrest warrant. “Hona Baghdad” TV news anchor
Ahmed Abbas said: “As soon as he knew that we were journalists, the patrol officer shouted at us for no reason and ordered us to get into their car. We asked him to explain the reason for our arrest, he replied saying that we were going to incite people against the regime … come on, get in”. He adds, “The treatment was bad. We were detained for three hours and then released by bias”.
Journalists and workers in press institutions have had their share of attacks and kidnappings since the start of the demonstrations. Fadhel al-Gharawi says: “More than 76 cases of assault and kidnapping of journalists and media institutions that we registered from the beginning of October 2019 until February 2020.”
International Organizations Warnings
On December 2, 2019, “Human Rights Watch” held the Iraqi authorities responsible for investigating the kidnappings and demanded the release of the detainees who were not clearly charged. Despite the appeals made by international and local human rights organizations concerned with monitoring human rights, kidnappings did not stop until now.
Neither the Federal government nor the responsible security authorities respond to the international reports’ accusations. Researcher Hisham Al-Hashemi comments on this: “The security authorities have full capabilities to implement the law, but they lack the political will to issue orders to implement it. The reason is the partisan and sectarian collusion between these groups and the security political leaders who choose to remain silent about these reports.”
Some of the kidnappings and torture took place in public in front of the demonstrators and passers-by. Social media activists circulated photos and clips showing the ugliness of what happened, other than the photos and clips that were not published for reasons often related to the safety of their publishers.
During one of the protest that extended from the heart of Tahrir Square to Muhammad al-Qasim Road in the east and Al-Wathba Square in the north, specifically on January 20, the investigation team watched, many Tuk-Tuk vehicles, moving in columns, one after the other, carrying injured and suffocated demonstrators towards the medical detachments spread in Tahrir Square.
Amid the screaming and moaning of the injured, we met the (5th Abductee) when a vehicle carried him to a medical detachment in the yard after he sustained wounds in several places on his body.
He used to come to the square every day. He did not expect the riot police deployed on the Muhammad al-Qasim highway to arrest him without a warrant or a crime. They dealt with him in a “horrific and unjustified manner” as his colleague who was accompanying him expresses, especially he was not in Muhammad al-Qasim Street, but he was standing on the sidewalk near the Kilani fuel station, according to his colleague.
It is worth mentioning that instructions were issued to the security services to prevent any attempts to block roads and bridges, and to deal with those who do so as criminals who disturb public order and harm public property.
The (5th Abductee) agreed to talk and asked us to photograph his wounds and the signs of beatings and torture that covered his body. The investigation team waited for him to fully wake up from his coma. After he received first aid and regained his calm, he said, “Show these pictures to the world.”
Who tortured you in this way? The (5th Abductee) answers: “I was near Khanna al-Kilani fuel station near Muhammad al-Qasim highway. I was arrested by a joint anti-riot force with special forces (SWAT), all of them were masked.”
Regarding the treatment he received, he says: “They beat me with sticks and tasers. They hit me all over my body. They interrogated me for 3 hours and ripped me off my clothes, then they threw me naked and I ended up here”
Social media activists in Iraq circulate, from time to time, photos and videos of those released, showing signs of torture on their bodies:
In mid-November 2019, Iraq failed to renew its membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council, after some countries refrained from voting in its favor.The reason, according to the Al-Namaa Center for Human Rights, is “the deterioration of the human rights situation in the country.”
On November 13 ,2019, the Special Representative of the United Nations in Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, delivered a speech before the Iraqi Parliament, in which she demanded that the government and the House of Representatives to take action to meet the demands of the protesters and stop the kidnappings, murders and threats of activists and demonstrators.
In a second briefing on Iraq by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations before the Security Council on March 3, 2020, she presented developments related to anti-corruption demonstrations and calls for reforms.
Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert touched on some of the basic issues like killing, kidnapping, violence, intimidation and threats. She noted that these are considered
violations to Human Rights, and she stressed on the state’s responsibility for the safety and security of its citizens,
She highlighted the existence of “armed entities” that have no clear affiliations. She said, “We see groups and individuals using peaceful demonstrations and the security forces as a cover for them, which contributes to aggravating problems, misleading the people and harming the state’s interests, so the scene becomes confused.”
This briefing by Plasschaert provoked some political entities in Iraq and prompted them to denounce them, to the extent that some parliamentary blocs demanded to replace the UN representative, on the pretext that the report was “unfair and selective.”
