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Open letter alleges detained activists, journalists held in dangerous conditions by Asayish in Duhok

Says more than 150 were taken into custody
General view of Duhok city (File)
2020-08-25

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SULAIMANI — A group of journalists and activists in Duhok governorate on Tuesday (August 25) published an open letter addressed to the prosecutor general calling for the immediate release of those who were detained by the local security forces in an attempt to quash protests in the governorate.

“Since August 13, the Kurdistan Democratic Party [KDP] has arrested tens of civilians and journalists in the governorate through its security apparatus in an undemocratic manner outside of the operative laws,” the letter said, alleging that approximately 145 people were arrested in the crackdown. It said that it was not clear how many have been released as of Tuesday.

Among those who remain in detention is NRT reporter Ahmad Zakhoy, who was arrested early on Thursday morning.

“These mass arrests were done without a court order and journalists, activists, and teachers have been savagely detained without the presence of any crime,” it continued.

“Their families and lawyers are not allowed to meet with the prisoners, which poses a threat to the democratic process in Duhok governorate and the Kurdistan Region in general.”

Since August 12, protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets in cities and towns in the Kurdistan Region to voice their frustration about deteriorating economic conditions and the government’s failure to pay public sector salaries on time and in full or provide reliable public services, like electricity and water.

Late on August 19, truckers angry at a decision by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to allow Turkish truckers to enter the Region sparked a demonstration at the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing in Duhok’s Zakho town, which was violently broken up by the local security forces, who are affiliated with the KDP.

NRT reporter Ahmad Zakhoy was prevented from covering the protests on site and was arrested at his home in Zakho the following morning. Over the course of August 20, KDP security forces closed down NRT’s offices in Erbil and Duhok because of its coverage of the protests.

In response to calls for subsequent demonstrations on August 22, the security forces in Duhok used preemptive arrests to prevent people from gathering.

The letter also raised concerns about the conditions in which detainees are being held, as voiced by some who have already been released. NRT could not independently confirm the reports.

“The health of the detainees is in danger,” the letter said. “They have not been provided with water and food for four days and they were in a room with poor ventilation at the Asayish [office] in Zakho district.”

“Additionally, the prisoners have been abused,” it alleged, specifically naming NRT reporter Ahmad Zakhoy and Jangiz Sindi as people who have been beaten.

Late on Monday, a member of the New Generation Movement was released from custody and taken to a local hospital after his health had deteriorated.

“Asayish in Duhok governorate summoned people and civil activists and forced them to fill out certificates of silence after being threatened… [the Asayish] summoned seven organizations regarding a gathering on August 21 and later it arrested teacher Dilshad Guhari. His fate is unknown,” the statement added.

(NRT Digital Media)