Iraq

Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

The constitution broadly provides for the right of free expression that does not violate public order and morality, express support for the banned Ba’ath party, or advocate altering the country’s borders through violent means. The main limitation on individual and media exercise of these rights was self-censorship due to credible fear of reprisals by the government, political parties, ethnic and sectarian forces, terrorist and extremist groups, or criminal gangs.

Freedom of Speech and Expression: Despite the constitutional protection for freedom of expression, government and KRG oversight and censorship interfered with media operations, at times resulting in closures of media outlets, restrictions on reporting, and interference with internet service. Individuals were able to criticize the government publicly or privately, but not without fear of reprisal. On April 27, the Iraqi Communications and Media Commission closed the Baghdad offices of al-Jazeera. The station’s Baghdad bureau chief reported the government closed the office because it did not approve of al- Jazeera’s editorial policies. The bureau chief also said unidentified armed men repeatedly threatened the bureau and its employees.

In April the media provided live coverage of Baghdad demonstrations, including protesters’ first breach of the International Zone. When a second breach occurred, local media were quiet, with no live coverage or commentary. According to directors of two satellite channels, they received calls from “officials” telling them that covering the protests exacerbated the situation and asked them to “tone it down.”

Press and Media Freedoms: An active media expressed a variety of views largely reflecting the owners’ political viewpoints. The media also self-censored to comply with government restrictions against violating public order and because of a fear of reprisal, particularly by nongovernmental forces, but also by political figures. Media outlets, unable to cover operating costs through advertising revenue, overwhelmingly relied upon political funding, which diminished their ability to report unbiased news. Political parties strongly influenced, or controlled outright, most of the several hundred daily and weekly print media publications, as well as dozens of radio and television stations.

On July 13, the parliament introduced legislation on freedom of expression and peaceful demonstrations. NGOs, such as the Iraqi Union for Freedom of Expression, voiced concern about the legislation, specifically, that the law called for a one-year minimum prison sentence for insulting a religious symbol or figure, and required 10 days’ notice to the government to obtain a permit for a protest.

International and local organizations reported arrests and harassment of journalists as well as closure of media outlets covering politically sensitive topics, including poor security, corruption, and weak governmental capacity. The deterioration in the security situation exacerbated harassment of journalists. Government and KRG security authorities sometimes prevented journalists from reporting citing security pretexts.

Local and national media extensively covered recurring protests in the South; however, security forces did not always allow coverage. For example, on February 12, security forces prevented a reporter for al-Baghdadiya TV from passing the security cordon to cover a demonstration. They told the reporter their security procedures prevented it.

On April 9, security forces wearing civilian uniforms reportedly attacked a Kurdistan News Network (KNN) cameraman in an Erbil mosque while the KNN crew was covering a protest there. As the cameraman attempted to film the protest, one of the uniformed security force members placed a weapon against the cameraman’s head to force him to stop.

In the IKR, government authorities continued to try, convict, and take legal action against journalists, despite a 2008 law that decriminalizes publication-related offenses. According to Kurdistan Journalist Syndicate officials, the 2008 law is the sole basis for prosecution of journalists for publication offense under the regional counterterrorism law, for public morality violations and other crimes.

While in December 2015 the KRG reopened Nalia Radio and Television (NRT) offices that it originally closed in October 2015, Gorran-affiliated KNN offices in Erbil and Dahuk Governorates remained closed because of KRG pressure.

Violence and Harassment: According to a report of the Committee to Protect Journalists, 10 journalists and media workers were killed during the year. Five Iraqi journalists were killed covering the war with Da’esh, four by unknown gunmen, and one in a bombing in Baghdad.

Reporting from Da’esh-controlled areas was increasingly difficult. Journalists covering armed clashes involving government, militia, and Da’esh forces faced serious threats to their safety, with several instances of journalists being killed or injured. Military officials, citing safety considerations, sometimes restricted access of journalists particularly to areas with active fighting, but primarily to outlets not affiliated with the ruling party.

Media workers often reported they were under pressure from persons and institutions, including politicians, government officials, security services, tribal elements, and business leaders, not to publish articles critical of them. Media workers reported accounts of government or partisan violence, intimidation, death threats, and harassment. Mohammed al-Jabari, a correspondent for al-Made Satellite TV in Basrah, said he received a threatening phone call from someone at the Basrah Intelligence Directorate. He said this person was upset because al-Jabari reportedly recorded him talking about the deteriorating security situation with other intelligence officers at the governorate building. Al-Jabari left Basrah because of the threat.

During his coverage of a local teachers’ demonstration, one of the security officers guarding the Basrah governor’s office verbally harassed and beat al-Sharqiya News Channel correspondent Mazin al-Tayyar when he asked why the demonstration coordinator and another protester were arrested.

In April according to the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, Sarmad al-Qasim, the editorial manager of the Lex News agency, received death threats for his work reporting government corruption in Diyala Governorate.

Throughout the IKR there were numerous beatings, detentions, and death threats against media workers. In some cases the aggressors wore military or police uniforms. Many attacks targeted independent and former opposition media, mainly the independent NRT; Payama Television, affiliated with the Kurdistan Islamic Group; and the KNN Television, affiliated with the Gorran Party. According to HRW, Wedat Hussein Ali, a Kurdish journalist who security services had previously interrogated, was abducted and later found dead on August 13 (see section 1.a.).

Censorship or Content Restrictions: The law prohibits producing, importing, publishing, or possessing written material, drawings, photographs, or films that violate public integrity or decency. The penalties include fines and imprisonment. Fear of violent retaliation for publishing facts or opinions displeasing to political factions inhibited free expression. Public officials reportedly influenced content through rewarding positive reporting with bribes, providing money, land, access to venues, and other benefits to journalists, particularly to members of the pro-government Journalists’ Syndicate. These restrictions extended to privately owned Iraqi television stations operating outside of the country.

In 2013 the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament passed the Access to Information Law, to provide for access to information for journalists, media outlets, and ordinary citizens. As of September, however, the KRG had not made efforts to implement the law. Moreover, local government, political parties, and officials, regularly discriminated against some media outlets regarding access to information based on party affiliation. For example, in KDP stronghold areas Dahok and Erbil, KDP-affiliated outlets Rudaw and KTV had access to all KRG departments, while in the PUK and Gorran stronghold of Sulaimaniyah, PUK-affiliated outlets such as GK TV and Kurdsat TV received more access to government and party information than other outlets.

