Ahmed Hassan: Journalist shot in head day after anti-govt activist Ihab al-Wazni is gunned down outside house
Protests broke out in Karbala, Nassiriya and Diwaniya in southern Iraq in reaction to Wazni’s killing, as people called for an end to the bloodshed and to rampant corruption
An Iraqi journalist landed in intensive care after being shot in the head 24 hours after a leading anti-government activist, Ihab al-Wazni was killed in Karbala on Sunday, May 9. Anti-corruption campaigner, al-Wazni was shot dead on May 9, 2021, in Karbala, leading to protests by his supporters onto the streets to demand an end to such bloodshed.
Al-Wazni was leading the protests in the Shia shrine city of Karbala, where pro-Tehran armed groups hold sway. Dozens of activists, journalists and members of civil society groups have been assassinated, kidnapped and threatened since the start of widespread protests nearly two years ago. Al-Wazni was shot overnight outside his house by some men who were on motorbikes. The gun used was equipped with a silencer and the ambush was caught on surveillance cameras. His death was confirmed by security forces and activists. Hours after the activist was killed, journalist Ahmed Hassan was shot on Monday, May 10, with "two bullets in the head and one in the shoulder," a doctor told AFP. He was taken to the ICU later. "He was targeted as he got out of his car to go home," in Diwaniya in the south of the country, according to a witness.
Al-Wazni, known as 'hero of Karbala', previously narrowly escaped death back in December 2019. At that time, some men on motorbikes used silenced weapons to kill fellow activist Fahem al-Tai as he was dropping him home in Karbala. Both the activists were key figures in a national protest movement that began against Iraqi government corruption and incompetence in October 2019. More than 600 activists from the movement have been killed. Some were openly killed on the streets, some during the rallies, while some were targeted on their doorsteps.
Al-Wazni had himself had challenged the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mustafa al-Kadhemi, who took office a year, in a Facebook post in February, asking: “Do you know what is going on? You know that they kidnap and kill -- or you live in another country?”
Several protests broke out in Karbala, Nassiriya and Diwaniya after the killing of al-Wazni as people demanded an end to the bloodshed and to the rampant corruption. The Iraqi Communist Party and the Al Beit Al Watani (National Bloc) party also stated that they would boycott Iraq's October parliamentary elections in protest.
After the assassination of the activist in the #Karbala protest square, Ihab Al-Wazni, the people were angry: We demand the fall of the regime— رسل الخفاجي (@rusulalkhafajy) May 9, 2021
تشييع جثمان الناشط #ايهاب_الوزني في #كربلاء #IraqNewsToday pic.twitter.com/Hz8yiZFmwT
In morgue footage where al-Wazni's body was initially held, a fellow activist blamed pro-Tehran groups for the killing. "It is the Iranian militias who killed Ihab," said the activist, who was not named.
According to Al Jazeera, the killing of al-Wazni is seen by Iraqis as a message by militias affiliated with political parties that they will not back down from criticism. “Ihab al-Wazni’s blood wasn’t in vain… Your blood wasn’t wasted,” said one protester. About 30 activists have died in targeted killings and dozens of others abducted, some detained briefly, since October 2019. Such assassinations are normally carried out in the dead of night by men on motorcycles and nobody claims responsibility.