Two former detainees and the father of a man who died in detention have provided details of ill-treatment, torture, and death in facilities run by the Iraqi Interior Ministry in the Mosul area, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

A detainee held by the ministry’s Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Office in an east Mosul prison from January to May 2018 said he witnessed and experienced repeated torture during interrogations, and saw nine men die there, at least two from the abuse.

Another man from Mosul, arrested in March by local police, died during police interrogation in the Mosul police station, his father said. And a man who was held in the Intelligence and Counter Terrorism prison in Qayyarah said he saw other men returning from interrogations with signs of abuse on their bodies.

More here.

(Source: HRW)

From Al Jazeera. Any opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

The Iraqi National Security Service has admitted to holding hundreds of people suspected of terrorism for months.

According to Human Rights Watch, the agency has been keeping them at a facility east of Mosul – which was retaken from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group just over a year ago.

Human rights groups say abuses of detainees are commonplace in the country.

Al Jazeera‘s Imran Khan has more from Baghdad:

By Human Rights Watch (HRW).

Iraq’s National Security Service (NSS), an Iraqi intelligence agency reporting to Iraq’s prime minister, has acknowledged for the first time that it is detaining individuals for prolonged periods of time, despite not having a clear mandate to do so, Human Rights Watch said on Sunday.

NSS is holding more than 400 detainees in a detention facility in east Mosul. As of July 4, 2018, 427 men were there, some of whom had been held for more than seven months.

One person held there briefly in April described horrendous conditions, and said that detainees had no access to lawyers, family visits, or medical care. He described one prisoner dying in April after being tortured for months. Human Rights Watch was granted access to the facility on July 4. The detention conditions appeared improved but remained overcrowded.

“National Security Service officials in Baghdad told us that the intelligence agency has no authority to hold prisoners, but changed their line once we were able to see the prisoners for ourselves,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Baghdad needs to publicly clarify which authorities have the right to hold and interrogate detainees.”

On April 17 a senior NSS official in Baghdad denied operating any detention facilities and claimed that the agency only holds small numbers of people for up to 48 hours before transferring them to places of formal detention. But researchers were granted access to the facility, where officials said 427 prisoners were being held at the time.

A subsequent written response from the Baghdad office confirmed the NSS is holding prisoners in one facility in Mosul, but then proceeded to speak about detention facilities in the plural form.

Given the serious contradiction in statements and facts on the ground, the NSS should clarify the number of prisoners it is detaining and the number and location of facilities it is using to detain them. Iraqi authorities should declare the number of detention facilities across Iraq. Judicial authorities should investigate the allegations presented in this report.

More here.

By John Lee.

An Iraqi government block on internet access is reportedly costing the country $40 million per day in lost business, sales and opportunities.

The estimate is from the COST tool, based on the Brookings Institution economic impact methodology for internet shutdowns, using data collected by the NetBlocks internet shutdown observatory in collaboration with volunteers across Iraq.

Internet restrictions that have been implemented in an attempt to suppress the recent protests across the country.

According to Amnesty International, the internet was cut to stop protesters posting images of security force attacks.

(Source: NetBlocks)

This article was originally published by Niqash. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

By Ahmad Waheed.

Women In Conservative Basra Seek – And Find – More Freedoms

An influx of investors, immigration, better security and more shopping malls is emboldening females in the southern city of Basra.

Shahid and Nour al-Rubaie sit on the third floor of one of the largest shopping malls in Basra, waiting for their lunch. The two women might look innocuous to some  but for many locals, they are still an interesting sight: Two women, on their own, without a male guardian, out shopping and eating in what is still a fairly conservative southern Iraqi city.

“Today Basra is a very safe place,” Shahid told NIQASH. “There are malls like this that we can walk around. We can wear what we want in here because it is closed and safe,” she added, before explaining that in the recent past she used to dress far more conservatively, for fear of provoking the armed militia members who patrolled the city’s streets.

In the 1970s and 1980s, Basra was a relatively cosmopolitan place. In the 1990s, it started to become more traditional and after 2003, and the US-led invasion of Iraq, Basra – one of Iraq’s biggest cities – became increasingly conservative again, partially due to the competing militias that tried to take control of parts of the city, ostensibly to maintain security.

But in recent years that fundamentalist feeling has faded somewhat. Since 2008, the Iraqi government has been disarming the militias and has arrested several of the most prominent leaders.