All books published in the country as well as imported books required the Ministry of Culture’s approval and were therefore subject to censorship.

Libel/Slander Laws: The law prohibits defamation and provides penalties of up to one month in prison or a fine of 50,000 to 250,000 dinars ($45 to $225). Many in the media complained this provision prevented them from freely practicing their profession by creating a strong fear of prosecution, although widespread self-censorship impeded journalistic performance as well. Public officials occasionally resorted to libel charges under criminal and civil law, which in some cases resulted in punitive fines on individual media outlets and editors, often for publishing articles containing allegations of corruption. When cases went to court, the courts usually sided with the journalist, according to local media-freedom organizations.

Libel is a criminal offense under KRG law as well, and judges may issue arrest warrants for journalists on this basis.

Nongovernmental Impact: Journalists and family members were targets of terrorists, religious groups that rejected media independence, criminals, corrupt officials, and unknown persons or groups wishing to limit the flow of news. Journalists were harassed, kidnapped for ransom, or killed in deliberate attacks for reporting information critical of Da’esh.

In April an armed group threatened two civil activists in Amara after they criticized Ammar al-Hakim, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq president and Iraqi National Alliance chairman, on their Facebook pages. Hasaneen al-Manshad and Ali al-Dilfi wrote on Facebook that the Islamic parties were not fulfilling the needs of Iraqis and had failed to manage the country, in addition to criticizing Hakim’s speech. The two activists were at a friend’s wedding on April 7 when armed men from the Jihad and Construction Movement forcibly entered and threatened to kill them. The armed men held them at gunpoint until guests negotiated their release in return for the activists’ public apology to Hakim and deleting the offending Facebook posts.

INTERNET FREEDOM

There were overt government restrictions on access to the internet, and there were credible reports, but no official acknowledgement, that the government monitored e-mail and internet communications without appropriate legal authority. Despite restrictions, political figures and activists used the internet to criticize corrupt and ineffective politicians, mobilize protesters for demonstrations, and campaign for candidates through social media channels. According to the World Bank, approximately 17 percent of the population used the internet in 2015, compared with 5 percent in 2011.

The government acknowledged that it interfered with internet access in some areas of the country due to the deterioration in the security situation and Da’esh’s disruptive use of social media platforms. Representatives from the State Company for Internet Services reported they had pursued internet gateway projects that would give them greater control over incoming internet feeds as well as the ability to restrict internet content, but these projects had stalled. During the year there were reports that government officials attempted to have pages critical of the government removed from Facebook and Twitter for communications that the government considered “hate speech,” although they did not succeed in doing so.

There were no reports the Ministry of Communications imposed social media blackouts. Sporadically throughout the year, the government shut down the internet during school exams, reportedly so students could not cheat. Additionally, at times the government shut down the internet during protests for a few hours.

Da’esh also restricted access to the internet and telephone service in areas under its control.

ACADEMIC FREEDOM AND CULTURAL EVENTS

Social, religious, and political pressures significantly restricted the exercise of freedom of choice in academic and cultural matters. In all regions, various groups reportedly sought to control the pursuit of formal education and granting of academic positions. The country’s universities did not pursue gender-segregation policies. Da’esh continued to limit female education beyond the primary level in areas that it controlled.

Academic freedoms remained restricted in areas of active conflict and in Da’esh-controlled territory. Following Da’esh’s 2014 seizure of Mosul, the group began reshaping education at the elementary, high school, and university levels, including printing textbooks for elementary school children that glorify violence and Da’esh history. For example, local and international media reported that at Mosul University, Da’esh altered the programs of study to comply with Da’esh ideology in the colleges of law, fine arts, physical education, languages, social sciences, and archeology. Da’esh extremists also targeted libraries, museums, and academic institutions in violent attacks and abducted students and faculty.

Extremists and armed groups limited cultural expression by targeting artists, poets, writers, and musicians. For example, Iraqi media continued to report that Da’esh had issued a directive banning all stores in Mosul from selling movies or music CDs, and had instructed businesses to stock only CDs containing Quranic verses or religious programs. On February 16, Da’esh publicly beheaded 15-year-old Ayham Hussein of Mosul for listening to western music, according to an HRW report.

In the IKR, according to local NGOs, senior professorships continued to be easier to obtain for those with links to the traditional KDP and PUK ruling parties.

FREEDOM OF ASSEMBLY

The constitution provides for freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration “regulated by law.” Regulations require protest organizers to seek permission seven days in advance of a demonstration and submit detailed information about the applicants, the reason for the protest, and participants. The regulations prohibit all “slogans, signs, printed materials, or drawings” involving “sectarianism, racism, or segregation” of citizens. The regulations also prohibit anything that would violate the constitution or law; encourage violence, hatred, or killing; or prove insulting to Islam, “honor, morals, religion, holy groups, or Iraqi entities in general.” Provincial councils traditionally maintained authority to issue permits. Authorities generally issued permits in accordance with the regulations.

In April and May, thousands of protesters took to the streets in response to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s call for protests of the government’s failure to combat corruption and provide security. Protesters stormed the International Zone in Baghdad and overran the Council of Ministers’ Secretariat and the COR buildings, before ISF stopped them. Media reported security forces killed four and injured dozens of demonstrators with tear gas, water cannons, and live fire.

Most protests in the South during the year were accompanied by a heavy security presence and were peaceful. One notable exception was in Nassiriyah on February 2, when a demonstration turned violent after protesters reached the Da’wa Party’s main office. They chanted that Prime Minister Abadi and former prime minister Maliki were “thieves,” “Iran’s spies,” and “corrupt.” Masked men with sticks came out of the office and began to beat the protesters. The police were present but did not intervene to stop the violence. The Dhi Qar Provincial Council formed an investigatory committee but did not identify any of the masked men or hold anyone responsible.

In some cases the government dismissed unauthorized protests or restricted protests for security reasons.

There were limited reports of violence or official interference in protests in the IKR. Media reported that on December 1, PUK authorities in the city of Sulaimaniyah arrested at least 13 teachers before a demonstration over unpaid public-sector salaries.

FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION

The constitution provides for the right to form and join associations and political parties, with some exceptions. The government generally respected this right, except for the legal prohibitions on groups expressing support for the Ba’ath Party or Zionist principles. The law stipulates that any person who promotes Zionist principles, associates with Zionist organizations, assists such organizations through giving material or moral support, or works in any way towards the realization of Zionist objectives, is subject to punishment by death. There were no applications of this law after the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime.

On July 30, parliament passed the Banning the Ba’ath, Entities and Racist Parties and Takfiri and Terrorist Activities Party Law, which observers portrayed as addressing the injustices of the de-Ba’athification process. Rather than ending the collective stigmatization of all those associated with the party, however loosely, the Banning of the Ba’ath Party Law arguably amplified rather than limited de-Ba’athification. Notably, while previous de-Ba’athification processes prevented individuals from political participation or certain economic benefits, this law criminalizes the very idea of “Ba’athism,” metes out lengthy prison sentences for those promoting “Ba’athist ideas,” and strikes at the heart of basic freedoms of expression, assembly, and protest, as well as the principle of nondiscrimination. The law specifically criminalizes “Ba’athists” participating “in any rallies, sit-ins, or demonstrations.” Given the broad and wide-ranging definitions of Ba’athist activities and ideas, its stated application to “any entity, party, activity or approach,” political parties, nongovernmental, civil society organizations and groups of citizens, demonstrating, protesting or simply holding meetings may violate the law.

Bureaucratic delays continued in the government’s NGO registration process. The slow process impeded development and legal protection of NGOs. NGOs can only register in Baghdad, and must periodically reregister. The NGO Directorate in the Council of Ministers Secretariat issued registration certificates to 244 NGOs, from January to August. The NGO Directorate reported 2,844 registered NGOs.

c. Freedom of Religion

See the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report at www.state.gov/religiousfreedomreport/.

The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement and foreign travel, but the government did not consistently respect these rights. IDPs had limited access to Baghdad, Kirkuk, and Najaf Governorates, and areas controlled by the KRG throughout the year. As of November approximately one million IDPs and 225,000 refugees were present in the IKR and areas under KRG security control. In late November hundreds of Sunni Turkmen IDPs from the Tal Afar area were denied entry into Dahuk, located in the IKR. The governor of Dahuk said he was concerned there were Da’esh elements among these IDPs, whose presence in the IDP camps in Dahuk among Yezidis might provoke revenge attacks on them.

The government generally cooperated with UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM),), and other humanitarian organizations to provide protection and assistance to IDPs, refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, or other vulnerable populations. The government did not have effective systems to assist all of these individuals, largely due to funding shortfalls, lack of capacity, and lack of access. The security situation and armed clashes between the ISF and Da’esh throughout the year caused significant movement of civilians, further complicating the government’s coordination of relief efforts. The IOM estimated that, since the beginning of 2014, the conflict with Da’esh had caused more than 3.4 million individuals to become displaced, at least one million of whom have returned home. Security considerations in and near active combat areas, unexploded ordinance, destruction of infrastructure, and official and unofficial restrictions continued to limit humanitarian access to IDP communities.

Abuse of Migrants, Refugees, and Stateless Persons: UN agencies, NGOs and the press reported that sectarian groups, extremists, criminals, and, in some alleged but unverified cases, government forces attacked and arrested refugees, including Palestinians, Ahwazis, and Syrian Arabs.

Local NGOs reported that abuse of Syrian refugees–often by other refugees–was common, including violence against women and children, child marriage, forced prostitution, and sexual harassment.

A 2011 memorandum of understanding between the government and the United Nations provided for the closure of Camp Ashraf in Diyala Governorate, and transfer to Camp Hurriya (in Baghdad) of members of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MeK), an Iranian dissident group. The UNHCR relocation program provided the means successfully to relocate all MeK members from Iraq to third countries during the year; the majority of MeK were moved to Albania.

In-country Movement: The law permits security forces to restrict in-country movement pursuant to a warrant, impose a curfew, cordon off and search an area, and take other necessary security and military measures in response to security threats and attacks. There were numerous reports that security forces, including the ISF and Peshmerga, as well as the PMF, selectively enforced regulations requiring residency permits to limit entry of persons into liberated areas under their control. UNAMI and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights received multiple reports that Kirkuk authorities denied Sunni Arab IDPs from Salah al-Din and Ninewa Governorates access to Kirkuk Governorate.

UNAMI reported that in some areas, civilians fleeing conflict zones were intercepted by armed groups and militia operating in support of the ISF, and were targeted for threats, intimidation, physical violence, abductions, destruction of property, and killings. There were a number of reports that IDPs faced hostility from local government authorities and populations, as well as threats of expulsion.

UNHCR reported that Kirkuk authorities also confiscated identification documents or served notices of eviction to IDPs from Salah al-Din, Anbar, and Diyala Governorates, provoking their departure from camps and urban centers. On September 22, authorities forcibly returned 330 IDP families from Laylan Camp to a checkpoint along the road to Salah al-Din, according to the Iraq Humanitarian Protection Cluster. From September 1 to 21, Protection Cluster partners documented the departure of more than 1,000 IDP families who had been targeted for expulsion by local authorities. Amnesty International reported that the PMF Units (predominantly Shi’a militias) and the Peshmerga forces prevented civilians, largely Sunni, from returning to their homes after Da’esh was pushed out.

The KRG, imposing what it stated were necessary security procedures, restricted movement across the areas it administered. Authorities required nonresidents of the IKR to obtain permits that authorized limited stays in the IKR. These permits were generally renewable. Iraqi citizens from outside the IKR who sought to obtain residency permits for KRG-controlled areas required sponsorship from a resident in the region. Citizens (of all ethno-sectarian backgrounds, including Kurds) crossing into the region from the South were obligated to enter at checkpoints and undergo personal and vehicle inspection. The government imposed similar restrictions on IDPs from Ninewa Governorate and the disputed territories.

KRG authorities applied restrictions more stringently in some areas than in others. The United Nations and international humanitarian organizations alleged that practices regarding the entry of IDPs and Iraqi refugees seeking to return were more or less restrictive depending upon the location of the checkpoint and the ethno-sectarian background of the displaced individuals. There were also reports that checkpoints into the IKR were sometimes closed for extended periods, forcing IDPs to wait to enter the region. Officials prevented individuals whom they deemed security threats from entering the region. IKR officials generally admitted minority IDPs into the IKR, although the security checks were occasionally lengthy. Entry often was more difficult for men, particularly Arab men traveling without family.

