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Prominent female activist assassinated in Iraq

BASRA, IRAQ — Dr Reham Yacoub, an activist who led the Iraqi protest movement and organized several women's marches, was ruthlessly murdered by unidentified gunmen in the southern city of Basra, Iraq.

The suspects drove a motorcycle and opened fire on Reham's car, killing her almost instantly. They used an assault rifle to assassinate her and in the act, also injured three innocent passengers in Yacoub's car, one of whom died later.

This blood-curdling event took place on Al Tijari Street and is the third attack by unknown gunmen against prominent Iraqi activists.

It all began when activist Tahseen Osama was killed inside the headquarters of a local internet company last Friday. Subsequently, on Monday, two activists- Ludia Raymond and Abbas Subhi, were slain by gunmen in the ill-fated city of Basra. It seemed probable, considering the countless threats she had been bombarded with that Yacoub would be next.

In 2018, during an interview with Arab Weekly, Dr Reham said that she had been subject to dozens of threats. She said, “I often receive messages from Iranians via my social media who accuse me of the Iranian consulate's torching and accuse me and other activists of being linked to the US to encourage riots in Basra.”

In 2017-18, Yacoub participated in a training course supervised by the US consulate in Basra. This led to the publication of an article by Iran's Mehr news agency, vilifying Yacoub, accusing her of cooperating with the US to give women in the city "riot-related training."

The article read: Under the guise of exercise and jogging, [Yacoub] gives [Basra] 's women riot-related training so they can be an important element of future demonstrations". It concluded that Yacoub and other activists are part of a US plot to harm relations between Baghdad and Tehran—a choice excuse used by leaders of Iran-backed militias when targeting eminent activists.

"It seems that there is a well-programmed cleansing of activists who were influential in the last protest movement," said a spokesman for the Iraqi Independent High Commission for Human Rights. Iraq has been embroiled in a political pandemonium- Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi being the perfect example of this chaos.

PM Kadhimi took office in April, becoming the third Iraqi head of government within a 10-week period that followed months of brutal protests in the country.

Kadhimi's response to the violent clashes— during which security forces opened fire on protesters who pelted the governor's house with rocks and petrol bombs and blocked several main roads— was to sack the Basra police and national security chiefs. The demonstrators were acting out in response to Tahseen’s death.

Mohammed Qasim, a fellow activist and friend, was quoted saying Reham’s death was like “the assassination of all Iraqis”. Dr Yacoub along with all the other Iraqi activists who fight against endless war sanctions and for economic reform is the lifeblood of Iraq’s survival.

It is evident that rampant corruption, no substantial police protection, and wrathful protesters roaming the streets shoulder to shoulder with mysterious dissent-silencing, gunmen can turn into an amalgamation that will send Basra up in flames.

Reporter- Ananya Sreekumar

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