ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: JULY 30 – AUGUST 6, 2020

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Key Takeaways:

  • PM Kadhimi Announces Early Elections In June 2021; Senior Officer Sacked After Footage Of Abuse By Security Forces Sparks Outrage; Cabinet Approves New Domestic Violence Bill – On July 31, PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced a plan to hold early parliamentary elections on June 6, 2021. Kadhimi urged Parliament to finalize the election law and send it to President Salih for ratification. President Salih and UNAMI welcomed the announcement, which drew different reactions from political parties. The Nasr Coalition and Hikma Movement welcomed Kadhimi’s announcement, but Speaker Halbousi and Hadi al-Amiri said elections should happen sooner, while a senior KDP official said Kurdish leaders were not in favor of early elections. On August 1, Iraq’s High Electoral Commission said it was ready to organize elections in June of 2021, contingent on a number of conditions, including legislative action to complete the quorum of the Supreme Federal Court, the sole entity with the authority to ratify election results. On August 2, Iraq’s Interior Ministry said PM Kadhimi ordered the dismissal of Major General Saad Kahlaf, the commander of the controversial “Law Keeping” force. A day earlier, footage circulating on social media showed members of the force torturing a teenager, sparking widespread condemnations and protests against abuses by security forces. On August 4, a government spokesman said the Cabinet has approved a draft of a domestic violence law and sent it to Parliament for its approval. more…
  • New Rockets Target Baghdad’s Airport And Green Zone; Federal And Peshmerga Forces Establish Coordination Centers; Gunmen Attack Activist In Southern Iraq – On July 30, two rockets struck near Baghdad International Airport, and Iraqi security forces (ISF) later discovered two launch pads nearby. On August 5, another rocket struck near the Green Zone. The ISF found and defused seven more rockets prepared for launch. Neither attack caused casualties. On July 31, a spokesman for the U.S.-led International Coalition said that the Iraqi Defense Ministry and Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs will soon create “coordination centers” to organize joint operations against ISIS with support from Coalition advisers. Between July 30 – August 5, three IEDs exploded in Diyala, Maysan and Dhi-Qar, killing one Iraqi soldier and injuring two others. One of the bombs targeted a vehicle belonging to a contractor working for the International Coalition. On August 4, unknown gunmen attacked the home of an Iraqi activist in central Amarra with rocket propelled grenades (RPG) launcher and machine gun fire. On August 5, an attack by ISIS militants killed three ISF members in Salah ad-Din province. more…

  • Problems Haunt Yazidi Survivors Six Years After Genocide; Deaths From COVID-19 Rise Above 5,000 – On July 30, Amnesty International released a report describing the physical and mental health crises facing almost 2,000 Yazidi child survivors of ISIS. According to the report, many of the children who survived ISIS captivity from 2014-2017 have lasting physical and mental health injuries and are unable to integrate back into their community. On July 30, four COVID-19 patients died due to an oxygen shortage at Erbil’s Rizgari Hospital, according to patients’ relatives. On July 31, the D.C. Museum of the Bible announced that it would return around 8,000 stolen artifacts, including clay tablets, seal impressions, and bowls to Iraq. On July 31, the EU contributed €5 million to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in order to support COVID-19 relief efforts in Iraq. On August 1, airports in the Kurdistan Region resumed passenger flights for the first time since March 17 when they were shut down due to COVID-19. On August 1, the governor of Karbala said the shrine city will remain closed during the annual Ashura religious ceremonies and until the 13th of Muharram (September 12). On August 6, the Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases increased to 140,603. More than 3,040 cases were reported on August 6, representing a new daily peak. Deaths from confirmed cases of COVID-19 reached 5,161 while a total of 101,025 patients have recovered. To date, Iraq has tested 1,092,741 samples for COVID-19. more…

  • Oil Exports Drop, Revenue Rises In July; Borders Report Improved Revenue Despite Closures; Iraq Investigates Widespread Fish Deaths – On August 1, Iraq’s Oil Ministry said it exported an average of 2.763 million barrels per day (bpd), about 53,000 bpd lower than June’s average, generating $3.487 billion in revenue. On August 2, the Iraqi Border Ports Authority said it generated ID 76 billion (approximately $63 million) in revenue during July despite the “elimination of customs on many goods and reduced imports due to the closure of most border crossings due to the pandemic.” On August 3, Iraq’s Minister of Agriculture formed a committee to investigate the deaths of large numbers of fish in the marshes of Diwaniya province. Initial reports point to toxins in water as the likely cause. more…

For more background on most of the institutions, key actors, political parties, and locations mentioned in our takeaways or in the stories that follow, see the ISHM Reference Guide.


