SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: January 08, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):International Historians Association for Culture, Development, and Social Sciences

Region & Country:Western Asia | Iraq

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 8, 2020, historian Ibrahim Saeed Al-Baidhani was wounded by a group of unidentified men in an apparent assassination attempt. The attack appears to be connected to a string of violent attacks and kidnappings targeting activists and public figures since the start of recent nationwide protests.

Since October 2019, protests against corruption, poor economic conditions, and a lack of public services have raged across Iraq. Although demonstrations led to the resignation of Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi in December, protests for further government action continued into 2020. Protesters, predominantly Iraqi youth and many of them students, have been met with violence by Iraqi security forces and non-state actors, with hundreds reportedly killed. Reports also describe prominent activists, journalists, and other public figures assassinated or kidnapped by unknown individuals in apparent connection to their support for or commentary on the protests.

On January 8, Al-Baidhani was reportedly outside his home in central Baghdad when a group of men approached on motorcycle and stabbed him several times before fleeing. Al-Baidhani was then rushed to a hospital for treatment.

Al-Baidhani is Secretary General of the International Historians Association for Culture, Development, and Social Sciences. According to his CV on the association’s website, Al-Baidhani appears to specialize in US and European modern history and foreign relations, has participated in a large number of international and national academic conferences and other convenings, and has frequently been featured in the Iraqi media.

As of this report, there is no public information regarding the identity of the perpetrators or the status of any investigation into the attack by state authorities.

SAR is gravely concerned about an apparent assassination attempt on a scholar. State authorities have a responsibility to take reasonable steps to prevent and respond to violent attacks, including by investigating and holding perpetrators accountable. In addition to the harm to the immediate victim, violent attacks on scholars undermine freedom of expression, academic freedom, and democratic society generally.