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 28, 2020

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):Al-Mustansiriya State University

Region & Country:Western Asia | Iraq

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On January 28, 2020, unidentified individuals reportedly shot and killed Mohammed Hussein Alwan, a professor at Al-Mustansiriya State University, in Baghdad. The killing of Alwan came amidst ongoing protests and intense political and military tensions in Iraq.

Protests against corruption, poor economic conditions, and a lack of public services have raged across Iraq since October 2019. 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 the protests.

Alwan is a professor in the College of Education at Al-Mustansiriya State University, located in Baghdad. He is also a well-known journalist and a member of the Iraqi Journalists Syndicate. Media sources have suggested that Alwan had previously attended student-led protests in Baghdad and had expressed support for ongoing protests over social media.

On the morning of January 28, a group of men wearing masks reportedly shot and killed Alwan in front of his home in northern Baghdad. According to the National Iraqi News Agency, Alwan was accompanying his daughter to university when the masked men approached.

As of this report, no further information regarding the attackers is available. As such, updates to this report may be made as more details come to light.

SAR is gravely concerned about the apparently targeted killing of a scholar, and offers its condolences to the victim’s family, friends, and the university community. 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.