Iraq’s Shia Militia Death Squads target Iraqi activists and demonstrators: Three Testimonies
Date: 8th September, 2020
Tahsin Osamah Al-Shahmani, a prominent political activist, was shot dead on August 14, 2020, in the Jeneina area of Basra. Tahsin’s friends consider that he was the latest victim in a campaign of assassinations under way by the pro-Iran Shia militias in Iraq, intended to terrorise and silence their political opponents.
MECRA’s Iraq correspondent interviewed a close friend of Tahsin al-Shahmani, who was among the last people to see him alive. In the interview, Tahsin’s friend reveals hitherto unknown details regarding the murder. We include below two other testimonies from individuals who have been subjected to threats and intimidation by the militias. Taken together, these testimonies confirm that an organized campaign of political murder by the IRGC-associated Shia militias in Iraq is currently taking place.
Testimony of D, a close personal friend of Tahsin al-Shahmani
I knew Tahsin since 2011. We were both involved in a protest movement at that time. We were together at the tent encampment in front of the Basra governor’s building in 2015. We had many threats and attacks from militia and gunmen during all this time.
The last threat we got was from Thaer Allah (‘God’s Revenge’). Ktaeb Hezbollah is a brigade which supports Wilayat Alfaqih that is in Iran, (ie the Iranian governing system – rule of the jurisprudent) and Thaer Allah is another group supporting this system, which is also supportive of Iran, and under the command of the IRGC, and the Iranian Supreme Leader. (Editor’s note - .Thaer Allah, unlike Ktaeb Hizballah, is not a member of the PMU. More details about this organization may be found here.
Snan Al-Musawi is an officer from the Iranian intelligence. He commands a specialized group of people, whose main assignment is kidnapping and killing people in Basra. In 2018, when the offices of militia parties were burnt by demonstrators, I personally was accused by Thaer Allah that I was behind the burning of their offices. I was pursued for three months after they put out an arrest warrant for me, and I had to hide far from my family and friends.
In this period, Tahsin was working on my case, to disprove all the accusations against me.
In October, 2019, there was a movement against those people who took land illegally. Tahsin focused on Thaer Allah, and on illegal property confiscations that they carried out. Tahsin was posting about this in his social media account criticizing (Asaib Ahl Alhaq) Basra local government, because it permitted some people to act this way without any legal action against them while normal people are mistreated. He was asking questions - why legal action only against poor people, and not others?
After this, Tahsin got many calls with different numbers threatening him that they, Thaer Allah, can reach him anytime and anywhere – and then they would hang up. After these threats, Tahsin went to the police and complained regarding the number that called him. In the end, it turned out that this phone number doesn't hold any name and was active for the last time north of Basra.
Tahsin continued in his activity during October 2019, and he was our leader. Whenever anything happened to us we would go to his offices in the Al-Baho area close to our square of demonstration in Basra.
From then on, all militia and intelligence bodies were following and watching our movements during our demonstrations. Tahsin was the leader and coordinator, and the most prominent political activist. The owner of the house where he lived began to receive threats from intelligence and militia that Tahsin should leave the building. So, the owner obliged him to leave. Tahsin moved to another house close by in the same area.
Before the death of Tahsin I was with him at his apartment for 15 days. While I was there we didn't notice any strange movements or suspicious signs. I left the apartment on Thursday (13/8) night and on the Friday Tahsin was killed.
It happened in the following way: there were two people wearing masks who came to the door and knocked on it.
Kamal, Tahsin’s brother, was with Tahsin in the apartment at that time. In line with protection procedures, we didn’t open the door to anyone unless we know who they are and why they are visiting. According to Kamal he said he had gone out to the super market to buy some food, after he came back to the apartment after 15 minutes he heard knocking at the door. . He asked who it was. They replied "We are friends of Tahsin". He asked them again who is behind the door. They replied that they were from the internet company. At that time Tahsin was the main agent of an Internet Company (Shams Telecom) in Basra. Then, Kamal opened the door to them, there were two persons. They immediately opened fire, hitting Kamal in the leg. Then they went to the kitchen to Tahsin and they shot him with 10 bullets with silenced pistols.
