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.
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:
مات الانسان #عمار_الشابندر مات الأخ الحقيقي #عمار_الشابندر مات الطيب مات مات مات صارت عدنا بالعراق شي عادي ملينا pic.twitter.com/nPKa8wqf1y
— MuStaFa مصطفى (@msiq88) May 2, 2015
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:
الى كل من لا يعرف عمار الشابندر هو رجل عراقي مؤمن بعراقيته ترك لندن ورجع للعراق حتى يساعد في بناء عراق مدني وعنده 4 اطفال ورود الله يرحمك
— حسنشتاين (@Al77assan) May 2, 2015
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:
عمار الشابندر ومن استشهد اليوم معه لساعات مضت كانوا احياء يخططون لما يفعلون غداً ويحلمون بعراقٍ افضل وفي لحظة غدر لم يبقى منهم الا حزن ذويهم
— khawla Ramadan (@RamadanKhawla) May 2, 2015
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:
نحنُ مشاريع موت مؤجلة يوما ما…. سنتحول الى تغريدة نعي في تويتر ثم ندفنُ في تراب التغريدات المتراكمة… الرحمة لك يا #عمار_الشابندر
— Hussein Adam (@huss_iq) May 3, 2015
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:
On the eve of Press Freedom Day, Ammar al-Shahbander was killed in a bombing, and Emad Al-Sharaa was injured. https://t.co/Oaz3NhSeNX
— Tarakiyee (@Tarakiyee) May 3, 2015
Lebanese Mohamad Najem, Social Media Exchange (SMEX) co-founder, describes Al Shahbander's death as “devastating”:
Devastating news from #Iraq, my friends: @superammar killed in an explosion few hours ago, @emadalsharaa is injured! https://t.co/pU8B2V0CG5
— Mohamad محمد (@monajem) May 3, 2015
Human Rights Defenders and Digital Security Consultant Mohammed Al Maskati, from Bahrain, says he lost a dear friend:
استشهاد صديقي العزيز و زميلي عمار الشابندر (صحفي و مدير معهد الصحافة الحرب و السلم ) في تفجير إرهابي ببغداد ،الله يرحمك يا الغالي #bahrain
— Mohammed Al-Maskati (@MohdMaskati) May 3, 2015
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:
رحمك الله أخي الفاضل عمار الشابندر ومن استشهد معك في التفجير الإرهابي الذي طال الأبرياء بمقهى شعبي و سنواصل المسيرة وسيندحر الإرهاب. #Iraq
— Khalid Ibrahim (@khalidibrahim12) May 3, 2015
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:
#Baghdad summer.. 2Guitars playing Hotel California #Iraq #no2isis pic.twitter.com/4zd779ODra
— Ammar Al Shahbander (@superammar) May 2, 2015
Back in Karrada, Iraqis lit candles and read verses from the Holy Quran at the site of last night's bombings:
Iraqis light candles & read the Quran at the site of yesterday's bombings in Al-Karrada district in #Baghdad. #Iraq pic.twitter.com/N722eTSQA5
— Iraqism (@Iraqism) May 3, 2015
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.