Due to military operations aimed at defeating Da’esh, ISF, including the PMF and KRG Peshmerga, increased the number of checkpoints and erected makeshift roadblocks in many parts of the country (see section 1.g.). In June, following the liberation of Ramadi and Fallujah from Da’esh in Anbar Governorate, thousands of residents fled those cities for surrounding areas. Most were prevented from leaving Anbar per an official government order, due to security and ethnocentric concerns. Some 70,000 individuals fled Fallujah during a three-day period in June when the Iraqi army secured safe exit routes, overwhelming local and international assistance efforts and leaving many stranded in the desert for days without aid. At least 600 IDPs from Fallujah were missing after Shia PMF units held them for screening. IDPs began returning to Fallujah and outlying areas in September, although there were credible reports that provincial authorities required some government workers to return before they were ready to do so. In September, IDPs in Laylan Camp in Kirkuk were informed that they must return to their areas of origin. UN agencies confirmed that confiscation of identification documents and other measures to force IDPs to return home continued.

Da’esh restricted freedom of movement, particularly in the West and North (see section 1.g.). Da’esh prevented citizens from leaving the cities of Fallujah, Ramadi, Mosul, and other places unless those citizens paid bribes to exit, left family members behind as collateral for their return, or agreed to relinquish property they owned in those cities. Da’esh severely restricted women’s freedom of movement in areas under its control. Patrols checked to make sure women wore suitable attire and that male relatives or guardians accompanied them outside the home. There were credible reports that Da’esh killed civilians trying to flee, including in the cities of Hawija, Qayara, and Mosul, when ISF moved to liberate those areas.

Foreign Travel: The government required exit permits for citizens leaving the country, but the requirement was not routinely enforced.

Exile: The constitution permits forced exile only of naturalized citizens and only if a judicial decision establishes that the individual obtained citizenship based on material falsifications. There were no reported cases of forced exile. After 2003 many former Ba’ath Party members sought refuge in neighboring countries, choosing self-imposed exile over possible prosecutions under de-Ba’athification laws, and later under the Anti-Terrorism Law. In 2011 another wave of prominent Sunni politicians left the country after the government began arresting Sunnis and dissidents, by expansively applying Anti-Terrorism Law provisions.

Emigration and Repatriation: The government failed to provide travel documents to hundreds of citizens awaiting deportation from the United States, essentially rendering these individuals stateless.

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS

The constitution and the national policy on displacement address IDP rights, but few laws specifically do so. The central government, the IKR, and international organizations, including UN agencies and NGOs, attempted to provide protection and other assistance to IDPs. Host communities were strained as the number of IDPs outside of camps increased. In 2014 the United Nations designated the humanitarian crisis as a Level Three emergency, its highest level, citing the scale, urgency, and complexity of the situation and has since extended the designation through February 2017.

Since 2014 the armed conflict has displaced more than 3.4 million persons, predominantly from Anbar, Ninewa, and Salah al-Din Governorates. In July and August, Salah al-Din Governorate experienced a significant increase in new IDPs resulting from the positioning of government forces in areas around Mosul in preparation for the operations for its liberation. From mid-June through mid-December, nearly 131,000 persons were displaced from Ninewa, Salah al-Din, and Erbil Governorates. One million IDPs from the 2006-08 sectarian conflict remained as of 2014, presumed to be included in the total IDP figure nationwide.

Sectarian violence and the advance of Da’esh displaced Sunni, Christian, Shia, Yezidi, Turkmen, Shabak, and Sabaean-Mandean families (see section 1.g.). While some of the displaced fled to areas outside their districts of origin, lack of secure corridors and fear of looting made others decide to stay. The government urged civilians in Mosul to remain in their homes, attempting to limit possible displacement during the Mosul operations.

The government’s focus on military operations to expel Da’esh and address IDPs’ immediate humanitarian needs, strained official efforts to promote safe, voluntary return or local integration. This challenge required the government to balance attempts to assist IDPs while maintaining good relations with host communities, including addressing their concerns about security threats posed by IDPs. UNHCR and other international organizations noted there was no national policy on IDP returns to homes of origin. In September the Ministry of Displacement and Migration and IKR’s Ministry of Interior signed a Memorandum of Understanding to develop a coordinated approach on IDP returns and other IDP issues. The Ministry of Displacement and Migration’s strategy recognized local integration as a legal option for IDPs; although in practice, new IDPs arriving from Da’esh-controlled areas (the large majority of whom were Sunni Arabs) faced difficulties being accepted in KRG-controlled areas or in areas held by Shia PMF units. The government attempted to integrate IDPs into local populations but also encouraged families to return to their original homes, in some cases before the families were willing to return.

Government assistance focused on the provision of financial grants, but it made neither the initial nor the successive payments consistently, particularly with the downturn in the economy. Faced with the large movements of IDPs across the country, the government provided food, water, and financial assistance to many but not all IDPs, including in the IKR. Many IDPs lived in informal settlements where they did not receive adequate water, sanitation, or other essential services. According to the IOM, as of November, 17 percent of IDPs lived in shelter arrangements that did not meet minimal safety or security standards, and approximately 64 percent resided in private arrangements, including host family residences, hotels, motels, and rented housing. The government and KRG worked with the United Nations to expand existing camp infrastructure.

In June nearly 85,000 IDPs from Fallujah and surrounding areas fled military operations to expel Da’esh. The unexpectedly large number of IDPs fleeing in a short period of time initially overwhelmed assistance efforts. Since June military shaping operations in villages south of Mosul displaced nearly 131,000 civilians. Many of them fled to overcrowded IDP camps in Debaga and elsewhere. The government worked with UN agencies and NGOs to provide food, shelter, health care, water and sanitation, and other essential services to IDPs in camps and other informal settlements. The government provided many of the IDPs in the camps with basic household goods.

All citizens are eligible to receive food under the Public Distribution System (PDS); however, PDS was implemented sporadically and irregularly. Not all commodities were distributed each month and not all IDPs were able to access the PDS in each governorate. Since the price of oil has dropped, the functioning of the PDS has been even more irregular. Iraqis could only redeem their PDS rations at their place of residence and within their registered governorate, thus losing access and entitlement following displacement.

