Teachers, activists in Sulaimani governorate protest in support of Badinan detainees

Call on authorities to release them as soon as possible
A protester holds a sign at a protest in Sulaimani city on May 13, 2021 (NRT Digital Media/Winthrop Rodgers)

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SULAIMANI — Members of the Dissatisfied Teacher Council and activists held demonstrations on Thursday (May 13) in Sulaimani city, Kalar, and Ranya in support of the dozens of journalists, activists, and ordinary citizens who were arrested in Duhok last year and remain behind bars.

Teacher and organizer Adil Hassan said during a press conference that the recent decision to uphold the convictions of five journalists and activists was politically motivated, arguing that they had been tried unfairly.

On May 6, the Kurdistan Region’s Court of Cassation in Erbil denied the appeal of journalists Sherwan Sherwani, Guhdar Zebari, and Ayaz Karam and activists Shvan Saeed Omar and Hariwan Issa against their conviction in February for allegedly attempting to undermine the security of the state. They were each sentenced to six years in prison.

All five defendants were arrested last autumn as part of a crackdown on protest organizers and journalists by the security forces in Duhok, which are affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

“The conviction should be annulled, whether by the [Kurdistan] Region president or the Kurdistan Region’s Court of Appeals,” he said.

He said that the detainees who have not been tried yet have been held illegally for nearly nine months and called for their release as soon as possible.

Among those still in prison is teacher Badal Barwari. Standing in solidarity with him, some of the protesters in Sulaimani city held a banner saying that they would “not leave our chivalrous colleague alone.”

He said the authorities will put the whole political process in the Region in danger if they continue their “stubbornness,” adding that they should listen to the messages of the United Nations, the European Union, and foreign consulates, which have all expressed concern about developments over the past year.

The trial and sentences have been widely criticized by human rights groups and press freedom watchdogs as symbolic of deteriorating freedom of expression and the press in the Kurdistan Region.

(NRT Digital Media)