PM Kadhimi Announces Early Elections In June 2021; Senior Officer Sacked After Footage Of Abuse By Security Forces Sparks Outrage; Cabinet Approves New Domestic Violence Bill

On July 30, Hisham Daoud, an advisor to Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said that government records confirmed that 560 civilians and law enforcement personnel have been killed during anti-government protests since October 2019. Daoud said a government committee would continue investigating these killings and that the families of the victims would receive compensation in the form of ID 10 million and a plot of land. 

On July 30, Interior Minister Othman al-Ghanimi said that a government investigation into last week’s killing of two protesters in Baghdad revealed that three members of the security forces were the perpetrators. According to the minister, the three men used personal weapons to fire on protesters, including shotguns and pistols. The minister said these officers (a major, lieutenant and an enlisted man, all from the “Law Keeping” force formed last year)  have since “been dismissed and the investigation is ongoing.” Authorities shared footage showing investigators confiscating the weapons from a vehicle belonging to one of the defendants. The findings of the ministry’s investigation contradict reports by eyewitnesses and a member of Iraq’s High Commission For Human Rights (IHCHR) who indicated that the victims died from injuries caused by tear gas canisters that struck them in the head and neck. 

On July 31, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced that his government intends to hold early parliamentary elections on June 6, 2021. Kadhimi said his government will do everything in its capacity to prepare the requirements for these elections. The prime minister also urged Parliament to finalize the election law (which Parliament approved in December minus annexes that determine the shape and number of electoral districts) and send it to President Barham Salih for ratification. Kadhimi added that he wishes to have a “completely independent” electoral commission, and to have international observers monitor the elections. The UN Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) welcomed the announcement, calling on the government and political parties to work towards ensuring “free, fair and credible elections in a conducive environment.” The Speaker of Parliament, Mohammed al-Halbousi, responded to Kadhimi’s announcement by saying that Iraq needed “earlier elections,” implying that he disagreed with the June 2021 timeline Kadhimi proposed. Halbousi called for an “emergency session” bringing together the “presidencies” and political parties to initiate the process of dissolving the current Parliament “in accordance with article 64 of the constitution.” President Salih, in a statement on August 4, welcomed Kadhimi’s “proposed date” for early elections. Salih called on Parliament to finalize the election law “as soon as possible” and expedite a vote to amend the law of the Supreme Federal Court, which is the entity responsible for ratifying election results. Salih added that as soon as the government presents a request to dissolve the current Parliament, he would endorse it and ask Parliament to vote on it, at which point he would “officially decide” a date for elections, within two months of Parliament dissolving itself “in accordance with the constitution.” 

On August 1, Iraq’s High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said it was ready to organize elections in June of 2021, as Prime Minister Kadhimi proposed earlier. The Commission, however, specified three conditions on which its ability to organize elections will depend. First, IHEC said Parliament needs to finalize the election law to provide the legal framework for elections. Second, IHEC indicated that Parliament must also replace “article 3 of order no. 30 of 2005” to complete the quorum of the Supreme Federal Court, the sole entity with the authority to ratify election results. Third, IHEC asked the government to provide the necessary funding and instruct the relevant ministries to provide certain conditions that IHEC needs to carry out its mission. Finally, IHEC asked the UN and other international organizations to provide assistance and supervise the election process. 