Persons who did not register as IDPs in their current places of residence sometimes faced limited access to services. Local authorities often determined whether IDPs would have access to local services. Through the provision of legal aid, UNHCR and other humanitarian actors assisted IDPs in obtaining documentation and registering with authorities to improve access to services and entitlements. The IOM reported that some IDPs faced difficulty with registration due to lack of required documentation and administrative delays.

While humanitarian assistance generally reached IDPs in most of the country, access to those remaining in Da’esh-controlled areas was limited. Humanitarian personnel continued to attempt to provide assistance in these areas, but security and movement limitations constrained aid delivery.

PROTECTION OF REFUGEES

Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government established a system, albeit flawed, for providing protection to refugees. According to UNHCR, there were approximately 267,000 refugees in the country, most of whom are asylum seekers arriving from Syria, with smaller numbers from Iran and Turkey. The government generally cooperated with UNHCR and other humanitarian organizations to provide protection and assistance to refugees and IDPs in the country.

Refoulement: The government cooperated with UNHCR to prevent the deportation of refugees. UNHCR relocated refugees at risk of deportation to refugee camps or attempted to resettle them.

Employment: Refugees and asylum seekers are legally entitled to work in the private sector. Palestinian refugees, however, faced job insecurity when working in the public sector due to their ambiguous legal status; the government did not recognize their refugee status and did not allow them to obtain citizenship. Syrian refugees were able to obtain and renew residency and work permits both in refugee camps and in Erbil. Authorities, however, did not allow some Syrian refugees to continue their employment in refugee camps.

Durable Solutions: Ethnic Kurdish refugees from Syria, Turkey, and Iran in the IKR generally integrated well, although economic hardship plagued families and prevented many children, especially Syrians, from enrolling in formal school. Local integration remained the best and most likely option for the majority of Iranian Kurds. In September the KRG reported that approximately 60 percent of Syrian refugees in the IKR lived outside camps. Many worked in Erbil or found shelter with relatives in the IKR.

STATELESS PERSONS

UNHCR estimated that approximately 50,000 stateless persons lived in the country, many of them Syrian refugees. Many nonrefugee stateless individuals had previously been citizens and had already begun the process of reacquiring nationality.

As of 2006, the latest year for which data was available, an estimated 54,500 Bidoun individuals living as nomads in the desert near or in the southern governorates of Basrah, Dhi Qar, and Qadisiyah remained undocumented and stateless. Prolonged drought in the southern section of the country forced many individuals from these communities to migrate to city centers, where most obtained identification documents and gained access to food rations and other social benefits. Other communities similarly at risk of statelessness included the country’s Romani population, the Ahwazi community of Shia Arabs of Iranian descent, the Bahai religious minority community, inhabitants of the southern Marshlands, members of the Goyan and Omariya Turkish Kurdish tribes near Mosul, and nationals of South Sudan, which had not established a diplomatic presence in the country.

Stateless persons faced discrimination in employment and access to education. Many stateless persons, particularly Baha’i, were not able to register for identity cards, which prevented them from enrolling in public school, registering marriages, and gaining access to some government services. Stateless persons also faced difficulty obtaining public-sector employment and lacked job security.

Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons

Women

Rape and Domestic Violence: Domestic violence remained a pervasive problem, and there was no law prohibiting domestic violence. The law did not always adequately protect rape victims. The law criminalizes rape (but not spousal rape) and permits a maximum sentence of life imprisonment if the victim dies. The law allows authorities to drop a rape case if the perpetrator marries the victim. There were no reliable estimates of the incidence of rape or information on the effectiveness of government enforcement of the law. Due to social stigma and societal and often familial retribution against both the victim and perpetrator, victims of sexual crimes did not usually report it to authorities or pursue legal remedies. International organizations reported that family-imposed movement restrictions, cultural norms, or stigmatization prohibited or discouraged female victims of sexual crimes from accessing psychosocial support services. Local NGOs in IDP camps in the IKR reported that some Ministry of Health professionals were unwilling to treat sexual assault survivors due to cultural norms, and if they did give care, it was inadequate due to capacity limitations in the health-care sector.

Humanitarian protection experts assessed that conditions in IDP camps were highly conducive to sexual exploitation and abuse, which due to existing social and religious norms, often went unreported.

On September 23, the government signed a joint agreement with UNAMI on the Prevention and Response to Conflict-related Sexual Violence. The government committed to working with the Office of the Special Representative and the UN system to develop and implement an action plan to prevent and respond to conflict-related sexual violence.

Due to continuing Da’esh-perpetrated violence, women’s status continued to suffer severe setbacks (see also sections 1.g. and 6). During the year Da’esh continued: to kidnap women and girls; sell, rent, or gift them as forced “brides” (a euphemism for forced marriage or sexual slavery) to Da’esh fighters and commanders; and exploit the promise of sexual access in propaganda materials as part of its recruitment strategy. The Iraq Foundation, a local NGO, reported that Da’esh raped women; victims who refused were beaten until they passed out. According to an August 8 UN Population Fund report, Da’esh continued to sell Yezidi women and girls on slave markets.

In August the Council of Ministers launched the executive plan to implement UN Security Council Resolution 1325, which was passed in 2000 and aimed to increase women’s participation in civic life. NGOs reported, however, that government activity to advance it was minimal. In December the government established the Department of Women’s Empowerment in the Office of the General Secretary for the Council of Ministers.

There is no law against domestic violence. Local and international NGOs and media reported that domestic violence often went unreported and unpunished, with abuses customarily addressed within the family and tribal structure. Harassment of legal personnel who sought to pursue domestic violence cases under laws criminalizing assault, as well as a lack of trained police and judicial personnel, further hampered efforts to bring perpetrators to justice.

Public policy prevents NGOs from maintaining shelters, which severely limited the number of NGO-run shelters available to victims of gender-based crimes and their ability to access health care and psychosocial support. The Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq (OWFI) recommended legislation to provide a legal status for women’s shelters administered by NGOs. While the government does not have a law that explicitly prohibits NGO-run shelters, current law allows the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs to determine if a shelter can remain open. OWFI reported that many communities viewed the shelters as brothels and asked the government to close them down. To appease community concerns the ministry regularly closed shelters, only to allow them to reopen in another location and at a later date.

