ENHANCE UNDERSTANDING

ISHM: May 27 – June 3, 2021

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Key Takeaways:

  • UN To Monitor Iraq’s Elections; IHEC Bars 20 Candidates; Erdogan Threatens Military Action Deep Inside Iraq – On May 27, the UNSC extended UNAMI’s mission for another year, and approved Baghdad’s request to monitor the upcoming October elections in a “robust and visible” manner. On May 30, Iraq’s election commission barred 20 candidates from running for their past criminal records. Between May 30 and June 2, several protests and sit-ins took place in Dhi-Qar to demand employment and better public services. Protestors burned tires and blocked major highways and bridges. On May 31, the federal government and the KRG began negotiations about the conditions for releasing the KRG share of the budget. On June 1, Qais al-Khazali accused PM Kadhimi of attacking the PMF with last week’s arrest of Qassim Musleh. On June 2, Iraq’s Supreme Court rejected 12 lawsuits contesting the Parliament’s authority to dissolve provisional councils. On June 2, the Turkish President threatened to use military action to “clean up” the Makhmour refugee camp deep inside Iraq. more…
  • Ready To Launch Grad Rockets Seized Near Kirkuk; 112 Security Personnel Summoned For Their Role In Killing Protestors – On May 27, gunmen attacked former Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri’s convoy in Diyala. The attack injured two of al-Jubouri’s staff. On May 28, Iraqi forces seized a loaded katyusha launcher in Baghdad. On May 29, a video published by ISIS-affiliated social media accounts showed the execution of a Kurdish policeman who was kidnapped in Diyala 18 months ago. On May 29, a government investigative committee summoned 112 officers and security personnel for their roles in the death of protestors. On May 30, a grenade attack targeted the home of Babylon province’s former police chief. On June 1, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command denied claims that six families with perceived links to ISIS escaped en route from al-Hol IDP camp in Syria to al-Jadaa camp. On May 31, the Iraqi army disarmed five Grad rockets in Kirkuk. On May 31, ISIS militants attacked a house belonging to a local PMF commander, two PMF fighters. On May 31, ISIS militants blew up an electrical tower on the Mirsad-Diyala power line in Diyala. more…

  • UNAMI Releases New Statistic About Targeted Violence Against Activists; HRW Says Iraq’s Government Plan To Close IDP Camps Is Inadequate – On May 30, UMAMI said that unidentified armed groups have assassinated 32 activists and critics, and injured 21 others in targeted violence since October 1, 2019. On June 2, the UNHCR said that only 6,243 out of approximately 500,000 refugees and IDPs still living in camps in Iraq have received a COVID-19 vaccine. On June 3, Human Rights Watch said that the Iraqi government was unable to adequately close IDP camps because it has yet to ensure displaced families can safely return to their previous homes and have access to basic necessities. On June 3, Amnesty International called on the Iraqi government to reveal the outcome of an investigation into the disappearance of at least 643 men and boys in Fallujah during PMF operations against ISIS in 2016. On June 3, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 1,214,367. The average number of new cases was 4,008 per day during the last 7-day period, compared to an average of 4,310 per day during the 7-day period ending May 27. The total number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 625,843. more…

  • World Bank Projects Positive, But Cautious Economic Growth In Iraq; Ministry Says Baghdad “No Longer Suitable” For Living; May Oil Revenue Reaches $5.8 Billion – On May 27, the World Bank issued a report that expected a gradual recovery for Iraq’s economy, projecting a 1.9% GDP growth in 2021, and an average growth of 6.3% in 2022-2023. On May 30, the UNDP signed an MoU with Asiacell to boost youth employment in Iraq. On May 31, the Agriculture Ministry said that 50% of Iraq suffers from desertification, and that Baghdad was “no longer suitable for living due to lack of green spaces.” On May 31, the KRG said it has officially warned Turkey to cease its “unacceptable” deforestation of border areas in northern Iraq. The warning followed local reports that Turkish forces have been carrying out large-scale deforestation in Duhok for military purposes. On June 1, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports during May totaled 89.881 million barrels, for an average of 2.899 million bpd. The May exports generated $5.882 billion in revenue, slightly more than April’s $5.525 billion. 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.


