The Iraqi government executed three convicted Islamic terrorists Monday, amidst growing national sentiment that authorities are doing too little to stop jihad in the country.
Activists on social media have called for protests in Nassiriya Tuesday to pressure the executive to enact harsher penalties on jihadists, following an Islamic State massacre in Baghdad last Thursday that claimed the lives of 32 people, injuring at least 100 more.
The twin suicide bombings perpetrated by the Islamic State sparked waves of anger among the Iraqi population, with mounting criticism of passivity and weakness on the part of political leaders, reported Fides News Agency, the official information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies.
Tuesday’s demonstration demanding “death to the jihadists” coincided with rumors leaked in the media that Iraqi President Bahram Salih has signed 340 execution orders for “terrorism and criminal acts,” mostly for Islamic State terrorists.
Executions began Monday with the carrying out of the death sentence of three jihadists prisoners in Iraq’s Nassiriya prison.
The Iraqi government declared victory over the Islamic State in late 2017, but last Thursday’s massacre made it clear that now the jihadist group is shifting strategy to more targeted terror attacks, Fides said Tuesday.
A 2005 Iraqi law stipulates the death penalty for anyone convicted of terrorism and more than 30 death sentences were carried out in Iraq in 2020.
Human rights activists have expressed fears that Iraq may launch a “spree of executions” of convicted jihadists as a show of strength following last Thursday’s attack, Agence France Press (AFP) reported Monday.
Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch, told AFP that leaders resort to announcements of mass executions simply to signal to the public that they are taking national security seriously.
“The death penalty is used as a political tool more than anything else,” she said.
In the midst of this, local Christian communities awaiting the upcoming apostolic visit of Pope Francis to Iraq, scheduled for March 5 to 8.