Iraq: Civilians Under Fire

May 3, 2010

Seven years after the US invasion of Iraq, violence is still taking the lives of countless Iraqis. Amnesty International’s new report Iraq, Civilians Under Fire exposes the ongoing violence inflicted on minority groups including women, gay men, religious minorities, and human rights activists, journalists and refugees.

Kidnapping, torture and murder are used by militias, terrorist organizations and occasionally the government itself, often with impunity.

An Iraqi man sits in the ruins of a Kurdish village after a predawn suicide truck bombing in Wardek
An Iraqi man sits in the ruins of a Kurdish village after a predawn suicide truck bombing in Wardek

Women who are abused are not safe even in the few shelters that exist. Honor killings are rampant and those who perform them are not punished. Forced marriages, forced veiling and rape are common across the country.

Gay men have been living in fear since political and religious leaders started issuing fatwas against them. In Sadr City and Baghdad gay men and men perceived to be gay were kidnapped, tortured and killed in large numbers.

Christian, Yazidi, Sabean-Mandean and other religious communities have been harrassed and brutalized since 2003, their places of worship bombed, their religious leaders systematically killed. Individuals are stopped on the streets by groups of armed men and asked for their identification cards, which indicate their religion. If they belong to the “wrong” religious group, they are shot.

Human rights activists in Iraq who try to protect abused women, gay men or religious minorities are threatened and killed by the same militias, many of which are affiliated with members of the Iraqi parliament. Journalists who speak out against the corruption in the government which has allowed the continued arming of these militias have also been threatened and killed.

With around 2.7 million internally displaced Iraqis, 1.5 million Iraqi refugees in neighboring countries that threaten to send them back, 12,000 Palestinian refugees in Iraq and 4,300 Iranian refugees in Camp Ashraf, the situation in Iraq is dire.

In the coming weeks Amnesty International will launch actions addressing each of these issues. As a new Iraqi government takes shape in the next months, it’s vital that we let them know that the world is watching and expecting them to take responsibility for the safety and security of all of Iraq’s civilians, regardless of religious affiliation, gender, sexual orientation or belief.