The recent assassination of writer Alaa Mashzoub in the middle of a street in Karbala has provoked indignation in Iraqi cultural circles.
Alaa Mashzoub was shot 13 times on Saturday evening by two armed men in front of his house in Bab Al Khan, a neighbourhood in the heart of Karbala, the Iraqi Literature Association said. He was gunned down while riding his bicycle. Mashzoub was well known in Karbala, whose historic districts he wove with care into his writing.
Alaa Mashzoub was born in 1968 and graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts at Baghdad University in 1993 and held a doctorate in fine arts.
The assassination of Mr Mashzoub is part of a criminal group that intends to spread terror and fear among Iraqis and restrict their freedom of expression, Ali Al Bayati, a member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, told The National. “The previous assassinations of media and civil activists certainly reflects the weakness of the intelligence services in detecting such operations,” he said, adding that criminal investigations will not be disclosed for the public.
In a sign of the sensitivity surrounding the subject, the police immediately tasked a senior squad to investigate, and promised to find the perpetrators.
On Sunday, intellectuals and artists from Karbala staged a sit-in. Fans posted condolences online after hearing of Mashzoub’s death, with many expressing anger at the country’s conservative attitudes towards freedom of speech.
“Honourable Iraqi voices will not be silenced or hidden by corrupt bullets and attacks,” Ahmed Al Khader, an Iraqi writer, said on Twitter.
“Alaa was a humble poet. We have lost a personality who defended the rights of innocent people,” Fatima Ali, a student in Baghdad University, wrote on Twitter.
Ahmed Saadawi — whose novel “Frankenstein in Baghdad” has scored success beyond Iraq’s borders — hit out at the culprits on his Facebook page: “You really have to be a coward to fire a gun at someone who only has words and dreams. Shame on the murderers — and shame on the authorities, if they don’t find and judge them immediately,” he wrote.
Mashzoub’s death follows other recent killings of Iraqi activists and social media personalities.
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