Iraq. The violence escalated. According to Countryaah, about 70 car bomb attacks occurred each month, and during the first ten months of the year 6,500 civilians were killed, which meant that the violence was on a par with that of 2008 when the country was on the verge of civil war. Most of the victims were Shia Muslims in markets, cafes or on their way to or from the mosque, often in Baghdad but also in other cities. Behind most of the violence lay Sunni Jihadists trying to destabilize the Shi’a-Muslim-based government.
Several new jihadist groups with links to the al-Qaeda terrorist network operated in the country, including the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), which was also active in the civil war in Syria – the border between the countries was porous. Vengeance attacks were aimed at Sunni Muslim mosques, prayer leaders and civilians, including in the city of Basra in the southern part of the country. The suspicions then fell on Shiite militia groups.
Iraqi children too bad. In May, the War Child organization reported that a quarter of all children were estimated to be suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome and that just as many had different developmental disorders caused by malnutrition. Children were also exploited as suicide bombers, the organization reported.
The government under Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki weakened when a total of four Sunni ministers left the coalition, two in March and two in April. al-Maliki also shut down two Kurdish ministers, among them Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari.
Despite the violence, on April 20 regional elections were held in twelve of the country’s 18 provinces. al-Maliki’s coalition The rule of law received the most seats in seven of the provinces, but no party or alliance got its own majority in any province, which was interpreted as an indication of increasing polarization. The weeks before and after the election were marked by escalated violence. Among those killed were 14 political candidates, most of them Sunnis.
In three provinces, the elections were postponed for security reasons and in the three autonomous provinces in Kurdistan, the elections were held instead on September 21. Then the two clan-based parties broke the power monopoly of PUK and KDP when a new party, the Change Movement, became second largest after KDP. Islamist parties also advanced in Kurdistan.
Kurdistan was reported in January to have started exporting oil directly to Turkey without allowing it to pass Baghdad’s control. The central government in Baghdad responded by threatening cuts to the Kurdish government’s budget. More and more death sentences were executed in Iraq. On October 9, it was reported that 140 people had been executed so far during the year, compared to 18 in total throughout 2010. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay criticized the executions, pointing out that they obviously had no deterrent effect as terrorist crime increased at the same time.
Since 2009, Iraq is rarely mentioned in the Western media, and only when bloody terrorist acts are committed – there is still good “entertainment” in the Western media. However, it continues to kill more Iraqi civilians by occupying forces than during terrorist operations.
In line with its campaign promise to end the occupation of Iraq, on August 31, 2010, Barack Obama halted US war operations in Iraq and in December 2011 began the withdrawal of North American forces from the country. However, the US retains a partial occupation as it will continue to have 2 military bases and 4,000 soldiers in the country. The retreat quickly caused the number of deaths and the crime rate to fall. Much crime was associated with the occupying power and groups associated with it.
At the same time as the US withdrawal, Maliki initiated a settlement with the country’s Sunnis. He issued an arrest warrant against First Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi, who had taken over this post in May 2011. Maliki accused al-Hashimi of standing behind a series of bomb attacks. Al-Hashimi refused to be arrested and instead sought refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan. In March 2012, Kurdish President Massoud Barzani declared that the Kurdish National Council had decided not to extradite al-Hashimi to Maliki as it violated Kurdish ethics. The conflict between Shia and Sunnis has since escalated with frequent bomb and suicide attacks.
The “Arab Spring” also reached Iraq in 2011. In both Iraqi Kurdistan, Baghdad and a number of major cities, demonstrations were held demanding democracy and settling the corruption. As in other Arab countries, the protesters were met by police brutality and bullying by the regime. On February 17, police killed at least 10 protesters and bystanders in Kurdistan, injuring over 250. On February 25, police killed at least 12 and wounded over 100 in demonstrations across the country. On April 13, the ministries issued regulations that completely banned the conduct of demonstrations – except at 3 football stadiums in Bghdad.
In July 2011, the European Court of Human Rights handed down a verdict that found Britain guilty of serious human rights violations in Iraq. The Court referred, inter alia, to 5 Iraqis’ deaths in British custody. Deaths that had never been properly investigated. The Court also pointed out that the British forces had arbitrarily arrested and detained Iraqis.
In July, Iraq ratified the International Convention against Torture. Still, human rights organizations could report that the brutal torture of prisoners continued around the country’s prisons, detention centers, police stations and detention camps. 12,000 Iraqis remain incarcerated without sentence.
In September 2011, WikiLeaks published thousands of North American embassy documents. The documents revealed, among other things, the North American authorities’ knowledge of frequent summary executions of prisoners of war and arrests committed by soldiers of the occupying force.
Serious human rights violations continued throughout 2012. The regime executed at least 129 – including 3 women – and hundreds more remained on the death row. Several hundred civilians were killed by terrorist attacks. Disappearances and threats to journalists were commonplace. Deputy President Tareq al-Hashemi was sentenced to death in absentia in September along with his son-in-law Ahmad Qahtan for the murder of a female lawyer and a government official. The absurd lawsuit further aggravated the relationship between the country’s Sunnis and Shiites. In December, tens of thousands of Sunnis began daily demonstrations in protest against the arbitrary attacks against Sunnis. The occasion was the arrest of several bodyguards to Sunni Muslim finance minister Rafi’e al-Issawi. Maliki promised in January 13 to release him. Despite the chaotic and life-threatening conditions in the country, the situation was far worse in Syria. 67,000 therefore sought asylum in Iraq in 2012.
The human rights situation was further aggravated in 2013. At least 151 had their death sentence enforced. More than a doubling from 2011. And in March, Justice Minister Hassan al-Shimmari declared that the ministry was preparing the execution of 150 death sentences. It prompted UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay to compare Iraq’s judiciary to a slaughterhouse. The conflict in the country became increasingly bloody. In the period May-August alone, more than 3,000 killed 7,000 wounded by suicide attacks, car bombs and executions.
Prime Minister Maliki met in November with US President Obama to ask for comprehensive assistance to the country’s security forces: heavier weapons, more intelligence and other support to hunt down terrorists. On the occasion, several senators wrote to Obama to express their concern about Maliki’s “sectarian and authoritarian agenda.” They also stressed the need for Maliki to present a plan for reconciliation with the country’s frustrated Sunni population.