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Iraq: The assassination of Basra Icon Reham Yacoub, Iran is to Blame

Mizer Kamal
Iraqi Journalist
August 20, 2020
"Everyone here is terrorized, including the security forces… I am a member of several WhatsApp groups with the loyalists, i.e. pro- Iran political parties and armed militias. I have personally witnessed the extent of incitement against activists engaged in local protest movements ... ''

“Her words and unique voice are unforgettable, and her famous motto, Never Stop, used to boost our self confidence, even when we heard it via her social media accounts, as if she was there, supporting every vulnerable woman in the country. Reham, Basra will never forget you. The Arab shore will never forget ‘the sports marathon with your girls’ as you liked to call us.”

With a bitter tone, an Iraqi female activist from Basra speaks about the grief she felt for the loss of the young activist Reham Yacoub, who was gunned down by a silencer. Reham, the young woman who used to be active in the protest squares in Basra and always raised her voice challenging the system of corruption, murder and weapons, is the latest among assassination victims that have recently emerged in Iraq against activists.

The young activist, who preferred to remain anonymous, added to Daraj: “Despite her young age (Reham), she was an example for educated women in Basra. She was like a ball of fire, pioneering in her way of thinking. She encouraged the women of Basra by taking permanent initiatives.”

Reham Yacoub

Mass Assassinations

Only five days have passed since the assassination of the civilian activist Tahseen Osama in the city of Basra in southern Iraq, until the assassination news of the nutritionist and civilian activist Reham Yacoub, with one of her colleagues in downtown Basra, rocked the city, which happens to be out of the state control. The departed doctor had been accompanied by four of her friends during the assassination.

Reham’s assassination, and earlier, the assassination attempts which targeted civilian activists and influential figures in the local protest movement, coincide with the public demonstrations that have been revived in the city of Basra, and the demand for the dismissal of its governor, Asaad Al-Eidani, security leaders and officials, as a result of the deteriorating security and economic situation alike. The number of assassinations recorded during the past month is estimated to be nine, which raised much concern and fear among activists.

“My Loyalty Is to My Homeland”

Reham Yacoub (29) is one of the influential feminist figures in Basra. She had deeply engaged in the protests that broke out in the city in 2018. Her role has emerged as a defender of women’s rights and she helped women take key roles in society. One of her well-known quotes is “My loyalty is to my homeland”. She was chanting those words and enthusing young men and women to demonstrate and insisting on keeping the wheel of protests running.

Yacoub was also a fitness trainer. She owned a center which encouraged women to break stereotypes and change society’s perceptions of them. Moreover, she had set out a walking marathon in Basra’s streets, whereby she invited hundreds of women to the marathon to walk in the city’s public streets.

Reham led a revolution in the feminist community in Basra, and she always talked about the beginnings and the difficulties that she faced in order to convince women first that they are capable of change, and the first step towards this change is to start with themselves.

The departed doctor started by herself with her own awareness- aiming- project in 2013. After only five years, she managed to form a large feminist community which believed that the first step towards any change is self-will. The number of women who used to come every month to register at Dr. Reham’s center jumped from 70 to 500 women.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0X6i7leWLHw

After the resurgence of protests in October 2019, Dr. Reham actively participated in the civil youth movement and was leading the demonstrations, chanting loudly against corruption, and insisting that the city of Basra should obtain its social benefits. She was a hallmark for the feminist presence on the street, and her voice represented an important value to the movement in Basra.

Assassination of The Feminist Voices

Reham’s assassination was a great shock to her friends and colleagues, as well as to the Iraqi street. One of the girls who frequently used to go to the fitness center that was inaugurated by Dr. Reham said: “Peace be upon Reham and may her soul rest in peace, and may God’s wrath unleash on those who killed her at her young age. Reham, who was full of life, educated, respected, a good-hearted woman, a PHD student and a fighter, wanted to change the realities of Basra women. She wanted to be proud of our city- Basra. She led feminist demonstrations and stood side by side with our brothers in Basra. We do not know what more can be said about her. She is an example of dedication and hard work to be emulated, an example of love of life and morality.”

Reham’s car after her assassination.

We contacted a prominent journalist in Basra who also preferred to keep his identity undisclosed, due to the growing frequency of journalists and activists’ assassinations. The journalist has affirmed that he met with the new Basra Provincial Police Commander, Major General Abbas Naji, upon his invitation, along with a group of other journalists. During their meeting, the Police Commander received a phone call informing him of the assassination of Dr. Reham, when Major General Abbas Naji got agitated and his hand,which was holding the phone, started shivering.

