The damage caused by unidentified men shooting protesters with “hunting rifles” in Iraq has come under the spotlight online, as activists use the hashtag #StopHuntingUs and share graphic photos to draw attention to their wounds.
There have been “credible allegations” of “unidentified armed groups” injuring at least 50 people between February 14 and 16 using “hunting guns” in various areas in Iraq, including the capital Baghdad, according to United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). Iraq is home to a number of armed militias, including many within the framework of the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units, which have attacked protesters for months.
Twitter user Zena shared a photo of a protester who was injured in the attacks.
“A young Iraqi protester, wounded from a buckshot intended for bird hunting by anti-riot police near Al Khilani square in Baghdad,” she said in the tweet.
Ali Albakri shared the same photo as Zena along with another two photos. One shows men in masks hiding behind a wall with one holding a rifle. The other shows a man looking at his wounds.
Albakri included a cry for help from human rights organizations.
“Can you see us? Do you see how we are killed?” Albakri asked in the tweet. “They used all means of killing against unarmed demonstrators in Iraq and now they are starting to hunt us one by one with hunting rifles. Please save our people from this killer machines. #StopHuntingUs”
Another Twitter user named Nicolas said the unidentified men are Iranian militias.
“The #Iran militias killing #Iraqi protesters for months using all kinds of weapons,” he said. “There are no words [that] can describe how savage they are.”
UNAMI released a statement on Monday condemning the attacks.
“The continued pattern of the use of excessive forces, with ambiguously identified armed groups and unclear loyalties, is a grave security concern that must be tackled urgently and decisively,” said UN Representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert in the statement. “Peaceful protesters should be protected at all times.”
Almost 550 Iraqis have been killed in protests since they erupted across the country in October, according to the Iraqi Human Rights Commission.