On August 1, several Iraqi political blocs responded to Prime Minister Kadhimi’s announcement that he intends to hold early elections on June 6, 2021. The Nasr Coalition of former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Hikma Movement of Ammar al-Hakim both welcomed Kadhimi’s announcement. Hakim said Kadhimi’s move was a “step in the right direction that indicates the government is determined to fulfill its promises.” The Nasr Coalition called on all political parties to help finalize the election law and support IHEC’s mission in organizing free and fair elections, warning that “the credibility of the entire political system hinges on the integrity of the next election.” Mohammed al-Karbouli, a senior leader of the al-Hal party offered conditional support for early elections, saying that Kadhimi must first “return displaced Iraqis to their districts, compensate them for damages, pull militias out of their towns, and free IHEC from the grip of powerful parties.” Meanwhile, Hadi al-Amiri, leader of the powerful fatah Coalition, said he supported the general idea of holding early elections, but suggested that they should take place two months earlier, in April of 2021. Amiri did not elaborate as to why he preferred April over June. As for the position of major Kurdish parties, a senior official of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) said they were not in favor of holding early elections. The official, Khasraw Goran, pointed to difficulties in reaching consensus on an election law, citing Kurdish preference for a return to the 2005 electoral law that treated Iraq as one large electoral district. 

On August 2, Iraq’s Interior Ministry said Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered the dismissal of Major General Saad Kahlaf, the commander of the “Law Keeping” force that was established last year. A day earlier, footage circulating on social media showed members of the force torturing a teenager who allegedly stole a motorcycle, sparking widespread condemnations and protests against abuses by security forces. The incident supposedly occurred in May. The officers in question tore the teenager’s clothes, beat him up, cut his hair with a box cutter, verbally abused him, then locked him up for ten weeks without letting his family see him.  The Ministry of Interior released a statement saying the security personnel involved in the incident were arrested pending a full investigation. The ministry added that the prime minister will “reconsider this unit that was supposedly established to enforce law and preserve human dignity.”  The prime minister met with Saeed and his family earlier this week and promised compensation.

On August 4, a spokesman for Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi announced that the Cabinet has approved a draft of a domestic violence law and sent it to the Parliament for its approval. Civil society activists and human rights organizations have been warning of a rise in domestic violence and urging the Iraqi government to take action and enact new laws against domestic violence to replace outdated legislation. Last month,the Ministry of Interior released statistics on domestic violence in Iraq over the past six months. The ministry attributed the increase in domestic violence at least in part to the pandemic, curfews, the economic crisis, drug use, violence in the media, and ignorance of anti-domestic violence laws. 


New Rockets Target Baghdad’s Airport And Green Zone; Federal And Peshmerga Forces Establish Coordination Centers; Gunmen Attack Activist In Southern Iraq

On July 30, Security Media Cell said two Katyusha rockets struck near the Baghdad International Airport without causing casualties. Iraqi security forces (ISF) later discovered two launch pads near a main highway in different parts of the nearby Radwaniyah neighborhood. 

On July 30, an improvised explosive device (IED) exploded near a patrol for Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) near Khanaqin in northeastern Diyala province. The explosion killed one Iraqi soldier and injured two others.

On July 31, a spokesman for the U.S.-led International Coalition against ISIS said that the Iraqi Defense Ministry and Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs will soon create “coordination centers” to organize joint operations against ISIS. The Coalition, which recently announced that its Iraq task force was transitioning a Military Advisor Group (MAG), would provide advisors to support these new coordination centers. Iraqi federal forces and Peshmerga have been discussing establishing three coordination centers in Diyala, Kirkuk and Ninewa.  

On August 2, an IED detonated next to the building of the Maysan Oil Club in Amara, the provincial capital of Maysan. The explosion caused material damage, but no casualties.  

On August 3, two Katyusha rockets struck near the Imam Ali Mosque and the Albu Abdo Lake in the al-Mashahda subdistrict, north of Baghdad. The rockets did not explode and ISF engineers were able to dispose of them safely. 

On August 4, a spokesman for the Iraqi Joint Operations Command said the U.S.-led International Coalition against ISIS killed two ISIS militants in an airstrike targeting ISIS militants in the Himrin mountain range near Mahmudiyah in Kirkuk province. Further reporting indicated Coalition airstrikes killed four militants instead of two. Concurrent airstrikes by the Iraqi Army Aviation destroyed four nearby hideouts used by ISIS.

On August 4, unknown gunmen attacked the home of an Iraqi activist in central Amarra, the provincial capital of Maysan province. The attackers used a rocket propelled grenade (RPG) launcher and machine gun fire in the attack, which caused extensive damage to the house, but no casualties. Suspected militiamen frequently target activists, journalists and human rights defenders who criticize government corruption and militias. Last month, unknown gunmen assassinated Iraqi security analyst and activist, Husham al-Hashimi and unidentified militants kidnapped German arts educator and activist Hella Mewis in central Baghdad. 