UN To Monitor Iraq’s Elections; IHEC Bars 20 Candidates; Erdogan Threatens Military Action Deep Inside Iraq

On May 27, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) unanimously adopted resolution 2576, extending the UN’s Assistance Mission in Iraq’s (UNAMI) mandate for one year, and approving Iraq’s request for UN monitoring of the upcoming October elections. The resolution authorizes UNAMI to provide a “strengthened, robust and visible” UN monitoring team, engage and coordinate with international and regional observers, and launch a campaign “to educate, inform, and update Iraqi voters on election preparations.” Activists in Iraq have been calling for greater international scrutiny of the electoral environment amid recurring attacks on activists and candidates. Last month, the assassination of Ehab al-Wazni had prompted 17 political movements to announce plans to boycott or withdraw from elections, which the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) said violated regulations which prohibit parties from altering or withdrawing their list of candidates after the end of registration period. 

On May 30, dozens of protesters in Nasiriyah blocked a major highway linking Dhi-Qar to Baghdad and other provinces, to demand better public services and express their frustrations with abandoned and incomplete local infrastructure projects. On May 31, dozens of “freelance lecturersbegan a sit-in in front of local government buildings in Nasiriyah, demanding hiring contracts. Sources said protestors blocked access to Dhi-Qar’s Education Directorate. On June 2, the protestors torched tires on two major bridges, halting traffic in large parts of the city. Elsewhere in Dhi-Qar, dozens of residents in Umm al-Hajoul village, south of Nasiriyah, took to the streets to protest power outages in the area due to a fallen electrical transformer that went out of service. Protesters there blocked the highway leading to Basra. In the al-Fhoud district east of Nasiriyah, residents blocked a road in front of the local government office with burning tires, to protest poor public services. 

On May 30, IHEC barred 20 candidates from running in the upcoming October elections. The commission said the candidates violated clause (3) of article (8) in the 2020 elections law, which states that candidates must not have a criminal record involving corruption crimes, or felony or misdemeanor charges. The list includes Ahmed al-Jubori, a current member of Parliament, who is also a former Salah ad-Din governor and the head of al-Jamaheer al-Watanya party. 

On May 30, an official in Anbar province said that the Federal government issued a directive prohibiting the use of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camps for political campaigning. He added that the directive bars candidates from entering camps to deliver aid, or to promise an end to the internal displacement crisis.  

On May 31, a delegation from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) began negotiations with officials in Baghdad about the prerequisites the KRG must meet before receiving its $7.84 billion share of the 2021 federal budget. The following day, federal and KRG financial audit departments signed a joint mechanism to audit KRG’s finances. On June 2, KRG’s Deputy Prime Minister Qubad Talabani, who headed the delegation, said that Erbil and Baghdad are “very close” to reaching an agreement. According to the budget law, the KRG is required to deliver oil revenue of at least 250,000 barrels per day, 50% of its non-oil revenue, provide employment data, and allow an audit of the region’s accounts since 2003

On June 1, Qais al-Khazali, the head of Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) militia, accused Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi of attacking the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), with last week’s arrest of Qassim Musleh. Khazali alleged that Kadhimi selectively targeted Musleh for political reasons and spared three senior Karabla officials who were also suspects in the murder of activist Ehab al-Wazni. 

On June 2, the Federal Supreme Court (FSC) rejected 12 lawsuits by former provisional council members, contesting the Parliament’s authority to dissolve provisional councils under pressure from popular protests in 2019. The court ruled that reinstating provisional councils is unconstitutional since their four-year term had lapsed. The court issued a similar ruling last month in another lawsuit that appealed the Parliament’s resolution. 

