Iraq

Not Free
29
100
PR Political Rights 16 40
CL Civil Liberties 13 60
Last Year's Score & Status
29 100 Not Free
Global freedom statuses are calculated on a weighted scale. See the methodology.

header1 Overview

Iraq holds regular, competitive elections, and the country’s various partisan, religious, and ethnic groups generally enjoy representation in the political system. However, democratic governance is impeded in practice by corruption, militias operating outside the bounds of the law, and the weakness of formal institutions. In the Kurdistan region, democratic institutions lack the strength to contain the influence of the two ruling parties, each maintaining its own internal security forces, ready to repress dissidents and peaceful protesters. Increasingly, Iran has been able to influence politics in Baghdad. State officials and powerful militias routinely infringe upon the rights of citizens through legal and extrajudicial means.

header2 Key Developments in 2022

  • In June, 73 legislators from the Sadrist Movement, who were all followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, resigned in protest of opposition parties’ failure to join them in creating a coalition government. The parliament swore in 64 new members, all of whom were runners-up in their districts in the 2021 elections, leaving 9 seats vacant. The new parliamentarians’ presence significantly increased the share of pro-Iran lawmakers.
  • In August, protests in Baghdad led by supporters of al-Sadr turned into violent clashes with pro-Iran militias that resulted in the deaths of 22 people. Al-Sadr called for his supporters to disperse, which paved the way for the formation of a government in October. The resignation of the 73 lawmakers allowed for Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani and his government, supported by the pro-Iranian Coordination Framework, to be approved by Parliament in October. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)–aligned candidate, Abdul Latif Rashid, was elected president the same month.
  • Starting in late September, the Iranian regime began carrying out and officially claiming responsibility for a repeated waves of drone and missile strikes that killed dozens of people, including many civilians, across the Iraqi Kurdistan region. Tensions between Iran and the United States continued to play out on Iraqi soil, endangering Iraqi citizens and Iranian exiles, particularly in Kurdistan.

PR Political Rights

A Electoral Process

A1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Was the current head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections? 2.002 4.004

After national elections, the Council of Representatives (CoR) chooses the largely ceremonial president, traditionally Kurdish, who in turn appoints a prime minister, traditionally Shia, nominated by the largest bloc in the parliament. The prime minister, who holds most executive power and forms the government, serves up to two four-year terms. In October 2022, after a year-long political paralysis, Prime Minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani and his government, supported by the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, were approved by the parliament. Earlier that month, the KDP–aligned candidate, Abdul Latif Rashid, was elected as president.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), composed of Iraq’s northernmost provinces, is ostensibly led by a president with extensive executive powers, but former long-term KRG president, Masoud Barzani, maintains significant political influence. In 2019, Nechirvan Barzani, Masoud’s brother, was elected president by the Iraqi Kurdish parliament after the position had been vacant for nearly two years. Masrour Barzani, Masoud’s son, was appointed and sworn in as prime minister the same month. Both Barzanis, the current president and prime minister, are members of the KDP.

A2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Were the current national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections? 3.003 4.004

The 329 members of the CoR are elected every four years from multimember open lists in each province. The October 2021 parliamentary elections were generally viewed as credible by international observers, despite documented cases of voter and candidate intimidation, bribing of voters, journalists being prevented from covering the voting, arrests of activists calling for an election boycott, and the lowest voter turnout since the end of the Saddam Hussein regime.

In June 2022, following the resignation of the 73 Sadrist parliamentarians at the order of al-Sadr, the CoR swore in 64 new parliamentarians, leaving nine seats vacant. The new parliamentarians were the runners-up in their districts in the 2021 elections and gave the pro-Iranian bloc, the Coordination Framework, 40 more seats, for a total of 130. The opposition parties affiliated with the 2019 protest movement, Imtidad and Ishraqat Kanoon, gained 7 and 1 seats respectively.

In August 2022, protests in Baghdad led by Sadrists in response to the 10-month political crisis turned into violent clashes with pro-Iran militias that resulted in the deaths of 22 people. Thereafter, al-Sadr called for his supporters to disperse, which paved the way for the formation of a government in October.