And as the city has attracted more investment, families who have lived elsewhere have returned to Basra or moved here, and often they have brought less conservative attitudes with them.

The militias who patrolled the cities once put up signs warning local females not wear make-up or go out without a veil on. At local universities, those women who chose not to wear a veil or who wore clothes that strict religious rules said were provocative, were often harassed.

But today there are more unveiled women, more women driving cars in Basra or going shopping without a male family member. There are even primary schools with mixed classes that have been so popular that other investors are founding similar private schools.

 

Basra women in the 1960s.

 

“We have issued many more driving licenses to women in the past three years,” says Riyad al-Eidani, a spokesperson for the provincial traffic department. “This is because women now go to work or drive their children to schools. They are also buying their own cars.”

The number of women drivers has increased so much that male drivers are no longer surprised to see a female in charge of a vehicle, al-Eidani adds. “And we have actually realised that women are more careful drivers. They cause fewer accidents and abide by the law.”

There are even female traffic officers now. Basra’s women have also started doing other jobs, without fear of recrimination.

“Today we have many females who can model for us in Basra,” says local fashion designer,  Ziad al-Athari, “Ten years ago we could never find anyone to model because of tribal and community restrictions. But today we have many candidates for our shows.”

Iraqi women in conservative areas are often criticised as loose if they do anything  – such as modelling, sinigang or acting – that puts them in front of an audience. In Basra, fashion shows could only be staged in well-guarded venues at first but now they’ve become more popular and are often open to the general public.

“As a result of far better security we now see many women in Basra taking up jobs; some even start businesses,” al-Athari explains. “They also benefit from what’s going on in other countries where they can see women working and independent but still respectable.”

The first union of local Iraqi businesswomen was established in Basra in 2011.

Today all of this means everything, and not much at all, to the al-Rubaie sisters in the mall. They’re more interested in relaxing and shopping. After lunch, they set off into the mall, to look at some clothes and trinkets and then afterwards, Shahid drives her sister home.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Human Rights Office (HRO) organized a training course in Dohuk for human rights activists and staff members of NGOs working in the field of human rights in Dohuk Governorate.

The training course, entitled “Strengthening Human Rights Monitoring and Documentation Skills,” was part of a series of activities the HRO is running to support civil society organizations and regional institutions for protecting and promoting human rights in the Kurdistan Region.

The training course focused on deepening participants’ understanding on key principles, legal frameworks and core skills including fact-finding missions, interviewing, and report-writing. Sessions were provided by United Nations human rights professionals.

Representatives of 25 NGOs (10 women and 15 men) from Dohuk city and surrounding areas participated in the training.

Mr. Zito Siany, the Human Rights Officer of HRO, stated that the training is part of the HRO program aimed supporting the NGOs in Dohuk and other KR districts to build their staff members’ capacities in monitoring and documenting violations of human rights.

Participant Twana Othman, from the National Center for Human Rights (NCHR), noted that the training assisted him in acquiring knowledge about human rights monitoring principles along with his involvement in prison monitoring and holding interviews with detainees.

Mr. Othman further explained:

“Through this training I have learned the appropriate methods of preparing for and conducting interviews with the victims and have gained substantial knowledge regarding the state’s obligations towards the ratified international human rights treaties, and how to make the best use of United Nations Human Rights Conventional and Unconventional Mechanisms to protect and promote human rights.”

(Source: UN)

(Picture: Human rights, from igorstevanovic/Shutterstock)

Iraqi security officers are denying immediate relatives of suspected Islamic State (also known as ISIS) members security clearance to reclaim homes being occupied or to seek compensation, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today.

Security forces have also destroyed or confiscated some property. Such acts, based only on family relationships to ISIS suspects rather than individual security determinations, are a form of collective punishment.

“These families deserve the same protections that Iraqi courts provide to all citizens,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Courts should be the guarantors against discrimination that will only further sectarian divisions in the country and delay needed reconciliation.”

More here from HRW.

(Source: HRW)

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has denounced the multiple media freedom violations in the Iraqi Kurdistan region documented in a new report by IFJ affiliate the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate.

The 2017 annual report of media freedom violations, published by the KJS’ Committee for the Defense of Press Freedom & Rights of Journalists, reveals that as the intensity of the rivalry between political parties increases, incidence of violations against journalists and media organisations also increase as they face revenge by the belligerents.