On June 2, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan threatened to use military action to “clean up” the Makhmour refugee camp deep inside Iraq. Erdogan warned that Turkey will step in if the United Nations does not address the camp, which he believes is an “incubator” for the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The Makhmour camp in southwestern Erbil province, is 180 kilometers (112 miles) from the Turkish border, and has hosted thousands of Turkish refugees for more than two decades. Tukish unmanned drones struck the camp in April 2020, killing two women. The Turkish military has been conducting a large-scale operation against the PKK in Iraq since late April.


Ready To Launch Grad Rockets Seized Near Kirkuk; 112 Security Personnel Summoned For Their Role In Killing Protestors

On May 27, gunmen attacked former Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri’s convoy in Diyala. A local source said the attackers opened fire on the convoy while passing through al-Wjihiya subdistrict in Diyala province, injuring two of al-Jubouri’s staff members. It was not immediately clear if al-Jubouri was in the convoy at the time of the attack. 

On May 28, the Iraqi Federal Police discovered and seized a loaded katyusha launcher in the al-Jihad neighborhood in western Baghdad. The Security Media Cell said the launcher had three ready-to-fire rockets. On May 31, the Iraqi army disarmed five Grad rockets that militants set to launch from the village of Ihsar of the Alton Kobri subdistrict in Kirkuk province. 

On May 29, ISIS militants attacked a PMF checkpoint in the al-Muqdadiya district in Diyala province. The PMF said the attack injured one of their fighters. On the same day, a similar attack in Khanaqin district killed a PMF fighter.

On May 29, a video published by ISIS-affiliated social media accounts showed that ISIS militants executed a Kurdish policeman who was kidnapped from his village in the Qara Tappa subdistrict in Diyala province, 18 months ago.  

On May 29, a legacy improvised explosive device (IED) exploded near a restaurant in the Baiji district, in northern Salah ad-Din province. A security source said a number of civilians suffered light injuries from the blast, without providing more details.

On May 29, a security source said that attackers threw a grenade at a home in Kufa city in Najaf province, causing material damage. The source added that the home belonged to the brother of a local activist.

On May 29, a government investigative committee summoned dozens of security personnel as part of its fact-finding mandate into the killing of protestors in October of 2019. Committee spokesperson Mohammed al-Janabi, said the committee summoned 22 officers and 90 security personnel from the ministries of Defense and Interior, as part of its investigation. He added that the committee believes some of those it summoned were involved in murder cases. The announcement by the committee followed the death of two protesters during clashes with security forces in Baghdad on May 25.    

On May 30, unidentified attackers targeted the home of former Babylon province police chief, Major General Ali Gowah, with a grenade. A security source said the attack in western Hilla didn’t cause casualties or damage. 

On May 30, a security source said that ISIS militants attacked an Iraqi army checkpoint in Tuzkharmatu district of Salah ad-Din province. The source added that the attack injured four soldiers.

On May 31, an IED exploded in the Nadoman suburb of the Khanaqin district in Diyala province. A security source said that the blast killed a child and injured another.

On May 31, ISIS militants attacked a house belonging to local PMF commander, Hamid al-Shideed, in the Tarmiyah district in northern Baghdad. The attack injured two PMF fighters. The following day, ISIS militants targeted the PMF regiment building in Tarmiyah with eight mortar shells. The PMF said the attack didn’t cause casualties. 

On May 31, a security source said that ISIS militants blew up a tower on the Mirsad-Diyala power transfer line in the al-Saadia subdistrict in northern Diyala province. The explosion caused a 20 hour-long power outage in most of Diyala.

On June 1, the Iraqi Joint Operations Command (JOC) denied claims by former lawmaker Vian Dakhil that six families with perceived links to ISIS escaped en route from al-Hol IDP camp in Syria to al-Jadaa camp in Ninewa last week. JOC Spokesperson Tahsin al-Khafaji said all returned families are accounted for, and added that these families were not involved with ISIS in any shape or form.