In Iraqi Kurdistan, the 111-seat Kurdish parliament is elected through closed party-list proportional representation in a single district, with members serving four-year terms. Since the 2018 elections, the governing KDP has maintained a plurality of seats, followed by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Gorran movement. The elections were plagued by fraud allegations and other irregularities, and Gorran and other smaller parties rejected the results. Political disputes between the KDP and PUK concerning the formation of the electoral committee led to the cancelation of the October 2022 Kurdish parliamentary elections; no subsequent date had been set as of year-end.

A3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the electoral laws and framework fair, and are they implemented impartially by the relevant election management bodies? 3.003 4.004

The Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) is responsible for managing elections. The IHEC generally enjoys the confidence of the international community and, according to some polls, the Iraqi public.

The October 2021 elections were the first held under a new system dividing Iraq into 83 multimember electoral districts, created to appease Tishreen movement protesters and facilitate the entry of independent candidates into Parliament.

B Political Pluralism and Participation

B1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system free of undue obstacles to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings? 3.003 4.004

The constitution guarantees the freedom to form and join political parties, with the exception of the pre-2003 dictatorship’s Baath Party, whose participation, ideas, and protest activity are banned and criminalized. Further, any groups that support racism, terrorism, sectarianism, sectarian cleansing, and other ideas contrary to democracy or the peaceful transfer of power are also banned. Individual Iraqis’ freedom to run for office is also limited by a vague “good conduct” requirement in the electoral law.

In practice, Iraqis can generally form parties and operate without government interference, and parties explicitly opposing the current sectarian apportionment political system are allowed to operate, although prominent members face intimidation from militias. Women politicians have also faced threats from conservative elements in society. Party membership and multiparty alliances shift frequently.

B2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections? 2.002 4.004

Elections are competitive, but all major parties are dominated by one sectarian or ethnic group. Sectarian parties are expected to continue leading the formation of a new government.

However, several new more secular and nationalist parties participated in the 2021 elections, and two parties linked to the 2019 Tishreen protest movement won 14 seats, even as its candidates and activists faced threats. Despite its military force and loyal personnel, the Coordination Framework lost significant representation in 2021, demonstrating the ability of Iraqi voters to affect Parliament’s makeup, even if they cannot shift the balance of armed power in the country. However, the resignation of Sadrist lawmakers in June 2022 again shifted the balance of power in Parliament in favor of the Coordination Framework.

In 2022, KRG authorities continued their repression of the activities of the New Generation party and its affiliated media outlet, Nalia Radio and Television (NRT), owned by New Generation party leader Shaswar Abdulwahid.

B3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are the people’s political choices free from domination by forces that are external to the political sphere, or by political forces that employ extrapolitical means? 1.001 4.004

Iraq’s political system remains distorted by interference from foreign powers, most notably Iran; Iranian authorities physically and politically threaten or buy the support of Iraqi policymakers. The governing Coordination Framework represents Iran-backed militias that do not follow the official command structure of Iraq’s armed forces and, alongside Saraya al-Salam, engage in violent intimidation of political opponents, at times resorting to kidnapping and murder.

In July 2022, following the resignation of 73 Sadrist lawmakers, Sadrist supporters prevented the functioning of the Iraqi Parliament in Baghdad for several months by staging prolonged protests. After the protests turned into violent clashes with pro-Iran militias that resulted in the deaths of 22 people in August, the standoff ended, clearing the way for the October formation of a Coordination Framework–backed government.

B4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do various segments of the population (including ethnic, racial, religious, gender, LGBT+, and other relevant groups) have full political rights and electoral opportunities? 1.001 4.004

Despite legal and constitutional measures designed to protect the political rights of various religious and ethnic groups, the dominant role of ethno-sectarian parties and the allocation of key offices according to informal religious or ethnic criteria reduce the likelihood that politicians will act in the interests of the whole population.

A system of reserved seats ensures a minimum representation in the CoR for some of Iraq’s smaller religious and ethnic minorities. There are five seats reserved for Christians and one each for Fayli Kurds, Yazidis, Sabean Mandaeans, and Shabaks. The Kurdish parliament reserves five seats for Turkmen, five for Christians, and one for Armenians. The political rights of minority groups have been severely impeded by widespread displacement from areas formerly occupied by the Islamic State (IS) militant group.

