Slide Show: A New Iraq Tethered by Old Legacies | The Nation

Slide Show: A New Iraq Tethered by Old Legacies

  • Detainees at a prison in Tikrit (1 of 15)

    In April 2010, Human Rights Watch researcher Samer Muscati traveled across Iraq to assess the human rights situation seven years after US and Coalition forces invaded the country.


    Over a period of four weeks, Muscati's team crisscrossed Iraq, from Basra to Kurdistan, speaking with academics, activists, journalists, lawyers, political and religious leaders and victims of human rights abuses about violence against women and minorities, the plight of internally displaced persons, freedom of expression, torture, detention and other issues.


    HRW found a country in flux and turmoil, and in the following slides, Muscati explains that despite the fact that security for most Iraqis has improved, abuses remain commonplace. Though some of the grievances Muscati heard were years old, many victims are still waiting for justice.  More than one million Iraqis are internally displaced, many squatting in miserable conditions.  Minorities and women say they are at risk of violence because of the lack of security and the rise of religious extremism. The few signs of a new democratic Iraq inching forward on human rights could not hide the fact that the country remains tethered by a legacy of political strife, wars, tyranny, sanctions and corruption.


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Fading posters and fading hope (2 of 15)

    An Iraqi man in Baghdad walks by faded posters from the country's March 7 national parliamentary elections. Three months after the election, which saw millions of Iraqis from every city and faction brave mortars and rockets to participate in the multiparty vote, Iraq’s politicians have still not approved a government.   In the weeks before voting day, the Supreme National Commission for Accountability and Justice marred the election’s credibility by disqualifying more than 500 candidates because of alleged Baath party links—including several prominent Sunni and secular-minded Shiite politicians who were expected to do well in the election. 


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • A bus in Najaf one month after it was targeted by a car bomb (3 of 15)

    The car bomb that destroyed this bus exploded near the Imam Ali shrine in Najaf during Iraq’s national parliamentary elections, killing three pilgrims and wounding 50.  Terrorists in Iraq frequently time their attacks, such as vehicle and suicide bombs, to maximize civilian causalities.


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Safa 'Abd al-Amir (4 of 15)

    On November 12, 2009, Safa ‘Abd al-Amir, the head of a girls school in Baghdad, was shot four times by assailants. The attack happened shortly after she announced that she was running in the national elections as a candidate for the Communist Party.  After al-Amir left her school in the al-Ghadir district at about 1:30 p.m., a maroon-colored BMW approached her vehicle from behind and shot her three times in the face and once in the arm.  After numerous operations, including one that reconstructed her jaw with bone from her hip, she is still undergoing treatment. “They tried to kill me because I’m a political woman,” she said. “According to the extremists’ beliefs, an unveiled progressive woman running for political office sets a bad example for other women.”


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Abed Mahsan in his makeshift tent (5 of 15)

    In 2006, the day after his Shiite neighbor was killed and two hours after he and his family were threatened with death for living in a Sunni neighborhood north of Baghdad, Abed Mahsan fled his house with whatever possessions he could carry. Since then, he has lived in a tent lined with plastic election posters to keep water out, and has moved numerous times within Baghdad. Because of his displacement, none of his six children is able to attend school. More than one million Iraqis remain displaced, mainly from the sectarian civil strife that engulfed the country in 2006 and 2007.


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Um Ali and her son (6 of 15)

    In August 2007, masked assailants stopped the van carrying Um Ali’s family at a fake checkpoint on the highway to Kirkuk from Baghdad. After removing her and four of her children from the vehicle, the assailants kidnapped her husband and 18-year-old son. Three years later, she has been reduced to living in a small shack, clinging to the hope that her husband and son are alive.


