Backer of Iraq anti-government protests killed in Baghdad

An Iraqi man carries a placard depicting protesters who died during ongoing anti-government demonstrations, at a rally near the local government headquarters in the southern city of Basra, on December 13, 2019. (AFP)
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Updated 15 December 2019

Backer of Iraq anti-government protests killed in Baghdad

  • Mohammed al-Doujaili, 24, was shot in the back near the Tahrir Square
  • Around 460 people have been killed and 25,000 wounded since the rallies on Oct. 1

BAGHDAD: A supporter of Iraqi anti-government demonstrators was gunned down in Baghdad, a police source said Sunday, the fourth backer of the protest movement to be killed in two weeks.
Mohammed al-Doujaili, 24, was shot in the back near the Tahrir Square protest hub on Saturday night, the police source said.
Another man who was with him was wounded in the same attack, and al-Doujaili died of his wounds at a Baghdad hospital Sunday morning, relatives said.
Doujaili, who helped distribute food to protesters encamped in Tahrir Square, was buried in Baghdad's Shiite-dominated district of Sadr City.
He is the fourth protester to be killed by unidentified assailants over the past two weeks.
Father of five Ali al-Lami was shot and killed by several bullets to the head earlier this week and prominent civil society activist Fahem al-Tai was killed in a drive-by shooting in Iraq's shrine city of Karbala.
In one particularly gruesome case, the bruised body of 19-year-old Zahra Ali was found on December 2 outside her family home in Baghdad, hours after she had gone missing.
Iraq's capital and its Shiite-majority south have been gripped by more than two months of rallies against corruption, poor public services and a lack of jobs.
Around 460 people have been killed and 25,000 wounded, most of them protesters, since the youth-led rallies erupted on October 1.
Since then demonstrators in the capital and southern cities have disappeared almost daily, in most cases taken from near their homes as they returned from protests.
Protesters accuse pro-Iran armed factions of playing a role in the killings and abductions.
London-based rights group Amnesty International on Friday urged Baghdad to clamp down on what it called a "campaign of terror targeting protesters".
Demonstrations once again took place on Sunday in Baghdad and across the south of Iraq, where schools and public administrations remained closed, AFP correspondents said.

Jailed academic rejects offer to spy for Iran

Updated 41 min 27 sec ago

Jailed academic rejects offer to spy for Iran

LONDON: An academic currently imprisoned in Iran on charges of espionage has reportedly refused an offer to become a spy for Tehran in return for her freedom.

Kylie Moore-Gilbert, a UK-Australian dual national, made the revelation in a series of letters handed to The Times that were smuggled out of Evin prison, located in the north of the capital, where she is serving 10 years.

In the letters, addressed separately to a Mr. Vasiri, believed to be a deputy prosecutor in the Iranian judiciary, and a Mr. Ghaderi and Mr. Hosseini, who are thought to be officers in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), Moore-Gilbert stated in basic Farsi that she had “never been a spy, and I have no intention to work for a spying organization in any country.” 

She added: “Please accept this letter as an official and definitive rejection of your offer to me to work with the intelligence branch of the IRGC.”

Moore-Gilbert, a lecturer in Islamic studies at the University of Melbourne in Australia, was arrested in 2018 after attending a conference in Tehran. 

She was tried and convicted in secret, and her letters implied that she had been kept in solitary confinement in a wing of Evin prison under the IRGC’s control.

It is reportedly the same wing being used to detain UK-Iranian Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, also incarcerated for espionage, and away from the all-female cellblock that Moore-Gilbert was meant to have been housed in.

The letters catalog a series of other mistreatments and inhumane conditions, suggesting she had been permitted no contact with her family, and that, having been denied access to vital medication, her health was deteriorating.

She also suggested that she had been subjected to sleep deprivation methods, with lights in her cell kept on 24 hours per day, and that she was often blindfolded when transported. 

“It is clear that IRGC Intelligence is playing an awful game with me. I am an innocent victim,” she wrote.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif in India last week, where the case was discussed.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry later issued a statement claiming that the country would not “submit to political games and propaganda” over the issue.

This comes at a time when international pressure has ratcheted up on the regime in Tehran following the downing of a Ukrainian passenger plane over the capital on Jan. 8. 

Mass demonstrations nationwide followed the news that the plane had been shot down by Iranian forces. 

Olympian defects to Germany

Meanwhile, Iran’s only female Olympic medalist, Kimia Alizadeh, announced that she would not return to the country, citing her refusal to continue to be used as a “propaganda tool.”

She wrote of her decision on Instagram: “I wore whatever they told me and repeated whatever they ordered. Every sentence they ordered I repeated. None of us matter for them, we are just tools.”

It was revealed on Jan. 20 that the taekwondo martial artist, who had been living and training in Eindhoven in the Netherlands, had elected to move to Hamburg in Germany, for whom she will now compete.

Alizadeh’s defection is just one in a series of high-profile acts of defiance by Iranians outraged by the actions of the regime.

At least two journalists working for Iranian state-owned TV channels are known to have resigned their positions in protest.

One, news anchor Gelare Jabbari, posted on Instagram: “It was very hard for me to believe that our people have been killed. Forgive me that I got to know this late. And forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies.”