On August 5, a Katyusha rocket struck near the Green Zone in Baghdad, without causing casualties. The ISF said that the rocket was launched from the Dora area in southern Baghdad and later found and defused seven more rockets prepared for launch in the Karrara neighborhood of Dora. 

On August 5, the Security Media Cell said that an IED detonated against a vehicle belonging to a contractor working for the International Coalition. The explosion occurred on the main highway near the Souk al-Shyoukh district in Dhi-Qar province. The explosion burned the vehicle, but did not cause casualties. 

On August 5, Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) sources said ISIS militants attacked the second regiment of the “Commando Brigade” in the Mtaybeijah area near Samarra in Salah ad-Din province, killing three soldiers. It was not clear whether the unit in question belongs to the PMF or Iraqi Army.  


Problems Haunt Yazidi Survivors Six Years After Genocide; Deaths From COVID-19 Rise Above 5,000

On July 30, Amnesty International released a report that describes the physical and mental health crisis facing almost 2,000 Yazidi child survivors of ISIS six years after the ISIS genocide against their community. According to the report, many of the children who survived ISIS captivity from 2014-2017 have lasting injuries and physical impairments. Those who were forced to be child soldiers of ISIS faced isolation from the community upon being freed from captivity and did not receive the support they needed to recover from their ordeals. Children in captivity didn’t have access to school and many grew up to speak Arabic instead of Kurdish, their mother tongue, further impeding their ability to integrate back into the Yazidi community. Almost all of the girls between the ages of nine and 17 who were captured by ISIS were victims of sexual violence and face further phyiscal and mental health issues. Many women and girls gave birth to children after being sexually assaulted in captivity and a lot of those children have been rejected by the Yazidi people for being the children of unknown men and registered as Muslims, as current laws in Iraq require. Some of the women had to leave their children behind upon their return and have been unable to contact them. The report sheds light on this problem and calls on other international organizations to help the mothers reunite with their children. 

On July 30, four COVID-19 patients died due to an oxygen shortage at Erbil’s Rizgari Hospital, according to their relatives. The hospital’s director said the four patients died because of “their critical condition,” not lack of oxygen. Rudaw reported that the facility was without oxygen for over two hours, causing respiratory distress in multiple patients and chaos at the hospital. Some relatives of patients said that they brought their own oxygen during the shortage. The health department stated that before the COVID-19 pandemic the hospital required 10,000 litres of oxygen per month, but currently it runs out within three days of a shipment. There have been other shortages in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq due to the pandemic, including a shortage of oxygen in Dhi-Qar province that caused the death of several patients. Authorities have responded to the shortage by opening additional oxygen production facilities and importing oxygen from neighboring countries to supplement local production. 

On July 31, the D.C. Museum of the Bible announced that it would return around 8,000 stolen artifacts, including clay tablets, seal impressions, and bowls to Iraq. The museum acquired these items, which are thousands of years old, from traders in the United States, Israel and the UK, but discovered later that the items were stolen from the Iraqi Museum during the 2003 U.S. invasion. In 2017, the founder of the museum and owner of Hobby Lobby paid millions of dollars in fines to the U.S. government for not verifying the origins of artifacts obtained by the museum and were found to have been stolen. At the time, the museum returned 5,500 stolen items that it obtained in 2010 to Iraq. The museum was required by the U.S. government in 2017 to comb through its 40,000 artifact collection, and determined that around half of the pieces were fake or stolen. 

On July 31, the European Union contributed €5 million to the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in order to support COVID-19 relief efforts in Iraq. The funds will primarily be distributed to 280,000 Iraqi internally displaced persons (IDPs) andabout 76,000 Syrian refugees living in camps across Iraq. The aid program provides monthly “e-vouchers” to beneficiaries for six months so they can purchase the foods they need.

On August 1, airports in the Kurdistan Region resumed passenger flights for the first time since March 17 when they were shut down due to COVID-19. The airports in Sulaimaniyah and Erbil expect to see 120 flights during the first week of operations. Every passenger who visits the Kurdistan Region has to take a COVID-19 test within 48 hours prior to arrival, and those driving passengers to the airport also have to take a test. On August 3, the Ministry of Interior in the Kurdistan Region issued a week-long total ban on travel between the region’s provinces. The ministry instructed businesses to deny entry to customers not wearing a mask should be denied entry. Health clinics, tourist locations and other large gathering places will continue to be closed for a period of 14 days. Meanwhile, Iraq suspended all flights to and from Turkey following reports of an increase in COVID-19 cases. 

