Iraq: Human rights defender Mr Hayder Hamzoz in hiding following physical assault and threats against him

Posted on 2011/07/26

Human rights defender Mr Hayder Hamzoz has gone into hiding following an assault against him in Tahrir Square, Baghdad, on 22 July 2011, which was allegedly perpetrated by both individuals in civilian clothing linked to the Iraqi security forces and Iraqi army officers.

Further Information

Hayder Hamzoz is a prominent blogger and documentalist who runs a popular blog entitled Iraqi Streets 4 Change. He also organises the coverage of peaceful Iraqi protests over the internet and has set up a short messaging service which does not require subscription. Hayder Hamzoz was the subject of a recent Front Line news item dated 28 April 2011 available Here

On 22 July 2011, Hayder Hamzoz was set upon by eight individuals in civilian clothing while he was observing and documenting a demonstration in Tahrir Square. The unidentified individuals demanded that Hayder Hamzoz hand over his phone and camera which he had been using to record the demonstration, however when he refused to do so they began to physically assault him. Hayder Hamzoz then fled the scene and requested assistance and protection from Iraqi security officers positioned outside Tahrir Square. It is reported that the security officers then began beating Hayder Hamzoz and demanded that he hand his camera over to the aforementioned group of individuals in civilian clothing. During the demonstration, Iraqi security officers reportedly fired live rounds of ammunition into the air in order to disperse the protesters.

Some twenty minutes after Hayder Hamzoz had fled the scene, peaceful demonstrators were reportedly violently attacked by a group of individuals in civilian clothing. The attackers allegedly used electric batons. Although there were members of the Iraqi security forces present, they failed to intervene.

Since the beginning of July 2011, Hayder Hamzoz has received a number of anonymous emails and private messages on Facebook stating that he is known to the sender and will be attacked if he continues to publish information on the internet about the demonstrations held in Tahrir Square. As a result, Hayder Hamzoz disactivated his email account and Facebook page. Hayder Hamzoz is currently in hiding while he receives medical treatment for injuries sustained during the assault of 22 July.

Front Line is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity and security of human rights defender Hayder Hamzoz, particularly considering reports that he has received numerous threats over recent weeks, and was assaulted by both the Iraqi security forces and individuals in civilian clothing. Front Line believes that Hayder Hamzoz has been targeted specifically because of his legitimate work in the defence of human rights, in particular his work documenting and publicising the demonstrations held in in Tahrir Square.

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