Unidentified gunmen attacked a vehicle carrying civil activist Reham Yacoub in Basra on Wednesday, August 19, killing her and one other and wounding two other passengers. Yacoub campaigned for women's rights and political reform in Iraq, and had been accused of working on behalf of the US and influencing the protest movement prior to her assassination.
Further attacks targeting civil society workers and activists are to be anticipated in the near term, and heightened security is likely in Basra in the immediate term. Associated demonstrations are also possible in Basra and other major cities in the near term.
The assassination of Reham Yacoub is the second fatal attack on a civil activist, within seven days in Basra. On August 14, unidentified gunmen killed Tahseen Oussama in an alleged targeted attack. Four other civil activists have reportedly also been wounded. The previous fatal incident prompted PM Mustafa al-Kadhimi to remove the Basra Police Chief and the Head of Basra National Security Service branch, but as he is currently on an international visit - swift retribution was not possible. This threatened escalatory protest activity and as such Al-Ghanami's visit is considered crucial to the maintenance of stability among protesters in Basra. Al- Ghanimi's proposed changes are intended to not only prevent violence against protesters but it likely intended to identify and manage members of security forces or illegitimate individuals claiming to be members of security forces. While the changes are not a definite fix to the problem of targeted attacks on demonstrators, it is a realistic possibility that there will be a temporary decrease on incidents while the groups responsible are under increased scrutiny.
The security environment in Iraq remains complex. Although travel is possible in some areas with proper security protocols in place, other areas should be considered strictly off-limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to all travel.
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