The Ministry of Interior maintained 16 family protection units around the country, which aimed to resolve domestic disputes and establish safe refuges for victims of sexual or gender-based violence. These units tended to prioritize family reconciliation over victim protection and lacked the capacity to support victims. Hotline calls went to the male commanders of the units, which did not follow a regular referral system to provide victims with services, such as legal aid or safe shelter. Victims of domestic violence in Basrah told UNAMI they feared approaching the family protection units, because they suspected that police would immediately inform their families of their testimonies. Shelters for victims of domestic abuse were limited; the family protection units in most locations did not operate shelters. Safe houses, which the government and NGOs operated, were often targets for violence. Minority Rights Group International, an EU-funded human rights organization, noted that the Ministry of Interior Family Protection Units, responsible for receiving complaints about domestic violence, recorded a total of 22,442 cases of family violence across the country between 2010 and November 2014, the latest date for which statistics were available.

The law in the IKR makes domestic violence, including physical and psychological abuse, threats of violence, and spousal rape, a crime. The government implemented the provisions of the law, creating a special police force to investigate cases of gender-based violence and establish a family reconciliation committee within the judicial system, but local NGOs reported that these programs were not effective at combating gender-based violence.

In the IKR, one privately operated shelter and four labor ministry-operated shelters provided some protection and assistance for female victims of gender-based violence and human trafficking. Space was limited, and service delivery was poor. NGOs played a key role in providing services, including legal aid, to victims of domestic violence, who often received no assistance from the government. Instead of using legal remedies, authorities frequently attempted to mediate between women and their families so that the women returned to their homes. Other than marrying or returning to their families, which often resulted in further victimization by the family or community, there were few options for women accommodated at shelters.

According to the KRG Human Rights Commission, there were 7,436 cases of violence against women, 125 cases of self-immolation, 64 suicides, 54 homicides, and 124 cases of rape and sexual abuse reported during the year.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): The Family Violence Law, which went into effect in 2011 in the IKR, bans FGM/C, but NGOs reported the practice persisted, particularly in rural areas. UNAMI reported three women were arrested and charged with FGM/C this year. In coordination with the KRG High Council of Women Affairs, the KRG Ministry of Planning, and UNICEF, Heartland Alliance International conducted a FGM/C survey of 5,990 mothers of girls four to 14 years of age living in the IKR in 2015 and 2016. Among the mothers surveyed, 44.8 percent reported undergoing FGM/C themselves compared with 10.7 percent of their daughters, with higher rates of FGM/C in Erbil and Sulaimaniyah Governorates. International human rights organization WADI’s, and local women’s rights organization PANA’s, interviews indicated 25 percent of women in the central and southern parts of the country had been subjected to FGM/C.

Other Harmful Traditional Practices: Honor killings remained a serious problem throughout the country, although perpetrators were rarely punished. Some families arranged honor killings to appear as suicides. The law permits honor considerations to mitigate sentences. For example, a provision limits a sentence for murder to a maximum of three years in prison if a man is on trial for killing his wife or a female dependent due to suspicion that the victim was committing adultery.

UNAMI documented several cases of honor killings in Dhi-Qar, Basrah, and Muthanna. On January 16, authorities in Basrah found the body of a 15-year-old girl, reportedly an IDP. She had been decapitated, her head wrapped in a hijab, and thrown into a garbage can.

In March a Basrawi man confessed to the police that he killed his sister because he suspected she was in a sexual relationship. He was released from prison after 24 hours and never went to trial. In August police arrested a man after he stabbed his 20-year-old daughter to death for dating a fellow student at her university in Dhi Qar. He claimed that her death was an accident. At year’s end, the case was in court; he was not in prison.

There were multiple reports of women in Basrah and Dhi Qar Governorates committing suicide through self-immolation. Media usually reported these women killed themselves because of family problems.

Women and girls were at times sexually exploited through so-called temporary marriages, a practice more common in Shia than in Sunni traditions, under which a man gives the family of the girl or woman dowry money in exchange for permission to “marry” her for a specified period of time. Government officials and international and local NGOs also reported that the traditional practice of “fasliya”

–whereby family members, including women and children, are traded to settle tribal disputes–remained a problem, particularly in southern governorates.

A group called The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice distributed flyers in Maysan Governorate calling for single women to wear the abaya, a full-length, loose robe. Those who refused, according to the flyers, were depraved and unfit for marriage. The flyers also said women should not wear make-up, smile, or laugh with strangers. The Provincial Council held an urgent meeting of the security committee in response to the flyers, but the results of this meeting were not known.

Sexual Harassment: The law prohibits sexual relations outside marriage, including rape or sexual solicitation that may occur during sexual harassment. The penalties include fines and imprisonment. The law provides relief from penalties if unmarried participants marry. No information was available regarding the effectiveness of government enforcement. The labor law that went into effect in February prohibits, for the first time, sexual harassment in the workplace. Due to social conventions and retribution against both the victim and perpetrator of sexual harassment, victims of sexual harassment usually did not pursue legal remedies. Because of the unequal social status of women, their fear of telling close relatives, and their distrust of the criminal justice process, victims rarely filed police complaints against their offenders. In most areas there were few or no publicly provided women’s shelters, information, support hotlines, and little or no sensitivity training for police.

UNAMI repeatedly highlighted the need for women’s shelters outside the IKR. Women and girls who were victims of sexual harassment or worst forms of abuse were often sent to prison or held in police lock-ups for their own protection in the absence of shelters. Some women, with no alternatives, became homeless.

Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, timing, and spacing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have access to the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence. Due to general insecurity in the country and attendant economic difficulties, many women nonetheless received inadequate medical care. The United Nations reported that sexual and reproductive health services, trauma counselling centers, and reintegration support were severely limited, including in the IKR, where the majority of returned captives lived, often having suffered severe trauma at the hands of Da’esh. There were no reports of women having been denied access to contraception or maternal health services because of a spouse or other family member withholding permission. The Global Justice Center reported in April that Da’esh continued to force captive Yezidi women to have abortions because they viewed sex with a pregnant woman to be forbidden.