Several media have been blocked during and after the referendum in the Kurdistan region to secede from Iraq and especially during the follow up military campaign by the Iraqi central government to regain control over Karkuk and other areas controlled by Kurdish forces.

Turkey and Iran also closed down offices of media organizations seen as promoting the vote for independence while the Kurdistan regional government closed down (a) TV channel(s) which took an anti-independence editorial line.

Four journalists were killed in the region in 2017, 30 journalists were arrested, 5 were wounded, 39 suffered from physical attacks, 111 were restrained and 18 were threatened. In addition, 3 media houses were burned down and 13 channels were shut down.

“The IFJ condemns all the attacks documented by our affiliate against our colleagues in the region and urges the various parties to stop using the media in their political fights,” said IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger. “Both the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iraqi central government must take immediate steps to show that they are serious about fighting impunity in the attacks against journalists in Iraq.”

For more information, please contact IFJ on + 32 2 235 22 16

(Source: IFJ)

As humanitarians, we have a collective responsibility to prevent and safely respond to sexual abuse and exploitation in Iraq,” said Jennifer Emond, a UNFPA specialist on the subject, during a training programme in Iraq.

Risk of sexual exploitation and abuse escalate during times of crisis. Community protection systems are disrupted when populations are displaced, and breakdown in law enforcement enable perpetrators to abuse with impunity. Under conditions of deprivation and fear, people with power – even aid workers – may coerce others into sexual relationships in exchange for food, medicine or safety.

The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and its partners are working to end these abuses through a range of actions known as “protection from sexual exploitation and abuse” (PSEA).

UNFPA and the World Food Programme (WFP) are together co-chairing the Iraq Network to Protect from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse. For the last two months, UNFPA and its PSEA network partners have been training humanitarian workers across Iraq on the principles of PSEA, including how to prevent abuses and respond if they occur.

“So far, we have trained up to 400 humanitarian workers in Sulaymaniyah, Dohuk, Baghdad, Basra, Soran and Erbil,” Ms. Emond said.

Those aid workers will themselves act as trainers, reaching out to hundreds more with critical information that can improve protections for vulnerable populations.

Improving reporting and protections

The trainings help humanitarian staff understand how sexual exploitation and abuse can occur in different scenarios, as well as the consequences for survivors, the community and all humanitarian actors. Participants are taught to understand the power imbalance between aid actors and vulnerable populations, and to realize what behaviour is not acceptable.

By Saad Salloum for Al Monitor. Any opinions here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News. 

After decades of suppression, Baha’is celebrate publicly in Baghdad

On Nov. 30, Baha’is celebrated the bicentennial of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith, in a ceremony in Baghdad attended by representatives from the Iraqi parliament, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, civil society as well as media activists.

This is considered the most prominent ceremony where Baha’is officially announced themselves for the first time in 47 years, as the Baathist Revolutionary Command Council issued Decree No. 105 in 1970 to ban Baha’i activities. As a consequence, Baha’i administrative institutions in Iraq were dissolved and any activity where Baha’is declared their religious identity was punishable by imprisonment.

Kawakeb Hussein, who was arrested under the 1970 decree, spoke to Al-Monitor about the decree’s negative impact on the Baha’i identity. She said, “The law attempted to obliterate the Baha’i religious identity, strip us of our beliefs and dissolve our identity into that of the Muslim majority. However, the Baha’is’ celebration 47 years after the official ban proves that eradicating Baha’i belief from Iraq is almost impossible, as it was from Baghdad — which the Baha’i prophet named the City of God — that this worldwide religion was announced.”

A speaker at the ceremony from the Central Baha’i Forum mentioned that Baghdad is a sacred city for Baha’is as well as how important it is to hold ceremonies in Baghdad as a solidarity action against the difficult circumstances Iraq is going through.

In this context, Aseel Salam, a Baha’i activist, told Al-Monitor, “The organizing of this ceremony in Baghdad connotes several messages, among which is the importance of Baghdad as a sacred city for Baha’is, as it is the capital city where Baha’u’llah launched his call in 1863. His house, where Baha’is from all over the world travel to perform pilgrimage, is in Baghdad as well. Moreover, Baghdad holds a special place in Baha’i history, as Baha’u’llah was exiled there from Tehran before he was exiled again in Istanbul and Edirne [in Turkey] prior to his last exile in Acre [in Syria, now Israel].”