The CoR and the Kurdish parliament reserve 25 percent and 30 percent of their seats for women, respectively, though such formal representation has had little obvious effect on state policies toward women, who are typically excluded from political debates and leadership positions. LGBT+ people are unable to enjoy equal political rights in practice due to harsh societal discrimination. Prominent politicians and clerics, including al-Sadr, have incited violence against LGBT+ people, contributing to their persecution by security services and militias.

C Functioning of Government

C1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government? 1.001 4.004

Low institutional capacity, widespread corruption, and extensive Iranian influence, among other issues, have hindered elected officials’ ability to independently set and implement laws. The turn to street politics and violence by contending Shia blocs has paralyzed the functioning of the Iraqi parliament and prolonged the reign of the unelected caretaker government following the 2021 elections; a government formed in October 2022.

Iran-backed militias, incorporated under the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), are officially part of Iraqi state institutions but in practice set their own policies and undermine the government’s ability to set its own agendas. They planned the assassination attempt of then prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi in November 2021, repressed political protests, kidnapped and assassinated activists, and attacked US targets in Iraq. The United States and its allies also exert some policy influence through their support for Iraqi Security Forces and other state institutions.

In the Kurdistan region, although elected KRG representatives have jurisdiction, in practice, the region is split between the Erbil and Dohuk governorates, under KDP control, and Sulaymaniyah, controlled by the PUK. Each region has its own politically affiliated internal security (Asayish) and military forces (Peshmerga).

C2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are safeguards against official corruption strong and effective? 0.000 4.004

Corruption remains a major problem in Iraq and was a key contributor to the 2019 Tishreen protest movement. Political parties siphon funds from the ministries they control, take kickbacks for government contracts, monopolize specific sectors of the economy, and resist anticorruption efforts. The judicial system, itself hampered by politicization and corruption, acts on only a fraction of the cases investigated by the Integrity Commission, one of three anticorruption bodies.

Under both the federal government and the KRG, whistleblowers, investigators, journalists, and private individuals raising corruption concerns have faced arrests, charges of defamation, violence, intimidation, and slander.

C3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does the government operate with openness and transparency? 1.001 4.004

The government does not operate with transparency, despite a few official policies promoting openness, including an asset disclosure requirement. The CoR debates the budget, and interest groups are often able to access draft legislation. Government spending, in both Baghdad and the KRG, is not transparent. The PMF’s large budget is particularly opaque. The number of fighters drawing salaries is unknown and likely significantly larger than the actual number of active soldiers. The public procurement system is not transparent and is corrupt, with no legal recourse available for unsuccessful bidders. The oil and gas industry also lacks transparency, and the government has failed to make adequate progress in meeting its commitments to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. There is no comprehensive law on public access to information.

 

Add Q
Is the government or occupying power deliberately changing the ethnic composition of a country or territory so as to destroy a culture or tip the political balance in favor of another group? -1.00-1

IS’s loss of territorial control in 2017 largely halted its campaign to alter religious demography. However, as of October 2022, nearly 1.2 million people displaced by IS remain unable to return to their homes, either for security and economic reasons, or because their original communities reject their return or authorities prohibit it. Kurdish authorities encouraged local and substate forces to prevent Arab families displaced by the IS conflict from returning to villages near the Syria-Iraq border and in disputed areas under de facto KRG control, in an apparent attempt to change the region’s demography. Displaced families with perceived links to IS who continue to reside in and outside of camps are particularly vulnerable to assault and sexual abuse.

CL Civil Liberties

D Freedom of Expression and Belief

D1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are there free and independent media? 1.001 4.004

Iraq’s media environment appears lively and diverse, but there are few politically independent news sources. In recent years, social media has been utilized to spread fake news and explicit threats against activists, particularly by Iran-backed militias. Media outlets face restrictions and obstruction in response to their coverage.

The Iraqi authorities have assaulted, detained, or arrested journalists for their work, at times charging them with defamation and insulting public institutions. Militias shoot, kidnap, torture, and assassinate reporters for their work, and supporters of political parties and militias occasionally attack journalists. In May 2022, Iraqi journalist Ali al-Dhabhawi was arrested in Baghdad, after he criticized Iraqi militias on his television program Studio 9.