On June 1, a local official said that a Turkish airstrike injured a civilian in the village of Hiror in Kani Masi subdistrict, north of Duhok province. According to local officials, residents of at least six villages had to abandon their homes since Turkey launched a large-scale military operation against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters in northern Iraq in late April.

On June 2, Peshmerga and French forces within the International Coalition, launched a land and air operation to clear ISIS hideouts between Tuzkhormatu and Kifri districts in Salah ad-Din and Diyala provinces. The Counter Terrorism Forces in the Kurdistan Region said that the joint force killed eight ISIS militants, and destroyed many hideouts.

On June 2, a security source said that an IED exploded by a house in the al-Rifai district in Dhi-Qar province, causing only material damage.


UNAMI Releases New Statistic About Targeted Violence Against Activists; HRW Says Iraq’s Government Plan To Close IDP Camps Is Inadequate

On May 30, UMAMI said that “unidentified armed elements” have assassinated at least 32 activists and critics between October 1, 2019 and May 15, 2021. In its report about the ongoing violence against demonstrators, UNAMI also documented shootings that injured 21 activists, while 32 others suffered abduction and torture on the hands of armed elements. UNAMI said 20 of those abducted remain missing “without any apparent efforts to locate and release them or determine their fate.” According to the report, Iraqi authorities compiled 8,163 cases of violations, abuses, criminal acts and complaints related to violence during demonstrations, and initiated thousands of investigations that remain, however, in the investigation phase.

On June 2, the Arab Network for Human Rights elected Iraq as a member to its executive board, at the organization’s 17 General Assembly meeting. The meeting included representatives from national human rights organizations across the Middle East and North Africa, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the UNDP, among others. 

On June 2, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said that only 6,243 out of approximately 500,000 refugees and IDPs still living in camps in Iraq have received a COVID-19 vaccine since April. The commision added that it is working with federal and KRG health authorities to increase awareness of the importance of vaccination, establish a vaccination center at the Domiz refugee camp in Duhok province, and train health workers to assist refugees in online vaccination signups.

On June 3, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the Iraqi government is unable to adequately close IDP camps because it has yet to ensure displaced families can safely return to their previous homes and have full access to basic necessities. HRW added that the government closed 16 camps over the last seven months, leaving nearly 35,000 IDPs without any assurances that they could return home safely and have access to basic needs. The watchdog said that while the government released a National Plan to Address Displacement, “administrative hurdles” within the security clearance and documentation process prevent displaced families with perceived links to ISIS from receiving the necessary documents that ensures access to government services, safety, and welfare benefits. Authorities, according to HRW, baselessly label families from IDP camps as ISIS-affiliated, rendering them unable to obtain documentation or receive compensation for losses during warfighting. HRW called on the Iraqi government to investigate discriminatory application of compensation laws and to pause camp closures until authorities can ensure displaced families have adequate access to shelter, water, and COVID-19 mitigation measures.

On June 3, Amnesty International called on the Iraqi government to reveal the outcome of an investigation into the disappearance of at least 643 men and boys in Fallujah during the PMF’s operations against ISIS in 2016. Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, said that “for five years, the families of these men and boys have been living in anguish, not knowing the fate of their loved ones, or whether they are even alive.” The men and boys were last seen boarding buses and a large truck in 2016, after they fled Saqlawiyah in Anbar province.

On June 3, the Iraqi Ministry of Health said the total number of COVID-19 infections reached 1,214,367. This is an increase of 28,058 cases from the 1,186,309 reported on May 27. Of these cases, 68,684 are currently in hospitals, including 390 being treated in ICUs. These numbers represent a decrease of 3,137 in hospitalizations and 54 in ICU admissions since May 27. Ministry data indicated that there were 173 new COVID-19 deaths since May 27, bringing the total from 16,289 to 16,462. The total number of recoveries increased from 1,098,199 to 1,129,221. The average number of new cases was 4,008 per day during the last 7-day period, compared to an average of 4,310 per day during the 7-day period ending May 27. In the past 24 hours, the areas with the highest case counts were Baghdad with 1,318 cases, Basra with 708 cases, Sulaymaniyah with 288 cases, Ninewa with 240 cases, and Dohok with 227 cases. To date, Iraq has tested a total of 10,573,355 samples for COVID 19. The total number of people who received the COVID-19 vaccine reached 625,843, including 21,302 who received their shots on June 3.