Until now, we haven’t directly accused anyone of killing Tahsin, but we know that the militias in Basra are behind it. Security officials have called us and the family saying that they have collected evidence and are making progress. And there is news that two people have been captured but it's not official. These two arrested people, we think, belong to the cell and the operation that has been created by Thaer Allah and Asaib Ahl Alhaq in Basra.
Tahsin’s uncle is threating the governor and the joint command operation of Basra that if they don’t release the truth and arrest the killers, he will be going to down to the street and they will not like what will happen, and so on. But, they told me the investigation is ongoing and all details will be released on time.
Tahsin’s uncle, in his last meeting with the chief of police of Basra said "if you dont reveal and arrest the criminal who is behind the killing of Tahsin, all police will be considered my enemy and they will be my target - any security element".
Yuniss Sanwi the chief commander of Thaer Allah, has directly threated our tent encampments in the past and said that the tents must burn.
Right now, I am out of the city of Basra. We got warning from a security official, a close friend who told us you have to immediately leave the city, your name and your friends’ names are on the list.
We don’t know what our future is, and how it will be. After the death of my friend Tahsin I feel I am in a country that has no rule and no law, nor any right to justice.
HARIB, 27, coordinator, and activist
I got call from a friend - a very close friend from Ktaeb Hizballah. He told me your name turned up on a list from Iran and it's for assassination. So, if you can, leave Baghdad right now. The time was 11:30 pm when he called me.
After the warning, I got a call from a private number telling me "you are our target today, and if you look across at the statue, you will see me". I looked and I saw a man standing there with his face covered by a cloth. After that I called my friend again, and he told me to go to Sadoun street and then from there get a car and quickly leave the area.
I and my friend left Baghdad and we came to Kurdistan. From here, many times Hezbollah called me asking to sit with me and to help with their new project. What I understood from them, is that they want me to work with them and with the Iranian side. They had thought that I was working for the US, but they found out that I am not working for anyone. They started to try to get close to me. They know that I escaped alone and I don't have anyone to support and protect me.
Regarding threats, I get calls each day from a private (concealed) number. Sometimes they ask for the meetings with me but mostly they threaten. They have threatened my family – my mother, father, brother, and my sister.
They have turned up at the workplaces of my parents, asking about them. They have started to ask about me on the area where my family lives in and my brother as well "Mahamad". For this reason, I can’t go back to my city Kut (Wasit).
Regarding the future, I cannot get to Baghdad, nor to Kut. I will remain in Kurdistan and find a job and a place to live, until the situation gets better. Or I will leave Iraq. Unfortunately, there is no one to help us because whatever we say they don't believe us. Regarding the UN, more than once I went to their office and many others, but it’s still very difficult to get them to believe us. I may take the illegal path to cross to Turkey, to find a better and safer place to live in.
They are following me because they are saying that I was helping young demonstrators to build their capacity and we criticized the first medical report (death and injured) that came out from the government. That’s why they have a problem with me. They want to shut my mouth.
Naji, 20 -------- A Poet and Social activist:
It was at around 08:30 pm on Wednesday when I was in the gym doing my daily training. After I finished my training I came out and I saw a white car with three people inside looking at me. I felt they are looking for something from me, and I ran to an area inside Sadr city. They followed me. I reached an area where I was able to hide myself, and they passed by without finding me.
This is the first time I have been chased by gunmen in my life, I have never been threatened before. I believe they are doing this to scare me - to stop what I am doing for our revolution (ie demonstrations).
This tactic is mostly used by Saraya Al-Salam (Sadrist militia). The intention is to scare people and activists, before killing us if we don’t heed their warnings and cease activity.
Now, I am not living with my family, I have changed my location, following the incident outside the gym hall.