Journalists, activists in Duhok denied rights by hypocritical authorities: New Generation MP

New Generation lawmaker in the Kurdistan Parliament Mzhda Mahmoud (NRT Digital Media)

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SULAIMANI — New Generation lawmaker in the Kurdistan Parliament Mzhda Mahmoud on Tuesday (May 11) alleged hypocrisy on the part of senior officials in the Kurdistan Region for criticizing federal authorities for their mistreatment of protesters in central and southern Iraq, while cracking down on demonstrations in the Region.

Mahmoud said in a post on Facebook that journalists and activists in Duhok are treated like terrorists and imprisoned for criticizing the ruling authorities.

On Tuesday, Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani said in a tweet that he condemns continued threats and intimidation of protesters in Iraq.

“A limit must be set to it and the perpetrators must be brought to justice,” he said in a tweet.

While human rights abuses are common across Iraq, observers have expressed increasing alarm about the deteriorating rights situation in the Kurdistan Region.

“Also worrisome: the developments in the Kurdistan Region in the past year. These developments give rise to concern about the active curtailment of free expression,” Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert also said on Tuesday during a briefing to the UN Security Council.

“Critics of public authorities have risked not only intimidation, movement restrictions and arbitrary arrest, but some were also charged with defamation, and others, more recently, were prosecuted under national security laws,” she added.

As referenced by Hennis-Plasschaert, this perception has become embodied in the politically motivated prosecution of five journalists and activists from Erbil and Duhok, who were controversially sentenced to six years in prison in February for allegedly undermining state security. An appeals court upheld their convictions last week.

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).

They strongly denied the charges and said that some statements admitted by the court contained things that they never said or were elicited using coercion.

Mahmoud said that the journalists and activists were being deprived of basic civil rights, including access to lawyers and family visitation.

Beyond KDP-held areas, seven protesters were killed by the security forces in Sulaimani governorate during youth-driven protests in December.

She added that Barzani and the ruling families “do not have to worry about the demonstrators in Iraqi areas. You martyr the demonstrators on the street and if people try to protest, you arrest them.”

(NRT Digital Media)