Calls for a boycott of Iraq’s legislative elections have taken off on social media, with activists sharing images of themselves hitting campaign posters with shoes or putting up stickers that read “No, I will not vote.” Turnout is expected to be a record low on Election Day, Oct. 10. The activists cite entrenched corruption and the power of pro-Iranian militias, both of which were major themes in the 2019 protests that were violently repressed in Iraq.
The calls for a boycott of the upcoming elections followed a series of assassinations of pro-democracy activists. More than 70 activists have been killed since the protests began in October 2019. The killings, which activists believe were carried out by pro-Iranian Shiite militias within the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), have gone unpunished.
The PMF is made up of between 60 and 70 armed Shiite militias. It was formed by the Iraqi government in June 2014 after Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani called for a jihad against the Islamic State group after its invasion of Mosul.
No group has come forward to claim responsibility for the killings, but pro-democracy activists and the United Nations believe they were carried out by militias. The power of armed groups financed by Iran continues to grow in the country.
We spoke with Samer al-Saïdi, the spokesperson for the “Iraqis for Change” campaign, which is leading the boycott efforts. He told us that these murders have not been prosecuted or even investigated. According to al-Saïdi, the militias are involved in politics and even have representatives in the government and Parliament.
Killing protesters during demonstrations, targeted killings, kidnappings and torture – none of this has led to a serious investigation. No suspect has gone to trial. We will not vote while those who assassinate pro-democracy activists go unpunished.