A devastating series of incursions by terror group “ISIS” has caused major human rights violations from 2014, with militants targeting religious minorities including non-compliant Muslims and ‘apostates’. Iraq’s penal code prohibits “insult” to religious rituals, symbols or sacred persons and objects.

Under Article 372 of the penal code:

“The following persons are punishable by a period of imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or by a fine not exceeding 300 dinars:

Anyone who publicly abuses the beliefs of any religious community, or insults any of its rituals…

Anyone who publicly insults a symbol or person who constitutes an object of sanctification, glorification, and respect to a religious community.”

A 15-year old atheist Ahmad Sherwan was imprisoned in solitary confinement, tortured by electric shock, and threatened with murder, after a discussion in which he told his father that he no longer believed in God, after undertaking “extracurricular” reading. His father then reported him to the police who held and tortured him. He was released after 13 days. Sherwan told media:

“My father and I had a debate on 13 October 2013, during which I revealed I no longer believe God and that religion is just a myth. This was the fruit of my extracurricular readings.  But father was furious; left home and reported me to the police. I was arrested at home at 11:00pm…

Three policemen hit me with belts, kicked me with jackboots and tortured me with electric shocks at the Azadi police station in Erbil. I felt unconscious and whenever I tried to open my eyes, they insulted me, spat on me and beat me until I was unconscious again…

I attended a trial, but the judge insulted me. I talked about the right to free speech, he replied shouting that there is no place on earth for disgraceful infidels like me.”