Journalist in Duhok flees to Sulaimani after threats from security forces

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — A Kurdish journalist from Duhok on Tuesday said he had been threatened by the security forces and faced detention attempts. 

“The freedom of expression is restricted in Duhok province, journalists and activists struggle to live in safety and express opinions,” Vger Nehli, a journalist from the city of Duhok told Esta Media Network.

Nehli revealed that the security forces “attacked” his house in Duhok after publishing some content on social media.

“I have criticized the crises and issues of Duhok and the Kurdistan Region via social media, demonstrating the problems,” he said.

However, “It resulted in attacking my house by the security forces and attempts to detain me,” he added.

Moreover, Nehil said he had been summoned by the security forces without any explanation, saying “So far, no one has told me why I had been summoned by the security forces because I have not done any offense.”

“I believe that hundred percent the subject is political rather than legal.”

Nehil has fled to Sulaimani, adding “I want to get rid of what happened to Badinan prisoners.”

In 2021, journalists Sherwan Sherwani, Guhdar Zebari, and Ayaz Karam as well as activists Shvan Omer and Hariwan Issa were detained by the security forces in Duhok province known as Badinan prisoners today.

Feb. 2021, Erbil criminal court sentenced Badinan prisoners to six years in prison on the alleged national security charges. They have been accused of “espionage” and “undermining” national security.

In the meantime, an official on Tuesday announced that the freedom of expression has been completely restricted in the Kurdistan Region, warning of the situation of journalism.

“The journalism career in the Kurdistan Region has stepped into a dangerous stage and the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression have been completely restricted,” Bzhar Hakim, an official in the Journalists Syndicate said.

“The violations are increasing day after a day,” he added.

Moreover, the U.S. Consul General in Erbil had recently expressed “concern” on backsliding human rights as well as the freedom of expression in the Kurdistan Region.

“If we want to be a real partner of the Kurdistan Region we must say the truth,” said U.S. Consul General Irvin Hicks JR recently amid a televised program.

“The U.S. believes that journalists must be able to be allowed and deliver the news without fear, intimidation, harassment, and vengeance, he added. “In some parts of Kurdistan, we see an irritating backslide in rights of components and we are concerned.”

In January, Erbil-based Peace and Freedom organization in a press conference released a report concerning the violation of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.

The watchdog’s report revealed that the situation of freedom of expression needs swift actions by the executive and legislative institutions in the Kurdistan Region.

Meanwhile, the watchdog in the report stated that they have recorded more than 250 violations against the freedom of expression during the last year.

Moreover, Ayhan Saeed, human rights observer and a representative for Badinan detainees announced on Friday “We suspect that Badinain prisoners are being subjected to bioterrorism in the prison” he said in a statement.

“Instead of reviewing the [prisoners’] situation, today a mentally ill group within the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) who suffers from sadism interfere in the court’s affairs by the order of the Prime Minister against the prisoners,” Saedd added in the statement.

“This process is undergoing under the rule of the police-minded dogmatic ninth cabinet of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) which is quite illegal and undemocratic, resulting in a local and international outcry.”


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