On 28 September 2020, together with the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Working Group on discrimination against women and girls, I sent a communication to the Iraqi Government on the attempted killing of Lodya Remon Albarti and the killing of Riham Yaquoub in Basra.
Ms Lodya Remon Albarti is a human rights defender living in Basra. She works with the Al-Firdaws association, an organisation founded to promote the rights of women and youth in Iraq. She also works on environmental rights issues.
Ms Riham Yaquoub was a human rights defender and fitness expert living in Basra. She was a strong advocate for women’s safe access to sports facilities and public spaces in the city.
Both human rights defenders were leaders of women's marches that took place in the context of the protest movement against power cuts, a lack of access to clean drinking water, unemployment and corruption that began in Basra on 8 July 2018. Since then, both women were engaged in promoting the rights of women in Iraq. Ms. Yaquoub was a strong advocate for women’s participation in public life, especially through sports and exercising in public spaces, including through organizing large walking groups for women and sharing the walks on social media. Ms. Albarti was also actively involved in the peaceful demonstrations that took place in several cities in Iraq in 2019.
According to the information we received:
On 17 August 2020, Ms Albarti was shot at by unknown individuals who waited outside her home in a car. A colleague who was with her was injured and hospitalised. Following the attack, threats and slander against the human rights defender continued online. She had been receiving threats in early 2020, forcing her to relocate from Basra before later returning. She was also forced to leave the city for her own safety in 2018, after being subjected to a defamation campaign.
On 19 August 2020, Ms Yaquoub was shot and killed by gunmen riding a motorcycle while travelling by car in the centre of Basra city. She had been a target of abuse online since 2018 and had received numerous threats prior to her killing, including at least one direct threat by text message. The treats allegedly came from armed groups or militias. When she reported them to the authorities, no action was taken.
In the communication, we expressed extreme concern at the killing of Riham and the attack on Lodya, which appears to form part of a pattern of women human rights defenders being targeted for assassination in Basra. We urged the Government to take visible and concrete steps to ensure the crimes did not rest in impunity.
The full communication can be accessed here: https://spcommreports.ohchr.org/TMResultsBase/DownLoadPublicCommunicationFile?gId=25572