As of April 2022, three journalists were serving prison sentences for conducting their work, convicted by the KRG authorities. KRG authorities routinely beat, harass, and arbitrarily arrest, detain, and sentence journalists without due process. While local journalists bear most of the brunt of repression by Iraqi and Kurdish authorities, occasionally foreign journalists are hindered from doing their work as well. Throughout 2022, several journalists and news websites that have published on corruption in Iraqi Kurdistan were targeted by cyberattacks.

D2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to practice and express their religious faith or nonbelief in public and private? 1.001 4.004

The constitution guarantees freedom of belief, but in practice many Iraqis experience violence and displacement due to their religious identity. The Baha’i community continues to suffer from legal discrimination, as its religious activity continues to be banned, and Baha’is are not recognized as members of a minority religion, preventing them from registering themselves. Since Baha’i marriages are unregistered, children born to such marriages effectively become stateless.

Blasphemy laws remain in the legal code, although enforcement is rare. Children with one Muslim parent, including converts, are automatically designated as Muslim. Conversion from Islam to another religion is banned by law. Atheists largely hide their lack of religious belief due to societal stigma and persecution.

D3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free from extensive political indoctrination? 1.001 4.004

Educators have long faced the threat of violence or other repercussions for teaching subjects or discussing topics that powerful state or nonstate actors find objectionable. The country’s official curriculum is often augmented in the classroom by religious or sectarian viewpoints. Political activism by university students can result in harassment or intimidation.

D4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals free to express their personal views on political or other sensitive topics without fear of surveillance or retribution? 1.001 4.004

Commentary on controversial topics, including on social media, are considered to be off limits and at times prompt arrest, docking of salaries, torture, and criminal lawsuits. Social media users and bloggers have faced defamation suits from government officials for criticizing corruption and misgovernance. Authorities have released video footage of detainees to humiliate and intimidate them.

Activists across Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan describe a climate of fear that has led them to self-censor. Authorities arrest individuals, some of them ordinary citizens with no background in activism, shortly after they post messages critical of authorities on social media, including the app Clubhouse, indicating that Iraqi and Kurdish authorities are constantly monitoring online platforms. In December 2022, in a landmark case, a Baghdad court sentenced Haidar al-Zaidi to three years in prison for a post on Twitter criticizing the former head of PMF. “Electronic armies” working on behalf of powerful actors across Iraq have also abused systems of reporting on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to remove the pages or suspend private profiles of critics.

However, surveillance is not restricted to social media. Over the past year, Kurdish authorities have arrested and dismissed mosque preachers for their criticism of the ruling regime and absence of basic services. Over 30 private citizens involved in the 2019 Tishreen protest movement, including at least one minor, were abducted between 2019 to 2021; their whereabouts remained unknown as of December 2022.

In May 2022, the Iraqi parliament passed a law prohibiting normalization with Israel, which also criminalized any speech, including on social media, advocating such normalization.

E Associational and Organizational Rights

E1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom of assembly? 0.000 4.004

The constitution guarantees freedom of assembly, but protesters are frequently at risk of violence or arrest. These dangers have become acute during the ongoing Tishreen protest movement against corruption, poor infrastructure and government services, and high unemployment. Security forces have used curfews, tear gas, and live ammunition to suppress demonstrations in Baghdad and other southern cities. Hundreds of people had been killed in retaliation for their protest activities during 2022; of them, dozens were killed in targeted assassinations outside of protest squares. Iraqi security forces routinely beat, shot, arrested, and tortured protesters.

Militiamen kidnap activists, torture them for several days, and then release them to coerce them to cease their antiregime activity. Iranian media and media outlets linked to Iran-backed militias spread false reports about activists to justify their targeting and issued explicit threats to activists and critics set to be targeted next.

Following 2020, the number of protests in the Kurdistan region dropped significantly, which local activists claim was the result of security forces’ use of unprecedented levels of violence against protesters. In 2022, Kurdish authorities linked both to the KDP and the PUK continued to prevent protesters from gathering and attacked and arrested peaceful protesters and journalists covering the protests, regardless of the demonstration’s message.

E2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations, particularly those that are engaged in human rights– and governance-related work? 2.002 4.004

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) enjoy societal support and a relatively hospitable regulatory environment, though they must register with the government and obtain approval from the commission responsible for suppressing Baathism. For international NGOs, registration is cumbersome and often requires payment of bribes. In Kurdistan, registration of NGOs is straightforward, but NGOs must renew their registration annually.

