General: Iraqi Kurdistan: GCHR’s periodic report on human rights violations in the Kurdistan Region

14.02.21

During the past year, popular mass demonstrations took place across the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, in which people from all walks of life participated, especially employees and those with limited income, to protest against poor living conditions, delayed payments to employees of benefits and salaries, the continuation of the financial crisis, and rampant corruption in the region. The security authorities in the Kurdistan Region, especially in the Governorates of Erbil and Dohuk, have subsequently arrested dozens of teachers, journalists, and civil society activists. A large group of them remain in prison months after their arrest, according to research by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR).

One of the most prominent cases of arrest is that of teacher and civil society activist Badal Abdulbaqi Barwari, who was arrested on 18 August 2020 with a group of other activists in Dohuk Governorate. They were charged with a serious charge related to the safety of the state in accordance with Article (156) of the Iraqi Penal Code No. (111) of 1969 which states: “A person who willfully commits an act with intent to prejudice the independence, unity, or territorial integrity of the country and the act that leads to that shall be punished with death.)

The arrests did not stop in 2021, as the security authorities in the Governorates of Erbil and Dohuk continued to arrest civil society activists, beat them, and persecute them by various means.

On the night of 19 January 2021, civil society activist Hawri Kurdi was attacked in the city of Erbil, where he was lightly injured and subsequently taken to the hospital. According to reliable information, the assailants robbed his mobile phone and money. He is expected to file a complaint against the assailants.

Kurdi has a history of organising and participating in most of the civil activities against the Turkish occupation in the cities of Afrin and Sri Kanye in Syrian Kurdistan and the attacks on some areas of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, as well as the various protests and activities against corruption. Kurdi worked in a guard unit in Erbil until he was dismissed from his job last year by the head of the unit in which he was working. Since 2017, he has been receiving repeated threats from members of the security sections of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), due to his critical writings on his Facebook page.

On the morning of 27 January 2021, the security forces arrested photojournalist and civil society activist Qahraman Shukri Rikani in front of his family at his home in the Shiladze sub-district of Amadiya district in Dohuk Governorate, and took him to an unknown destination, after confiscating all his personal belongings, including his mobile phone, books and other devices. It is the second time that Rikani has been arrested. He was previously arrested last June 2020 for his peaceful media activities and his coverage of the demonstrations in Shiladze that started due to the deterioration of living conditions in the region, in addition to the demand for salaries of employees and an end to corruption. Rikani uses his Facebook page to support popular protests and call for the release of prisoners of conscience.