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


The local government in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq continues to commit serious violations of the civil and human rights of citizens, including civil society activists, journalists, academics and protesters. The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) documents violations from the past three months in this periodic report, and calls on local authorities to work hard to respect public freedoms, including freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful demonstration, and freedom of the press. 

Organiser of University demonstrations arrested

On 13 May 2022, Zangin Abubakr, a teacher at Sulaymaniyah University (photo above), was arrested by the security forces near his home in the city of Sulaymaniyah, on charges of organising university demonstrations. The demonstrations (main photo on top) included professors and university employees, who were protesting the delay in their salaries and the neglect of their rights by the local government. It is noteworthy that Abubakr has closed the main entrance to the university, calling on its members to boycott work hours. He was released two days after his arrest. Abubakr uses his Facebook page to express his personal views and defend prisoners of conscience in the Kurdistan Region. 

Doctor arrested for expressing his opinions

On 24 August 22022, Dr. Hazar Maarouf, a neuroscientist, was detained at Azmar Police Station, due to a complaint filed against him by the Sulaymaniyah Health Directorate, following an article he published in which he expressed his views on what is happening in Sulaymaniyah Teaching Hospital. He was released on bail after several hours of detention, awaiting trial on an charge of alleged defamation. 

Arrest of a number of civil society activists for their role in the demonstrations

On 22 August 2022, the security forces in the city of Erbil arrested five civil society activists, Saber Zindi, Laysan Bakr, Hawari Kurdi, Hooker Birbal and Murad Salie on charges of organising and participating in popular demonstrations to condemn the Turkish attacks on civilians and tourists, including the attack that took place on 20 July 2022, when fierce artillery bombarded a tourist resort in the village of Barkh, located in Zakho district, Dohuk Governorate, killing nine citizens and wounding more than 23 people, including women and children.

One day later, all of them were released, except for Murad Salie, who was released on 16 August 2022, after 25 days of detention, while Hooker Birbal's fate is still unknown.