Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 July 2019

Iraq's 'Mother Teresa' in stable condition after being hit by car in Baghdad

Hanaa Edwar, fearless civil rights activist, will not press charges against the driver

Hanaa Edwar has campaigned for Iraqis' rights since the Saddam Hussein era. Getty Images. 
Hanaa Edwar has campaigned for Iraqis' rights since the Saddam Hussein era. Getty Images. 

Iraqi activist Hanaa Edwar will soon be discharged from hospital after a traffic accident in Baghdad that raised fears the veteran campaigner for justice and democracy had been targeted by her opponents.

Ms Edwar was hit by a car after giving a speech last Friday during a protest over the massacre of 1,700 Iraqi soldiers by ISIS at Camp Speicher, where she called for an investigation into the fall of Mosul to the extremist militants.

She is due to leave Sheikh Zayed Hospital in Baghdad after having undergone an operation for a fracture to her leg,” Suhaila Al Asam, a women’s rights activist who was with ­Ms Edwar in hospital, told The National on Sunday.

“She finished her speech and crossed a busy street near Tahrir Square where a car hit her,” Ms Al Asam said. “She was transferred immediately to hospital.”

Officials are investigating the incident but Ms Edwar has refused to file charges against the driver, she said.

“She didn’t see the car coming as she crossed the road, and the driver took her to the hospital.”

Local reports suggested that Ms Edwar had been hit deliberately, especially because female activists and public influencers have come under attack during the past year.

Ms Edwar even offered to post bail for the driver to get him out of jail, Ms Al Asam said.

Known as “Iraq’s Mother Teresa” for her fearless dedication to civil rights, the Basra-born activist campaigned against human-rights abuses during the rule of former dictator Saddam Hussein and continues her mission 16 years after he was toppled

Iraqi President Barham Salih and other prominent politicians sent Ms Edwar their best wishes, Ms Al Asam said.

“Hanaa Edwar is fire and light, and Iraq needs her,” Joost Hiltermann, regional programme director for conflict monitoring organisation International Crisis Group, said on Twitter.

“Terrible news – Hanna Edwar is irreplaceable. Who else is going to yell at politicians and be taken seriously? Desperately hoping she will be OK,” wrote Jane Arraf, a reporter for NPR.

Ms Edwar is a critic of former Iraqi prime minister Nouri Al Maliki, whose policies some blame for the rise of ISIS in Iraq and the subsequent loss of thousands of lives and the displacement of millions of others.

She is currently the secretary general of the Iraqi Amal foundation and co-founder of the Iraqi women’s network.

She came to the media’s attention after confronting Mr Al Maliki during a conference in Baghdad to demand the release of four young activists who demonstrated in Tahrir Square when he was in power.

In a video clip she is seen holding up photos of the young protesters and shouting: “We, HR [human rights] NGOs are accused of being terrorists, is this possible?”

Ms Edwar was concerned that the government was trying to portray the protesters as terrorists and allowing thugs to beat and sexually assault them.

Mr Al Maliki ordered Ms Edwar to be thrown out of the room after she distributed leaflets with details of the arrests and offences the government had committed against the protesters.

Ms Edward has been threatened for taking the positions that she does. There were reports that a bullet was left outside her office soon after she confronted Mr Al Maliki.

Despite the long career in activism, she will continue to fight for civilian rights, Ms Al Asam said.

Updated: June 17, 2019 08:16 AM

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