Discrimination: Although the constitution forbids discrimination based on gender, conservative societal standards impeded women’s ability to enjoy the same legal status and rights as men in all aspects of the judicial system. Throughout the country, women reported increasing social pressure to adhere to conservative social norms. Da’esh continued to impose severe restrictions on women’s movement and dress in areas it controlled, and Da’esh patrols were reportedly routine occurrences. The IHCHR reported cases of Da’esh executing women for not wearing the veil.

In March, UNAMI reported that women constituted 51 percent of the country’s IDPs. The UN representative for women’s affairs in Iraq, Hiba Qaskas, said the abolition of the Ministry for Women’s Affairs posed an additional challenge in addressing issues of conflict and displacement, especially since the majority of those displaced were women.

Law and custom generally do not respect freedom of movement for women. For example, the law prevents a woman from applying for a passport without the consent of her male guardian or a legal representative. Women could not obtain the Civil Status Identification Document–required for access to public services, food assistance, health care, employment, education, and housing–without consent of a male relative. This restriction affected women in conflict, according to local NGOs. In Da’esh-controlled areas, Da’esh forces reportedly forbade women from leaving their homes unless male relatives escorted them. Da’esh also prevented professional women from returning to work, with the exception of medical workers and teachers. In August 2015, as part of the prime minister’s reform package, authorities dissolved the Ministry of State for Women’s Affairs, which had functioned primarily as an advisory office without an independent budget. The former ministry was largely ineffective at solving problems facing women, according to civil society and international women’s rights groups. The NGO community called for the government to replace the ministry with another institution. By year’s end the government had not indicated how another ministry or institution would cover women’s issues or how the institution would be resourced.

Children

Birth Registration: The constitution states that anyone born to at least one citizen parent is a citizen. Failure to register births resulted in the denial of public services such as education, food, and health care. Single women and widows often had problems registering their children. Although in most cases authorities provided birth certificates after registration of the birth through the Ministries of Health and Interior, this was reportedly a lengthy and at times complicated process. The government was generally committed to children’s rights and welfare, although it denied benefits to noncitizen children. Families of noncitizen children had to pay for services, such as public schools and health services that were otherwise free.

Education: Primary education is compulsory for citizen children for the first six years of schooling and until the age of 15 in IKR. Equal access to education for girls remained a challenge, particularly in rural and unsecure areas. The net overall completion rate for primary school was 50 percent as of 2013, the latest-year data available. Children in rural areas faced greater education challenges. The IKR primary school completion rate was among the highest in the country, with 65 percent of children completing primary school on time. A lack of available schools, lack of identification documents, limited income with which to purchase required supplies, and a lack of transportation often prevented IDP children from attending schools.

The continuing conflict delayed the academic school year as IDPs throughout the country sheltered in schools. According to a June UNICEF report, 3.5 million school-aged children were unable to access school or any form of education. Nearly one in five schools was not functioning due to the conflict. Since 2014 UNICEF verified 135 attacks on educational facilities and personnel, and 797 schools were taken over as shelters for IDPs.

Child Abuse: Violence against children remained a significant problem. According to a UN-supported study in 2011 (the latest year for available comprehensive figures), 46 percent of girls between the ages of 10 and 14 were exposed to family violence. In 2013 the COR amended the social care law to increase protection for children who were victims of domestic violence. The amendment also called for protection and care of children in shelters, state houses, and orphanages. UNICEF reported in June that over the past 30 months, 1,496 children had been abducted and had been forced into fighting or had been sexually abused.

The KRG’s Ministries of Labor and Social Affairs, Education, and Culture and Youth continued to operate a toll-free hotline to report violations against, or seek advice regarding, children’s rights.

Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum age of marriage is 15 with parental permission and 18 without. The government made few efforts to enforce the law. Traditional forced marriages of girls as young as age 11 continued, particularly in rural areas. According to UNICEF, approximately 975,000 girls in Iraq were married before the age of 15, twice as many as in 1990. Early and forced marriages, as well as abusive temporary marriages, were more prevalent in Da’esh-controlled areas. UNICEF reported that traditional cultural practices and economic hardships also motivated IDP and Syrian refugee families to marry girls at a young age. In December 2015 the KRG Women High Council launched a one-year education and awareness campaign against child marriage in the IKR.

Local and international NGOs reported that forced divorce–the practice of husbands or their families threatening to divorce wives they married when the girls were very young (ages 12 to 16) to pressure the girl’s family to provide additional money to the girl’s husband and his family–also occurred, particularly in the South. Victims of forced divorce were compelled to leave their husbands and their husbands’ families, and social customs regarding family honor often prevented victims from returning to their own families, leaving some adolescent girls abandoned.

Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C): See information in women’s section above.

Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial exploitation of children, and pornography of any kind, including child pornography. During the year there were multiple reports of Da’esh forces abducting girls and forcing them into marriage with Da’esh fighters (see section 1.g.). Child prostitution was a problem, and anecdotal evidence suggested the problem was particularly serious among Syrian refugees in the IKR. Because the age of legal responsibility was nine years old in the central region and 11 in the IKR, authorities often treated sexually exploited children as criminals instead of as victims. Penalties for the commercial exploitation of children range from fines and imprisonment to the death penalty. No information was available regarding the effectiveness of government enforcement.

Displaced Children: Insecurity and active conflict between government forces and Da’esh caused the displacement of large numbers of children. Due to the conflict in Syria, many children and single mothers from Syria also took refuge in the IKR (see section 2.d.).

International Child Abductions: The country is not a party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. See the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.

Anti-Semitism

A small number of Jewish citizens (estimated at less than 100) lived in Baghdad, and there were unconfirmed reports that small Jewish communities existed in other parts of the country. There were no reports of anti-Semitic acts. In 2015 the KRG Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs opened a representative office for Kurdish Jews, which held the IKR’s first Holocaust Remembrance Day on May 10. According to unofficial statistics, there were 430 Jewish families in the IKR.

Trafficking in Persons

See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.

Persons with Disabilities

Although the constitution states the government, through law and regulations, should care for and rehabilitate persons with disabilities in order to reintegrate them into society, there are no laws prohibiting discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, or mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, or the provision of other state services. There were reports that persons with disabilities continued to experience discrimination due to social stigma. Although the Council of Ministers issued a decree ordering access for persons with disabilities to buildings and to educational and work settings, incomplete implementation limited access. Local NGOs reported many children with disabilities dropped out of public school due to insufficient physical access to school buildings, a lack of appropriate learning materials in schools, and a shortage of teachers qualified to work with children with developmental or intellectual disabilities. NGOs also reported that authorities denied some children with physical disabilities access to schools.