The various forms and sources of pressures did not produce any change or improvement in the reality of the kidnappings on the ground, nor were the responsible authorities or persons who carry out the kidnappings revealed, while the released Abductees suffer severe physical and psychological effects, and the fate of others who disappeared remains unknown.
Fear in Broad Daylight
In addition to physical scars, the kidnappings and torture dug deep psychological scars on the released Abductees and detainees, which will stay for long.
While the investigation team was with the (2nd Abductee), he suddenly turned towards a normal sound source in the Cafe’. His face turned yellow, and his body and hands were shaking with no control. Throughout the meeting, words were difficult to come out of his mouth. We needed to change the place for more privacy. He said: “They know my movements. They are everywhere and I am afraid that they will kidnap me again.”
One member of the investigation team was in the Kurdistan region, and he tried to interview the ( 6th Abductee ) in one of the hospitals in the region, where he was being treated to get over the psychological effects of the kidnapping ordeal, but he refused to conduct the interview, justifying that through a voice message he sent to the team through his friends, saying: “Tell them that the kidnappers treated me well. They welcomed me with flowers and hugs, and they provided me with the best food and hotel services”. He continues: “If I say anything other than this, they will take revenge from me and my family, and I do not rule out that they may attack my mother and my children.”
Fear pushed the (6th Abductee)) to more than that, as he accused the investigation team of possibly cooperating with the kidnappers to test his commitment to silence: “It would not be strange for them to send a person disguised as a journalist or as a member of a humanitarian organization.”
Kidnappers of Activists: Keep Silent Forever!
The kidnappers set many conditions for the release of the activists, including adherence to strict silence on social media and avoiding engaging in anything that revolves around demonstrations, or talking about the method of kidnapping and the identity of the hijackers.
The investigation team found that a number of activists who were released after their kidnapping have deleted their pages on social media sites, while others have quit any activity on those sites.
Also, well-known writers and activists stopped writing, and some of them closed their pages on social media sites, after receiving threats of kidnapping and punishment, which is what happened with “ZY”.
According to the testimonies of the Abductees who were interviewed by the investigation team, the hijackers opened their phones and viewed their messages and conversations, as well as examining the photos and videos saved on their phones.
Abductees “Facebook” accounts remained online and active during their captivity. Friends of the activist and writer Maytham El-Helou were surprised that his account was active during the days of the kidnapping, before he was released on November 20 after spending about 20 days in captivity.
Activists and Abductees accuse (unknown) security forces and factions in the Popular Mobilization Forces of being behind the kidnappings that targeted protesters and human rights defenders. Two of the Abductees and one of those who were subjected to an attempted kidnapping, who were interviewed by the investigation team mentioned the names of “well-known” armed factions, which they believe were behind what they have been subjected to.
In a report by “Amnesty International” issued at the end of 2019, the Iraqi security forces, including factions in the Popular Mobilization Forces, were accused of using excessive force against protesters, leading to their arrest, enforced disappearance, torture and other forms of intimidation. The report indicated that some of these cases were orchestrated by the intelligence and security services.
Regarding the identity of the kidnappers, the spokesman for the Ministry of the Interior, Major General Khaled Al-Muhanna, told the investigation team: “Most of the Abductees refrained from giving detailed information about the method of their abduction or the hijacking party, but the investigation authorities have sufficient information and we will reveal it later after completing the procedures.”
Regarding the nature of kidnapping crimes during the demonstrations, he says: “Many of the kidnapping cases related to the demonstrations have a political background. Some cases were exaggerated, and it became clear to us that there were cases of purely criminal nature … kidnappings previously existed and will continue, but the investigative bodies in the ministry have the experience to deal with these files, and as soon as the investigations are completed, those involved will be held accountable, wherever they were”.
Where did we reach with the investigations and when will the results be announced? “The investigations are in the custody of the Iraqi judiciary, and the ministry’s role lies in the technical and investigation part to uncover the circumstances of those crimes … the time limit depends on the decisions of the judiciary,” Al-Muhanna answers.
In an attempt by the investigation team to know the results of the investigations by the judiciary into the kidnappings. A set of questions was sent to the official spokesperson of the Supreme Judicial Council, Judge Abdul Sattar Al-Birqdar through the media office of the Council, but two days later, the Media Office of the Judicial Council apologized for answering them.