Militias have threatened, assaulted, kidnapped, tortured, raped in captivity, assassinated, and planted explosive devices at the homes of multiple critics and activists (and their family members), particularly those involved in the Tishreen protest movement. Ali Akram al-Bayati, a prominent human rights defender and former member of Iraq’s national human rights body the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), was abducted in February 2022 for supposedly defaming the Anti-Corruption Committee during an interview in late 2020. The targeting of a former IHCHR member, who enjoyed immunity for the duration of his term, may intimidate current and future members from investigating human rights abuses.

E3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there freedom for trade unions and similar professional or labor organizations? 2.002 4.004

Labor laws allow for collective bargaining (even by nonunionized workers), protect the rights of subcontractors and migrant workers, and permit workers to strike, among other rights. However, public sector workers are not allowed to unionize, there is no legal prohibition against antiunion discrimination, and workers do not have access to legal remedies if fired for union activity. Some state officials and private employers discourage union activity with threats, demotions, and other deterrents.

F Rule of Law

F1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there an independent judiciary? 0.000 4.004

The judiciary in Arab-majority Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan is influenced by corruption, political pressure, violent intimidation and occasional killings, tribal forces, and religious interests. The lines between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches are frequently blurred, and executive interference in the judiciary is widespread. Many Iraqis turn to tribal bodies to settle disputes, even those involving major crimes.

F2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Does due process prevail in civil and criminal matters? 0.000 4.004

Criminal proceedings in Iraq are deeply flawed. Arbitrary arrests, including arrests without a warrant, are common. Detainees are frequently denied access to lawyers, who when available are often prevented access to crucial public documents. Terrorism cases have been prone to fundamental violations of due process, with human rights groups describing systematic denial of access to counsel and short, summary trials with little evidence that the defendants, who are often allegedly associated with IS, have committed specific crimes.

Repeated promises to investigate and prosecute members of Iran-backed militias responsible for a wave of assassinations, assassination attempts, and kidnappings of activists across southern Iraq have largely not been upheld by political leaders. Several named suspects are protected by political parties, and the overwhelming majority of cases remain unsolved. Efforts to locate victims of kidnappings have not successfully obtained the release of those who have disappeared.

F3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Is there protection from the illegitimate use of physical force and freedom from war and insurgencies? 1.001 4.004

The end of large-scale combat with IS significantly improved the security environment in Iraq. Though the organization remained active as a clandestine terrorist group in 2020, it no longer controlled Iraqi territory or civilian populations, and its ability to operate was diminished. Throughout 2021, IS waged an insurgency in rural areas of western and northern Iraq, targeting both civilians and military personnel. The insurgency and the collective punishment policies adopted by the Iraqi Security Forces in response have threatened the physical safety of residents.

Militias have recaptured large swaths of Iraqi territory from IS, but they have also engaged in war crimes such as pillaging, forcible displacement of Sunnis, kidnappings, and torture. Over 600 Sunni men and boys who were kidnapped by the PMF during the recapture of western provinces of Iraq in 2016 have not been heard from since.

Turkish military forces have carried out drone strikes, artillery shelling and ground incursions into Iraqi Kurdistan to combat the Kurdistan Workers’ Union (PKK) guerilla group. Data released in 2022 shows that since 2015, the Turkish military has killed at least 98 civilians. Others, including Yazidi civilians, have been displaced en masse in the Kurdistan-Turkey border region.

Tensions between Iran and the United States continued to play out on Iraqi soil in 2022, endangering Iraqi citizens and Iranian exiles, particularly in Kurdistan. Starting in late September 2022, the Iranian regime began carrying out and officially claiming responsibility for repeated waves of drone and missile strikes that killed dozens of people, including many civilians, across the Iraqi Kurdistan region.

The use of torture to obtain confessions is widespread across Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan, including that of children, and even in death penalty cases. Detainees are often held in harsh, overcrowded conditions, and forced disappearances, particularly of suspected IS fighters, have been reported.

F4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population? 0.000 4.004

Women face widespread societal bias and discriminatory legal treatment under the law. Sexual harassment in the workplace is prohibited, but victims rarely pursue formal complaints. Same-sex relations are not explicitly prohibited, but people risk violence if they are perceived as members of the LGBT+ community. Police forces, militias, and the family members of LGBT+ people have murdered, kidnapped, tortured, raped, confined, and abused LGBT+ Iraqis in recent years. The state and nonstate perpetrators of such violence have enjoyed impunity, which has rendered reporting such abuse to the authorities futile or even dangerous.

