On World Press Freedom Day, Iraqis Mourn Journalist Ammar Al Shahbander, Killed in Car Bomb Explosion

People lit candles at the site of the car bombing in Al-Karrada, Baghdad. Photo via @baghdadinvest on Twitter.

Iraqis are marking the World Press Freedom Day today mourning the death of journalist Ammar Al Shahbander, who was killed in a car bomb explosion in Karrada, in Baghdad, carried out by the ISIS.

Al Shahbander, a defender of freedom of speech, was the Chief of Mission in Iraq for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR). His colleague, Emad Al Sharaa, was wounded, and remains in “a serious but stable condition” in the twin blasts in the busy commercial area, which claimed the lives of 17 people.

Iraqi journalist Ammar Al Shahbander was killed on the eve of the World Press Freedom Day. Source: @superammar (Al Shahbander's Twitter account)

Iraqi journalist Ammar Al Shahbander was killed on the eve of the World Press Freedom Day. Source: @superammar (Al Shahbander's Twitter account)

According to IWPR, Al-Shahbander, aged 41, an Iraqi with a Swedish nationality, started working for IWPR in Iraq in 2005, and become Chief of Party in 2008 and Chief of Mission in 2009. He previously worked with the Iraq Foundation. He leaves behind a wife and four children.

“Ammar’s death is a tragedy for his beautiful family and a profound shock for all of us at IWPR,” said IWPR Executive Director Anthony Borden. “He was devoted to helping build a new and peaceful Iraq, and he was one of the most informed, creative and passionate members of the civil society community there –hugely respected by government officials, Western diplomats and the international press, and loved by his colleagues. His loss is a major blow to Iraq, and to us all.”

Tributes poured in from all over Iraq.

Mustafa, from Iraq, tweets:

The human is dead
The real brother is dead
The good person is dead dead dead. Death has become so normal for us in Iraq that we are bored

Iraqi blogger Al Hassan adds:

To those who don't know who Ammar Al Shahbander is, he is an Iraqi man who believes in Iraq. He left London to return to Iraq so that he can help rebuild a civil country. He left behind four children.
Rest in peace

Khawla Ramadan notes:

Ammar Al Shahbander and those martyred with him were alive a few hours ago and planning what they would do tomorrow. They were dreaming of a better Iraq. In a moment of treachery, all that is left for their loved ones is sadness

And Iraqi Hussein Adam concludes:

We are all delayed death projects
One day …
We will turn into a tweet on Twitter
And will then be buried in the avalanche of tweets…
Rest in peace Ammar Al Shahbander

People from around the world mourned Al Shahbander.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) issued a statement saying Al Shahbander “worked tirelessly and with unwavering dedication for the promotion and protection of human rights and freedom of press in Iraq.”

The statement added:

Human rights defenders in Iraq work in extremely dangerous conditions for the promotion of human rights risking death, imprisonment and torture by security forces or armed groups. Many have sadly lost their lives.

The GHCR urges the authorities in Iraq to guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders are free to carry out their peaceful and legitimate human rights work without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.

Jordanian Mohamed Tarakiyee notes how Al Shahbander was killed on the eve of World Press Freedom Day:

Lebanese Mohamad Najem, Social Media Exchange (SMEX) co-founder, describes Al Shahbander's death as “devastating”:

Human Rights Defenders and Digital Security Consultant Mohammed Al Maskati, from Bahrain, says he lost a dear friend:

My dear friend and colleague Ammar Al Shahbander was killed in a terror explosion in Baghdad. Rest in peace dear one

And GCHR director Khalid Ibrahim says terrorism will eventually be defeated:

Rest in peace my dear brother Ammar Al Shahbander and those who were martyred with you in the terror blast which killed innocents at a traditional coffee shop. We will continue the path and beat terrorism

Many retweeted and shared Al Shahbander's last tweet, which ironically carried the hashtag #no2isis:

Back in Karrada, Iraqis lit candles and read verses from the Holy Quran at the site of last night's bombings:

The ISIS, which claimed responsibility for the attacks, is an Al Qaeda off-shoot, which has occupied swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, leaving a trail of horror and destruction.

Iraq is one of the most dangerous places for journalists. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a total of 166 journalists have been killed in Iraq since 1992.

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