The kiddnaping of environmentalist and human rights defender Jassim Al-Asadi near Baghdad, is a clear proof that activists, human rights defenders and journalists continue to be harassed, threatened and intimidated regularly in Iraq. These recurring cases of torture, kidnapping and killing must stop.
Retaliation against environmental human rights defenders in Iraq has been on the rise.
News of Al Asadi’s arrest reverberated across the globe, sparking widespread condemnation from human rights organizations, environmental groups and concerned citizens. International bodies and prominent figures joined forces, calling for his immediate release and highlighting the importance of protecting environmental defenders worldwide.
Jassim Al-Asadi, is a human rights defender, prominent environmentalist, and a leading campaigner for the preservation of Iraq’s famed southern marshlands. On February 1st 2023 Al-Asadi was abducted by unidentified gunmen and released on February 16th after enduring severe torture.
Jassim Al-Asadi, is head of the local, non-governmental organization ‘Nature Iraq’, and has been actively raising awareness about the threats faced by Iraq’s southern wetlands, including drought and loss of vegetation coverage, through regular appearances in both local and international media outlets. Al-Asadi has become of the few specialists in this field and the main trusted source for researchers and media. Through peaceful protests, educational campaigns and community outreach, he sought to foster a greater sense of environmental stewardship and promote sustainable practices among citizens and policymakers alike.
Challenges and Opposition:
Unfortunately, Al Asadi’s activism faced formidable oppostision from various quarters. Powerful industrial interests often dismissed his concerns, prioritizing short- term economic gains over long-term environmental sustainability. Moreover, governmental authorities viewed Al-Asadi’s activism as a threat to their established power structure leading to increased surveillance and harassment.
The Kidnapping of Jassim Al-Asadi
On February 1st, 2023, an unknown armed group kidnapped environmentalist and human rights defender Jassim Al- Asadi near Baghdad, Iraq. He was handcuffed and forced into their vehicles before he was taken to an unknown location by armed men, leaving his cousin behind. Although the motive behind the kidnapping remains unclear, it is believed that numerous government supporters were displeased with Al-Asadi’s environmental activities.
Jassim Al- Asadi was released on February 15th, 2023, following a grueling period of more than two weeks in the custody of the unidentified armed group. During his captivity, he endured both physical and psychological torture. Throughout the course of his 15-day ordeal, he was relocated numerous times.
Al-Asadi reasons behind his detention and the identities of the kidnappers remain undisclosed. While the Iraqi government seemingly intervened to secure Al-Asadi’s release, there have been other instances where Iraqi authorities themselves have retaliated against environmental activists for their efforts to raise awareness about human rights violations related to the country’s environment and climate.
Jassim Al-Asadi’s unwavering commitment to environmental activism highlights the sacrifices made by those who strive to protect our planet. The arrest and continued detainment of environmental defenders like Al-Asadi underscores the urgent need to strengthen protections for those on the front lines of environmental advocacy. It is a reminder that the fight for environmental justice and the protection of human rights must go hand in hand.
-  https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/profile/jassim-al-asadi
-  https://www.alsharqiya.com/en/news/jassim-al-assadi-reveals-the-secrets-of-his-kidnapping-and-torture
-  https://www.thenationalnews.com/mena/2023/02/16/iraq-environmental-activist-jassim-al-asadi-freed-two-weeks-after-kidnapping/