World Bank Projects Positive, But Cautious Economic Growth In Iraq; Ministry Says Baghdad “No Longer Suitable” For Living; May Oil Revenue Reaches $5.8 Billion

On May 27, the World Bank issued a report that expected a gradual recovery for Iraq’s economy, projecting a 1.9% GDP growth in 2021, fueled by rising oil prices and increased OPEC+ export quotas. In its “Iraq Economic Monitor,” the World Bank also anticipated an average GDP growth of 6.3% in 2022-2023. The report noted that higher oil prices, along with the devaluation effect, could lower the fiscal deficit to %5.4 of GDP this year. The World Bank warned, however, that this positive outlook comes with “sizable risks that can materialize anytime,” such as dependency on oil, underinvestment, slow COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and a potential deterioration of the security situation. On June 1, Prime Minister  al-Kadhimi met with the World Bank Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa, Farid Belhaj, and discussed economic reform efforts. Belhaj said he reaffirmed the World Bank’s support for the economic agenda that focuses on “social protection, jobs, private sector development, a climate-resilient recovery, and human capital in Iraq.”

On May 30, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Asiacell, a telecommunications provider, to boost youth employment in Iraq.The two-year MoU aims to support local start-ups, youth-led initiatives to address COVID-19, and create a digital platform to connect entrepreneurs with potential investors.    

On May 31, the Agriculture Ministry said that 50% of Iraq suffers from desertification, and that Baghdad was “no longer suitable for living due to lack of green spaces.” The ministry cited reduced water supply, shorter rain season, and global warming as major causes of desertification in the country. Hamid al-Naief, the ministry’s spokesperson, said that countering desertification requires national and strategic planning, as well as significant funding to plant green belts around major cities.

On May 31, KRG spokesperson Jotiar Adil said that the KRG has officially warned Turkey to cease its “unacceptable” deforestation of border areas in northern Iraq. The warning followed local reports that Turkish forces have been carrying out large-scale deforestation in Duhok province for military purposes. On the same day, the Iraqi and KRG agriculture ministries  released a joint statement condemning Turkey’s cutting, transporting and sale of trees, and calling for international action. During a press conference on June 2, representatives from several environmental organizations announced their intention to file a complaint against Turkey at the United Nations on the basis that the Turkish army destroyed nearly 1,000 dunams of land in its operation against the PKK in northern Iraq. KRG officials said last week that the Turkish bombardment in Duhok province destroyed over 4,000 dunams of land and greenspace this year. 

On June 1, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil announced that crude oil exports during May totaled 89.881 million barrels, for an average of 2.899 million bpd, which is 48,000 bpd less than April’s average of 2.947 million bpd. The May exports generated $5.882 billion in revenue, slightly more than April’s $5.525 billion. Iraq sold its crude oil at an average price of $65.46 per barrel, approximately $3 up from April’s average of $62.5 per barrel. Shipped exports from fields in southern and central Iraq averaged 2.894 million bpd in May, while average exports from the northern fields in Kirkuk, which were exported through the Turkish port of Ceyhan, stood at 102,030 bpd.


IED Incidents and Resulting Casualties

Casualties Due To IEDs from May 27, 2021 - June 3, 2021

The following table includes both civilian and security forces who were either injured or killed due to improvised explosive devices (IEDs), vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs), or suicide attacks.
DateLocationDeathsInjuries
05/29/21Baiji district, Salah ad-Din province0unknown
05/31/21Khanaqin district, Diyala province11
05/31/21al-Saadiya district, Diyala province00
06/02/21al-Rifai district, Dhi-Qar province00

 

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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