On August 1, the governor of  Karbala said the shrine city will remain closed during the annual Ashura religious ceremonies and until the 13th of Muharram (September 12). The governor warned that authorities will prosecute those who encourage or organize in large gatherings during that period. The governor stressed that he is following the “instructions of the religious authority” and the government that prohibit large gatherings. Every year, millions of Shia Muslims travel to Karbala from the rest of Iraq and other ocuntreis for Ashura, the holiest religious occasion in Shia Islam.

On August 6, the Iraqi Ministry of Health reported that the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country has risen to 140,603, representing a new record weekly increase of 19,340 cases from the 121,263 reported a week earlier. Of these cases, 34,417 are in the hospital and 517 are in the intensive care unit (ICU). According to the ministry’s data, there were 490 new deaths during the same period, bringing total fatalities from 4,671 to 5,161. Meanwhile, the total number of recoveries has increased from 85,546 to 101,025. This week saw continued growth in new cases in Iraq, with a new peak of 3,047 new cases reported on August 6 alone. The areas reporting the most new cases during the last 24 hours were Baghdad with 659 cases, followed by Najaf with 290 cases, and Basra, which reported 273 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 1,092,741 samples for COVID-19. 


Oil Exports Drop, Revenue Rises In July; Borders Report Improved Revenue Despite Closures; Iraq Investigates Widespread Fish Deaths

On August 1, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports during July exceeded 85.663 million barrels, for an average of 2.763 million barrels per day (bpd), which is about 53,000 bpd lower than June’s average of 2.816 million bpd. These exports generated $3.487 billion in revenue, considerably more than June’s $2.861 billion and May’s $2.091 billion. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of $40.7 per barrel, compared to June’s average of $33.86 per barrel. Exports from the southern ports of Basra decreased slightly from 2.7 million bpd in June to 2.668 million bpd in July, while northern fields in Kirkuk averaged 87,000 bpd exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Iraq’s oil exports in July are more than 675,000 bpd lower than they were in April, indicating that it has met more than three-fifths of its pledge to reduce exports by 1.06 million bpd under the OPEC+ deal. 

On August 2, the Iraqi Border Ports Authority said it generated ID 76 billion (approximately $63 million) in revenue during July. The Authority said in a statement that it managed to achieve this revenue figure despite the “elimination of customs on many goods and reduced  imports due to the closure of most border crossings due to the pandemic.” Meanwhile, al-Sumaria added that a government committee investigating corruption and waste at border crossings and ports will soon release a report detailing its findings regarding “billions of dollars” wasted in recent years. Prime Minister Kadhimi has recently inspected border crossings and ports, and deployed additional security to these facilities in a bid to assert government control and prevent smuggling and illegal profiteering by armed actors. 

On August 3, Iraq’s Minister of Agriculture Mohammad Karim al-Khafaji formed a committee to investigate widespread cases of fish mortality in Dalmaj marsh in Diwaniya province after an investor filed a complaint regarding large numbers of dead fish in two Diwaniya districts. A spokesman for the ministry said initial inspection of dead fish samples suggested foul play, specifically poison. The spokesman said authorities in Diwaniyah have also received complaints of illegal overfishing cases and use of prohibited methods, including toxins and electricity. The committee recommended stationing security forces to monitor rivers and canals in the area . Water Resources Minister Mahdi Rashid al-Hamdani supported the Agriculture Ministry’s move and directed his departments to provide assistance to the committee. Hamdani also affirmed his ministry’s campaign to enforce clean water regulations on both the public and private sectors. 


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

DateLocationDeathsInjuries
07/30/20Khanaqin, Diyala 12
08/02/20Amara, Maysan00
08/05/20Souk al-Shyoukh, Dhi-Qar00

 

Please note: some geographic locations represented are approximations and this map may not represent all incidents.


Derived from firsthand accounts and Iraq-based Arabic and Kurdish news sources, the Iraq Security and Humanitarian Monitor is a free publication of the Enabling Peace in Iraq Center.


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