The journalist also pointed out that the Police Commander had cancelled a press conference that was set to take place in the evening in which Dr. Reham was assassinated, and added that the event had been cancelled out of fear of the power of the militias that completely control Basrah city now.

“Everyone here is terrorized, including the security forces… I am a member in WhatsApp groups with the loyalists, i.e. pro- Iran political parties and armed militias. I have personally witnessed the extent of incitement against activists engaged in local protest movements which sometimes escalate to direct incitement on their murder. They know the movements of all activists, they even control the different security departments organs and they cannot be deterred,” said the journalist during a phone call.

Iranian Incitement on Reham’s Assassination 

In September 2018,  Iranian Mehr News Agency published a story entitled “The Role of the US Consulate in Basra in the agitation of Iraqi streets”.  “The riots that dominated the protests in the Iraqi city of Basra have been organised by an American made network aimed at damaging Iran’s position in the region and dividing the Middle East apart, particularly Iraq. The available information suggests that the soft war against the people in the Middle East is currently managed by Douglas A. Silliman, the US Ambassador in Iraq. The plan itself was drafted by the former US Secretary of State “Colin Powell” to which a budget worth US$ 29 million had been allocated, under the theme “Creating an American Democracy in the Middle East”, aiming to create a favorable environment that would facilitate the acceptance of American projects in Iraq and West Asia”, the story said. In September 2018,  Iranian Mehr News Agency published a story entitled “The Role of the US Consulate in Basra in the agitation of Iraqi streets”.    “The riots that dominated the protests in the Iraqi city of Basra have been organised by an American made network aimed at damaging Iran’s position in the region and dividing the Middle East apart, particularly Iraq. The available information suggests that the soft war against the people in the Middle East is currently managed by Douglas A. Silliman, the US Ambassador in Iraq. The plan itself was drafted by the former US Secretary of State “Colin Powell” to which a budget worth US$ 29 million had been allocated, under the theme “Creating an American Democracy in the Middle East”, aiming to create a favorable environment that would facilitate the acceptance of American projects in Iraq and West Asia”, the story said.

The Iranian Mehr Agency incited Reham Yaqoub and activists

Moreover, the story noted that the US Consul General in Basra, Timmy Davis “has started, since his arrival to Basra, looking for socially influential figures, establishing ties with them, and organizing the network accordingly. The “Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources and Strategies” study published by the national security research section in RAND Corporation, is among the most important projects of the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA. One of the main activities of this project was introducing secular figures, meeting with them and then forming official organisations within the society, with their help, in order to carry out Davis plans in Basra and other cities. Moreover, the story noted that the US Consul General in Basra, Timmy Davis “has started, since his arrival to Basra, looking for socially influential figures, establishing ties with them, and organizing the network accordingly. The “Civil Democratic Islam: Partners, Resources and Strategies” study published by the national security research section in RAND Corporation, is among the most important projects of the Central Intelligence Agency, CIA. One of the main activities of this project was introducing secular figures, meeting with them and then forming official organisations within the society, with their help, in order to carry out Davis plans in Basra and other cities.

Furthermore, Mehr News Agency has bluntly incited against activists while citing their names, noting that “According to the information available online, several individuals, including Ali Najeem, Hisham Ahmed and Reham Yacoub,were recruited by the US Consulate in Basra, and they started forming an actual network to achieve the American interests in the region”.

Basra Dominated by The power of Armed Militias

Saad Ahmed (fake name), a civil activist and one of the young figures leading the local protests in Basra, told us about what he called “The Basra Distress”, and accused one of the Iraqi Kata’ib Hezbollah militias, which are backed by Iran, of launching a brutal campaign against activists and figures who aim at the development and advance of the society of Basra.

“It has become evident to us that the armed militias, led by Kata’ib Hezbollah, will kill us all. They have lists that include the names of influential youth, and they had begun assassinating us one after the other. They started by murdering Hussein al-Madani and his wife Sarah, then Ahmed Abdel Samad and Safaa Ghali. The assassination of Tahsin Usama and Reham Yacoub will not be the last ones carried out by those loyalist militias against Basra’s society,” said Ahmed.

“Basra is hijacked by the pro-Iran armed militias, and there is nothing new about this. Basra Police Commander Rashid Fuleih is an accomplice with the murderers, and he knows them well, but he also knows that if he dares to act, the following bullet will be in his big head”.

Following the recent assassinations in Basra, Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi sacked Rashid Fuleih, Basra Police Commander, and other security officials. In a tweet, al- Khadhimi clearly accused Rashid Fuleih of being an accomplice to those he called outlaws.

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