The minister of labor and social affairs leads a commission for persons with disabilities, designed to remain independent of the government. The KRG deputy minister of labor and social affairs leads a similar commission, administered by a special director within the ministry.

There is a 5 percent public-sector employment quota for persons with disabilities, but employment discrimination persisted, and observers projected that the quota was not likely met at year’s end (see also section 7.d.). Government and KRG officials reported they had few resources to accommodate persons with disabilities in prisons, detention centers, and temporary holding facilities. Mental health support for prisoners with mental disabilities did not exist.

The Ministry of Health provided medical care, benefits, and rehabilitation, when available, for persons with disabilities, who could also receive benefits from other agencies, including the Prime Minister’s Office. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs operated several institutions for children and young adults with disabilities. The ministry maintained loans programs for persons with disabilities for vocational training.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

The country’s population included Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, and Shabaks as well as ethnic and religious minorities, including Chaldeans, Assyrians, Armenian Orthodox, Syriacs, Yezidis, Sabean-Mandean, Bahai, Kaka’i, and a very small number of Jews. The country also had a small Romani community, as well as an estimated 500,000 citizens of African descent, referred to as “Black Iraqis,” who reside primarily in Basrah and the South. In April 2015 the Ministry of Religion in the IKR officially registered a variant of Zoroastrianism, locally known as Zaradashti, as a religion.

In October 2015 parliament passed The National Identity Card Law, which came into effect in February. This law automatically registers minor children as Muslims if they are born to at least one Muslim parent, or if either parent converts from another religion to Islam. Additionally, the law does not allow non-Muslims to self-identify with their ethnic group nor does it allow Muslims to convert to other religions.

In areas under its control, Da’esh committed numerous abuses against Yezidis, Shabaks, Christians, and other minority communities, including execution, kidnapping, rape, enslavement, forced marriage, forced abortions, expulsion, theft, forced conversions, and destruction of property. Activists from religious and ethnic minority communities faced the greatest risk. Other illegal armed groups also targeted ethnic and religious minority communities (see section 1.g.).

Many of the estimated 500,000 persons of African descent lived in extreme poverty with high rates of illiteracy and unemployment. “Black Iraqis” were not represented in politics and did not hold any high-level government positions.

There were reports of KRG authorities discriminating against minorities, including Turkmen, Arabs, Yezidis, Shabaks, and Christians, both in the disputed territories and in the three provinces that officially make up the Kurdistan region.

Although Arabs are the majority in most of the country, they are a minority in Kirkuk, and Arab residents of the city frequently charged that KRG security forces targeted Arab communities. Arab residents of Kirkuk alleged that local authorities used the pretext of terrorist attacks to impose curfews on them and arrest Arabs who lacked legal resident permits.

Kirkuk citizens, particularly members of the Sunni Arab community, faced pressure to return to their areas of origin. UNAMI received reports of evictions, confiscation of identity documents, or notifications to leave Kirkuk throughout the year. NGOs reported Kirkuk authorities confiscated identification documents of IDPs from Salah al-Din, Anbar, and Diyala Governorates. As of September local authorities notified approximately 6,000 families in Laylan Camp and in a dozen neighborhoods in Kirkuk that they had to return to their areas of origin (see section 2.d.). When confronted by international organizations and the diplomatic community about forced expulsions of IDPs, Kirkuk authorities denied issuing such an order. International organizations and NGOs continued to assert that the government was indirectly pressuring IDPs to leave.

Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Neither hate crime nor antidiscrimination laws exist, and there are no other criminal justice mechanisms to aid in the prosecution of crimes motivated by bias against members of the LGBTI community. Despite repeated threats and violence targeting LGBTI individuals, the government failed to identify, arrest, or prosecute attackers or to protect targeted individuals.

No law specifically prohibits consensual same-sex sexual activity, although the law prohibits sodomy, irrespective of gender. There was no data on prosecutions for sodomy.

Authorities relied on public indecency charges or confessions of monetary exchange (that is for prostitution, which is illegal) to prosecute same-sex sexual activity. Authorities used the same charges to arrest heterosexual persons involved in sexual relations with persons other than their spouses.

The law does not address discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Societal discrimination in employment, occupation, and housing based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and unconventional appearance was common. Information was not available regarding discrimination in access to education or health care.

Due to stigma, intimidation, and potential harm including violent attacks, LGBTI organizations did not operate openly, nor were there gay pride marches or gay rights advocacy events. LGBTI persons often faced abuse and violence from family and nongovernmental actors. In addition to targeted violence, members of the LGBTI community remained at risk for honor crimes, since their conduct did not conform to traditional gender norms. LGBTI rights groups attributed the lack of publicized cases of attacks to the low profile of members of the LGBTI community, who altered their public dress and lifestyle to conform to societal norms. NGOs established shelters for individuals who feared attacks and continued to accommodate victims. They periodically received threats and relocated shelters for security reasons. Community activists reported that violence and intimidation continued.

In July, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr publicly stated that homosexuals should not be attacked as they suffered from psychological problems.

Da’esh published videos depicting alleged executions of persons accused of homosexual activity that included stoning and being thrown from buildings. In July, UNAMI reported a young man had been abducted and killed in Baghdad because of his sexual orientation. Sources reported the abductors were known members of armed groups. Some armed groups also started a campaign against homosexual persons in Baghdad, UNAMI reported at least three more LGBTI persons had disappeared since July.

Other Societal Violence or Discrimination

In July religious leaders, members of parliament, and Baghdad-based judges said some political parties sanctioned criminal networks seizing Christian property. Christian groups also reported they had submitted dozens of complaints to the parliamentary integrity committee, and in August had sent a letter, signed by Assyrian Member of Parliament Yunadim Kanna, to the prime minister outlining cases of illegal seizure of Christians’ real estate in Baghdad. According to Masarat, a domestic minority rights NGO, most Christians refused to file complaints due to fear that armed groups might abduct their families. Those who filed complaints reported police did not conduct thorough investigations.

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