General: Iraqi Kurdistan: Local authorities must release all detained activists and peaceful protesters


The local authorities in Dohuk Governorate continue their systematic targeting of citizens, including various activists who are exercising their constitutional right to peacefully demonstrate and express their views publicly. During public demonstrations, protesters have demanded an end to the rampant corruption in the Kurdistan region of Iraq and rejected the regional government's decision to cut 21% of employees' salaries, which have not been paid for more than six months. They also called for the formation of an independent election commission in Iraqi Kurdistan under the auspices of the United Nations.

On 07 September 2020, Asayish (Internal Security) forces in the city of Dohuk arrested teacher and activist Sulaiman Mousa (photo on the left), and activist and teacher Sulaiman Kamal Zebari (photo in the middle). On 25 August 2020, they also arrested activist Masoud Sinjari (photo on the right). Reliable local reports confirmed that the only main reason for their arrest was their strong participation in the peaceful popular demonstrations that took place in various parts of Iraqi Kurdistan recently.

Also, on 06 September 2020, Asayish forces arrested three young internet activists in the city of Dohuk for publishing their opinions on Facebook and defending citizens' civil and human rights. They are Bindawar Ayoub Rashid (photo on the left), Bahlawan Adel Banavi (photo in the middle) and Karker Abbas Rustinki (photo on the right). Some activists from Dohuk Governorate stated that the reason for their arrest is that they publish opinions contrary to the views of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and due to their desire to form an electoral bloc to participate in the upcoming elections in cooperation with Mousa, Zebari and Sinjari.

Meanwhile, teacher and activist Badal Abdulbaghi Barwari (photo on the left), teacher and activist Dilshad Koharzi (photo in the middle), teacher and activist Saleh Abduljabbar Dosky and activist Omid Brushki (photo on the right) remain in detention after Asayish forces arrested them on the evening of 18 August 2020, after raiding their homes in Dohuk city.

On 27 June 2020, Asayish forces in the Shiladzi region arrested photojournalist Qaraman Shukri (photo above) from his home without a court order after a demonstration in the area condemning the authorities' silence on the attack carried out by Turkish aircraft on 19 June 2020, which killed six civilians. The authorities had previously detained Shukri for three weeks last year after his participation in protests in Shiladzi condemning Turkish aggression, which at that time resulted in the death and injury of a number of civilians.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has received credible reports confirming that Asayish forces continue to arbitrarily people without a judicial order and place detainees in prisons that lack health care and cleanliness at a time when the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is spreading, which puts the lives of the detainees at imminent risk.

Once again, GCHR denounces in the strongest terms all the arbitrary measures taken by the authorities in the Kurdistan region. The Kurdistan Regional Government should immediately and unconditionally release all detained teachers, activists, journalists and peaceful protesters. The authorities must fulfil their constitutional obligations not to violate public freedoms, including freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press, which can be respected while protecting public health.