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Naiel Thejel Ganeen attending a religious service at a temple in Basra (7 of 15)

    In 2006, masked assailants blindfolded and kidnapped Naiel Thejel Ganeen, a leader of the Sabian Mandaean community. He says his kidnappers kept referring to him as an infidel and tortured him for nine days until they received a ransom of $40,000.  His right arm is scarred from shrapnel after the kidnappers shot live rounds of ammunition during a mock execution.  Since 2003, community leaders say attacks against the Sabian Mandaean population in Basra has resulted in their exodus—only 1,400 remain today from 3,500 in 2003. “The extremists considered us as part of the occupation though we’ve been in Iraq since before it was a country," Ganeen said. "Most of our community has fled Iraq and will never return.”


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Sheikh al-Khalisi and parishioners after Friday prayers (8 of 15)

    Senior cleric Sheikh al-Khalisi (left) greets parishioners after noon prayers in a mosque near the shrine of Imam al-Kadhim in the historic Kadhimiya neighborhood of Baghdad on April 23, 2010. At that moment, simultaneous bombs targeting other Shiite mosques in Baghdad killed more than 60 and injured 180, most of them Shiites who had gathered for the weekly Friday prayers.


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • A boy with his toy gun in Baghdad (9 of 15)

    A boy, aged 5, plays with one of his few possessions, a toy gun, in a squatter camp in Baghdad. In 2006, his father, a Sunni, was killed by a car bomb in the town of Abu Ghraib. After his death, the neighborhood elder warned the boy’s mother that she was in imminent danger because she was a Shiite living in a Sunni neighborhood. “Yes, I know your sons are Sunni, but you are still in danger. We are not able to protect you,” the elder said, according to the boy’s mother.


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • Falah wearing his worn-out prosthetic legs (10 of 15)

    On February 11, 1986, at the height of the Iran-Iraq war, Falah, a tank commander in Basra, lost his legs after his T-55 tank was hit by a rocket. He still wears the prosthetic legs given to him by the Iraqi government in 1987. Since 1991, the government has significantly reduced the benefits that he and other war amputees receive. Falah has had to repair his prostheses himself or at a car repair shop.  At checkpoints in Baghdad, he says police often suspect he is a suicide bomber when they search his body and discover the wires he has used to repair his prosthetics. “For a country that is so rich in resources, why are there so few services for disabled people, especially those injured serving Iraq in war?” 


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • The family of Saeed Chmagh, three years after his death (11 of 15)

    In July 2007, a US Apache helicopter opened fire on a Baghdad street, killing 12 people, including two Reuters employees, one of whom was Saeed Chmagh.  At the time of the shooting, the pilots said they believed them to be insurgents. Chmagh's family, including a brother (right) and two sons, is still waiting for an apology. 


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • A young woman walking in an alley of Baghdad's Khadimiya neighborhood (12 of 15)

    Women’s rights have been set back by the rise of hard-line political parties and tribalism since US forces invaded Iraq. Women and activists we spoke to affirmed that since 2003, “honor” killings and the marriage of young girls seem to have increased, along with rape and trafficking in women.  Iraqi women’s rights activists speak of women losing their autonomy and mobility.


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • A warden in front of a juvenile wing in Tikrit (13 of 15)

    A new prison in Tikrit opened in April and, at the time of our visit, housed 682 adult and juvenile detainees and prisoners housed separately. In a country with poor prison standards, the authorities in Tikrit said they hope that their facility, complete with rehabilitation programs, will revolutionize how other facilities are designed and operated.


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • A convicted inmate on death row (14 of 15)

    Iraqi security forces torture and mistreat detainees, especially during interrogations, with impunity. A 34-year-old inmate sentenced to death in 2008 said during his interrogation session he was hit with a pipe on various parts of his body while he was blindfolded, causing massive head wounds that were not treated.


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

  • A young girl watching cartoons at an NGO-run community center in Baghdad (15 of 15)

    Despite the many challenges facing Iraq's children—especially those who have fled their neighborhoods with their families because of sectarian strife—there are signs of hope in the country.  Civil society organizations and a robust media are challenging government abuses. And ordinary Iraqis are now less afraid to speak out and to demand their rights.


    Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch


    All images copyright Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch

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