The “Unknown” Third Party
During an interview with “France Press” on November 14, 2019, while the protests were flaring up in the squares, the Iraqi Minister of Defense Najah al-Shammari accused parties he called the “Third Party” without specifying their identity of killing and kidnapping protesters, and from the moment the minister used the term “Third Party” , it became a common term used for those who kidnap and kill demonstrators, and it is even used to describe the parties that support the protests.
Leaders and officials in the PMF factions used the “Third Party” term to describe the “intruders” in the demonstrations. In a TV interview for Al-Ahad TV channel, the leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (a faction of the Popular Mobilization Forces) said that “the Third Party is American-Israeli,” accusing the two countries of standing behind the killing of protesters.
Activists and demonstrators use the term ” Third Party ” when referring to the parties that carry out kidnappings and threats against protesters. Two of the kidnappers interviewed by the investigation team refer to the “Third Party” as “Armed factions of the PMF.”
But the leader of the Popular Mobilization Forces, Muhammad al-Basri, defends the PMF factions, denying that they are behind the kidnappings. “These charges indicate that their owners want to overthrow the Popular Mobilization Forces through demonstrations, as they could not bring it down during the ISIS period, considering the striking power the PMF possesses.”
Al-Basri believes that “there are fabricated kidnappings claimed by their owners, and that there are those who exploited the period of the demonstrations to achieve their own goals or have intentions such as asylum.”
He continues saying: “Take for example the activist Mary Mohamed, who went out and supported the Tuk-Tuk owners, and days after her kidnapping it turned out that she was seeking asylum in Germany… these are scenarios that unfortunately distort the reputation of the security forces.”
Interior Ministry spokesman Khaled Al-Muhanna agrees with Al-Basri’s and believes that most of the kidnappings are “fake”, some are criminal and others seeking asylum. He confirms the ministry’s seriousness in following up cases: “Kidnapping incidents are usually recorded. When a person is reported missing, the police investigations start. We do not distinguish between one person and another, all citizens are equal.”
The (1st Abductee ) regrets that his family did not file a report of his kidnapping, and the reason, according to him, is “fear of pursuit,” while the 2nd Abductee’s family dared to report that their son was missing, but upon his release, the first thing he did was to drop the complaint, he says: “This was one of their conditions.”
The (4th Abductee) did likewise, when he withdrew the case upon his release, despite the severe health effects that he had.
Kidnapping “without” Suspension
After his release, the (2nd Abductee) returned to Tahrir Square, but it did not take long until he received a message on his page on one of the social media sites from an unknown account , that reminded him of what happened to him during his kidnapping and advised him to leave the square immediately. He talks about the moment he read the message: “I started to doubt everyone”
The investigation team tried to interview three Abductees who were kidnapped twice, but they were more cautious and refrained from making a statement about the circumstances of their abduction. Activist and paramedic Ibrahim Hussein – brother of the artist Alaa Hussein – was kidnapped for the second time on February 15, 2020, and the kidnappers sent photos showing him soaked in his blood.
Ibrahim spent five days kidnapped, then he was released on February 20, 2020. The investigation team learned through people close to him that the kidnappers warned him the first time, he should not return to Tahrir Square, but he did ,so he was kidnapped again .
The cases of enforced disappearance and the harassment or threat of activists and human rights defenders did not stop even as the momentum of the demonstrations decreased due to the threat of the Corona virus pandemic : On March 9, 2020, Journalist Tawfiq Al-Tamimi, who works for the semi-official newspaper, Al-Sabah, affiliated to the Iraqi Media Network, was kidnapped, and his fate remained unknown until now.
Al-Tamimi was kidnapped two days after he published a post on his Facebook page, in which he asked about the fate of his colleague in the Iraqi media network, writer and publisher Mazen Latif, who preceded him to the same unknown fate on February 1, 2020.
Despite what they have been subjected to, the survivors of the kidnapping interviewed by the investigation team, all agree to stay in Iraq. The (1st Abductee) says: “My life has no value here, but still I will not leave my country and I am no longer afraid of anything.”
A.T., a young man known for his activities and initiatives inside Tahrir Square and who was exposed to a kidnapping attempt to which ended with a broken nose, expresses his desire to stay in Iraq. He tells the investigation team, from inside the square: “Two days after they tried to kidnap me, I returned to Tahrir and passed by the place where they tried to kidnap me near the square. I will continue to come here and demand my rights despite the threatening messages that I receive and the harm I suffered.”
* The names of the Abductees or those who have been subjected to threats and kidnapping attempts have been withheld for fear of pursuing them.
The investigation was completed with support from NIRIJ Investigative Journalism Network.