Iraq: Education unionists alarmed about on-going violations of human rights

published 17 July 2020 updated 3 March 2022

The number of violations of human rights is rising in Iraq since the beginning of the widespread protests of late 2019 and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Kurdistan Teachers’ union has denounced the fact that the Iraqi authorities, including in the Kurdistan region, routinely use vaguely worded laws to bring criminal charges against peaceful demonstrators and those expressing opinions authorities dislike.

Terrible detention conditions

On 16 July, the Kurdistan Teachers’ union (KTU) informed Education International that Muhammad Karim Jabbari, a union member and a teacher from Kirkuk, was arrested by the local police for calling on the Kirkuk governorate to investigate allegations of corruption in the local health department and non-provision of health care.

While Jabbari’s wife was infected by COVID-19 and hospitalised, she was denied essential health services, requiring her husband to buy oxygen for her at his own expense several times. The union and members of the regional parliament called on the authorities to immediately release Jabbari. The police however took him back to the hospital and handcuffed him to his wife's bed. Unfortunately, the wife died in front of her husband’s eyes while he was tied to her bed. Jabbari has also been infected by COVID-19 and in difficult health conditions, both physical and mental. As a result of pressures exerted by education authorities, KTU Kirkuk branch, and parliamentarians, Jabbari was released on bail.

EI: The brutal crackdown on educators demonstrating peacefully must stop

In June 2020, Education International wrote to both federal and regional authorities in Kurdistan condemning the brutal crackdown on peaceful teachers and education support personnel demonstrating in most Kurdistan cities over delays in their salary payments for the last five months.

This demonstration was met with security forces’ brutality, and the violent attacks resulted in the arrest of 100 teachers, many of them sustaining serious injuries. Police forces also arrested newspaper and television correspondents. As a result of KTU and local activist pressure, most of the arrested demonstrators were released.

Education International supports its affiliate KTU in urging Iraqi federal authorities and Kurdistan regional authorities to insist that security forces end intimidation, harassment, arrest, and assault on educators and other citizens exercising their right to freedom of expression. These authorities should also investigate allegations of threats or attacks by government employees or others against their critics.

Education International also demands that Iraq’s new government and Kurdish authorities further reform laws to bring them in line with international standards and commit to protect the rights of Iraqi citizens, including access to health care.