Iraq: Murdered Like Father Like Son

Daraj
March 14, 2021
When father Jasseb uncovered the likely identity of his son Ali’s kidnappers, he was soon killed in a drive-by shooting. Are Iraq’s militias above the law?

“I want my son,” cried Jasseb Al-Hattab, the grieving, heart-broken father who lost his son Ali. “Bring him back to me, even if he is a dead body, just so I have a grave to visit.”

Ali, a lawyer, was abducted by a militia in Iraq’s Maysan Governorate during the wave of kidnappings that accompanied the anti-government protests from October 2019 onward. He never returned.

All his father Jasseb could do was to plea, in sad words and sorrow, with Iraqi officials, who failed to do anything. Jasseb tracked down his son’s every trace and step. In vain. However, he did find out the identity of his son’s kidnappers.

The Assassination of the Father

It had been a year since the father tried to find his son, when an armed motorcyclist blocked his path near the city center of Amara. The father was on his way home, having participated in a commemoration ceremony for the activist Abdel-Aaddous, who was killed shortly after Ali had disappeared.

The motorcyclist took out his gun and emptied it in Jasseb’s body. The murder shocked Iraq, knowing he was only a sad, grieving father.

However, according to Ahmad Al- Ghaleb, an expert in information security, there was more to it. He was convinced the victim “had found information that could reveal the involvement of the Ansarullah militia in his son’s kidnapping and killing.”

“The father had contacted me to get to know the kidnappers’ location through Ali’s phone,” Ghaleb told Daraj. “I found their locations in addition to their phone numbers, but they were useless as they were not registered anywhere.”

Later Jasseb found out that Ghaleb too had been kidnapped during the demonstrations. “He asked me everything about the ways the kidnapped are detained and dealt with,” Ghaleb said. “He was extremely fearful that his son had died under torture. He reminded me of my parents’ anguish during my absence. That’s why I tried to help him with all the experience I have.”

“The killers are known by everyone. They control everything, including the authorities that cover up for them. The people don’t have anyone.”

No Help from the Authorities

Ghaleb stayed in touch with Jasseb. He used to send him any updates he received concerning Ali, right until the point his father was able to uncover the kidnappers’ identities.

The Maysan Court, however, did not provide Jasseb with any help. Nor did the documents and evidence he obtained help him one bit with the security and intelligence services.

“Not a single official, department director or judge responded to him, because anyone who sits on an executive chair is affiliated to a party or militia,” said Ghaleb. “Would they harm whoever gave them their position? Of course not. Even though Ali’s father knew all the details regarding his son’s kidnappers. Even though he only wanted to know if his son was dead or alive. He only wanted his body. He swore to me over and over again that he intended to close the case, if only he found his son. They didn’t like that. So they killed him too.”

The people of Amara showed up en masse for Jasseb’s funeral – escorting his body until arriving at the Imam Ali Shrine in Najaf, while chanting: “God is Great, Ali, the parties killed us.” And “There is no God but God; the militias are the enemies of God.” From inside the shrine, they screamed against the militias of death and the political parties that paved their way.

How It All Started

A neighbor of Ali’s father told Daraj how it all started on October 8, 2019, when one lady asked his son for legal advice. Yet, it seems she only set him up. As soon as he left the house to go see her, he got dragged into a car by a group of masked men.

“He got kidnapped a few days after the Iraqi revolution broke out, so the people in the city tied his disappearance to the protests,” said the neighbor, who preferred not to mention his name.

“However, most of those kidnapped were released after a while, except Ali,” he continued. “His wife gave birth two months after he disappeared, but he has never been able to see his little daughter.”

According to the neighbor, the stories and statements regarding Ali’s disappearing started to contradict each other. Every official party issued its own version, for example attributing the crime to “personal vengeance and family differences.” There even was a rumor going around claiming Ali was having an affair with the wife of the leader of a powerful militia.

A Divorce Case

Ali Fadel, head of the Iraqi American Anti Corruption Organization (IAACO), who was close to both Ali and his father, believes there may be a very different reason for the disappearance.

According to Fadel, the case is related to a divorce lawsuit filed by the wife of Haidar Al-Ghrawi. The leader of the Ansarullah militia, one of the pro-Iranian groups under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), brought her back from Syria, where he fought, and married her. When the young Syrian girl had entered Iraq, her passport was stamped to prevent her from leaving. She claimed she had been kidnapped and forced into marriage, and wanted to get back to her parents and country.

Like any other lawyer would, Ali started his work after she had appointed him. Haidar, however, demanded him to drop the case, which Ali refused. According to Fadel, Al-Ghrawi is responsible for Ali’s killing, yet his father Jasseb kept hoping, until the very last day of his life, that his son was still alive.

“As time passed, Jasseb became certain of the kidnappers’ identities,” Fadel said. “That’s why he was threatened and was forced to go to Baghdad to make his case. Yet, after the judiciary and authorities in Maysan Governorate had let him down, so did those in the capital. The court didn’t help him. The judge responded to everything with the words “insufficient evidence.’”

He Knew …

“He knew they were going to kill him,” said Fadel, who believed the threats to Ali’s father had come from militia leader Al-Ghrawi personally. “He told me more than once that he was certain of it. But he didn’t care because he felt that his life, and that of his grandchildren, was over. His life had no meaning if he kept silent.”

“He knew they were going to kill him,” said Fadel, who believed the threats to Ali’s father had come from militia leader Al-Ghrawi personally. “He told me more than once that he was certain of it. But he didn’t care because he felt that his life, and that of his grandchildren, was over. His life had no meaning if he kept silent.”

Despite the fact that Jasseb confirmed on video that he was receiving threats from the PMF affiliated Ansarullah faction, and despite his pleads for Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to protect him, Maysan commissioner Abdul Khudr Jassem called his death “a clan based dispute due to personal differences.” He even claimed the perpetrator has been caught.

To a lot of Iraqi activists, he misrepresented the case only to get away from it. Other Maysan clans denied the allegations of there being any dispute.

“The court didn’t help. The judge responded to everything with the words: “Insufficient evidence.’”

The Deceitful Government

According to Rasha Al Aqeedi, a political analyst at the Newlines Research Institute, the Iraqi judiciary has become pitiful.

‘The Iraqi government and authorities have reached the unfortunate stage of taking citizens’ minds lightly, quickly patching up news as per what suits them. The current government has lost all credibility.” She emphasized that the statements issued by the government following the systematic assassinations in the country are weak and insufficient to open an investigations.

Their aim, according to her, is to suppress people’s anger, while in reality they eradicate both the killers and the victims.

“The killers are known by everyone,” Al Aqeedi said. “They commit massacres against the Iraqi people in broad daylight. They control everything including the authorities, which have no role other than supporting them and covering up for them. The people in Iraq don’t have anyone.”

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