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

02.05.22

Security forces in the Iraqi Kurdistan region continue to commit violations against civil society activists and journalists, as well as clerics and other citizens, who criticise the performance of the local government, or express their opinions in various media and social media. The security authorities violate freedom of opinion and expression, and throw those with dissenting opinions into security prisons without trials. Many young activists have spent more than a year in detention, without being brought to trial or allowed lawyers to defend them. This periodic report issued by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) deals with a large number of violations that occurred during the past three months, including the imprisonment and murder of women human rights defenders.

Woman human rights defender murdered

On 06 March 2022, 20-year-old woman human rights defender and Internet activist Eman Sami Magdeed, known as (Mari Sam), was murdered in the city of Erbil by her brother and uncle, because of her peaceful activities such as her defence of women’s rights in Iraq on social media networks, including her Facebook page. Her death came two days before International Women's Day.

She was suffering from the hard psychological effects of her forced early marriage at the age of 12, which ended in divorce by her will. She has also been threatened with death several times for her posts, specifically defending women’s rights.

Days before her murder, Magdeed wrote on Facebook, "I read and suffer for the human being, for the oppressor and the oppressed, I suffer for the lack of love and sacrifice." She also wrote, "I am not afraid of pain, because it is always a part of me.” In her third Facebook post in August 2021 she wrote, "I believe that humans will always suffer at the hands of other humans."

GCHR mourns the untimely death of human rights defender Eman Sami Magdeed and shares the deep sorrow and grief with all her fans, and calls on the local authorities to take the necessary legal measures to bring the perpetrators to trial. The Kurdistan Regional Government should make every effort at all levels to ensure that all women are fully protected.

Civil society activist sentenced to two years in prison 

On 06 March 2022, the Criminal Court in the city of Erbil sentenced civil society activist Berivan Ayoub Hasan Dershi to two years in prison, after convicting her of charges that include allegedly insulting the Kurdistan Region, endangering its security, and calling on citizens to demonstrate. A member of the defense team for the detainees of the Badinan region (in Dohuk), lawyer Bashar Abdulrahman, stated in a press conference in front of the court building, "The documents presented by the security authorities to convict the defendant were weak, but unfortunately the court has convicted her." He added, "Nevertheless, we will appeal against her sentence." He explained that, "six months of the sentence was calculated for the conditional release, and she spent one year and five months in prison, so she has one month left of her sentence."

It is noteworthy that the trial was attended by representatives of the Kurdistan Parliament, representatives of diplomatic bodies in the region, the head of the Human Rights Commission, and organisations defending the rights of journalists.

Dershi, a 36-year-old mother of five who participated in the 2020 demonstrations in Dohuk Governorate, was arrested on 13 October 2020. She has not been released yet.

Two civil society activists and Syrian citizen arrested

On 13 February 2022, security forces in the Shiladze sub-district of Dohuk Governorate arrested a young civil society activist, Nawzad Mustafa Islam Dosky, on charges of participating in demonstrations and criticising the local government and mismanagement in the area. Also, on 15 February 2022, young Syrian citizen Youssef Shukr Suri, a resident of Shiladze who was working legally there, was arrested. The reason for his arrest and the place of his detention are not yet known.

On 10 March 2022, anti-terror forces arrested civil society activist Sohaib Rikani in Shiladze, and took him to an unknown destination. He did not know the reason for his arrest, but he is an activist on social media, and he declared his solidarity with the activists arrested by the security forces.

Civil society activists prevented from conducting peaceful activism