Members of a given ethnic or religious group tend to suffer discrimination or persecution in areas where they represent a minority, leading many to seek safety in other neighborhoods or provinces. People of African descent suffer from high rates of extreme poverty and discrimination.

G Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights

G1 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy freedom of movement, including the ability to change their place of residence, employment, or education? 1.001 4.004

Freedom of movement has improved somewhat as areas formerly controlled by IS were brought back under government control. However, large-scale destruction of housing and infrastructure, the presence of sectarian or partisan militias, and the ongoing threat of violence has made it difficult for many displaced people to return home. The renewed IS insurgency and the Iraqi Security Forces’ corresponding response, as well as fighting between the Turkish military and the PKK in northern Iraq have constrained the freedom of movement of residents in rural western and northern Iraq.

The KRG also continues to prevent Arab families from returning to villages on the border with Syria, from which they fled during fighting between the Peshmerga and IS in 2014.

The movement of women is limited by legal restrictions. Women require the consent of a male guardian to obtain a passport and the Civil Status Identification Document, which is needed to access employment, education, and many social services.

G2 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Are individuals able to exercise the right to own property and establish private businesses without undue interference from state or nonstate actors? 1.001 4.004

Iraqis are legally free to own property and establish businesses, but observance of property rights has been limited by corruption and conflict. Families perceived to be affiliated with IS living in displacement are particularly vulnerable to confiscation or takeover of their property. Business owners face demands for bribes, threats, and violent attempts to seize their enterprises. Contracts are difficult to enforce. Women are legally disadvantaged with respect to inheritance rights and may face pressure to yield their rights to male relatives.

In Baghdad’s middle- and upper-class neighborhoods, such as Jadriya and Karrada, pro-Iranian militias have used threats and violent intimidation to force owners of large homes to give up their property, expanding a practice previously employed against Sunnis and Christians in the capital. In Iraqi Kurdistan, the recent construction boom has sometimes come at the expense of local landowners and farmers, whose fields are confiscated without notice or compensation.

G3 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy personal social freedoms, including choice of marriage partner and size of family, protection from domestic violence, and control over appearance? 1.001 4.004

Forced and early marriages are common, especially in the context of displacement and poverty. Over one in four Iraqi women aged 20 to 24 were married by age 18, and marriage for those aged 15 is legal with parental approval. Laws on marriage and divorce favor men over women. No law banning domestic violence exists, and Iraqi husbands are allowed to “punish” their wives and children. Iraqi women’s rights organizations’ efforts to compel Parliament to pass a law banning gender-based violence have been unsuccessful.

Rapists can avoid prosecution if they marry their victims; spousal rape is not prohibited. The law also allows reduced sentences for those convicted of so-called honor killings, which are seldom punished in practice. These types of crimes typically involve a male relative targeting a woman (sister or wife) or an LGBT+ person.

Both men and women face pressure to conform to conservative standards on personal appearance and face harassment, detention, and abuse by state actors and relatives for diverging from traditional appearance or mannerisms that match their biological sex.

G4 1.00-4.00 pts0-4 pts
Do individuals enjoy equality of opportunity and freedom from economic exploitation? 1.001 4.004

As of 2022, over 2,700 Yazidi women and children who had been kidnapped by IS during the 2014 genocide of Yazidi people remain missing. Many of them were likely forced into sexual slavery or forced labor. Exploitation of children, including through forced begging and the recruitment of child soldiers by militias, is an ongoing problem. Foreign migrant workers frequently work long hours for low pay and are vulnerable to forced labor. According to the US State Department’s 2022 Trafficking in Persons report, human trafficking continues unabated throughout Iraq—at times with the protection of corrupt officials—and internally displaced persons, refugees, migrant workers, and LGBT+ people are particularly vulnerable.

A study published in 2022 by the International Labor Organization shows that almost 55 percent of total employment in Iraq is in the informal sector, where employees have limited protections, benefits, and work stability.

On Iraq

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  • Global Freedom Score

    29 100 not free
  • Internet Freedom Score

    43 100 partly free