No trace of Sherwan Sherwani's whereabouts 10 days after his arrest

16-10-2020 07:36
Campaign to release Sherwan Sherwani and others imprisoned in Bahdinan region – Baghdad – Council of Representatives of Iraq


10 days after his arrest by security forces, the whereabouts of journalist and civil rights activist Sherwan Sherwani is unknown to his family and lawyer. Kurdish MPs in Baghdad held a campaign calling for the journalist’s release and others imprisoned in Kurdistan’s Bahdinan region.

“During the first phase we initiated an awareness campaign for the MPs as the political factions were not well-informed of the case. In the second phase of the campaign we held a press conference, and for the upcoming phases, we will appeal to Council of Representatives of Iraq to a session dedicated to human rights violations in the Kurdistan Region,” Sarkawt Shamsaddin, a Kurdish MP in Baghdad, told Peregraf regarding their campaign.

Sherwani was arrested on October 7, 2020 at his home in Erbil. The journalist’s lawyer, Harem Rafa’at, told Peregraf, “we have taken legal actions for his dossier, but we haven’t as yet seen him or his papers. His whereabouts is unknown, our legal actions to meet him have come to nothing.”

Sherwani’s wife, Rwgash Izzadin, reaffirmed “we don’t know where he is yet or what it is he’s charged with”, she also mentioned “Erbil’s security has told the lawyer that Sherwan is not with them. The judge first said he is in Erbil but now says he is in Duhok. Over the past two days it’s said that he is moved out of Duhok.”

Three days after his arrest, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Coordinator for International Advocacy, Dindar Zebari, accused Sherwani of “receiving foreign funds to create unrest, insulting officials and personnel of certain social status, turning the peaceful protests into violence, as well as threatening judges.”

Sherwani’s lawyer in respond to those allegation stated, “We have no knowledge on Dindari’s accusations.” However, Sherwani’s wife called the KRG’s International Advocacy Coordinator’s allegations “groundless” and said “these accusations are intended to whitewash the act of raiding our home.”

“Dindar Zebari said my husband was arrested in Duhok, but that’s not true, my husband was arrested in our home” Rwgash Izzadin told Peregraf. On top of that, she is firmly believes that her husband “will not confess to something he hasn’t done even if under pressure.”

On the following phase at the Iraqi parliament, Sarkawt Shamsadin said “we are preoccupied with passing a bill to establish a human rights court for violating human rights in Iraq and KRG. Also we are preparing a memorandum to prevent those who are involved in hurting journalists and activists.”

The MP also stated their campaign “to support those imprisoned and kidnapped in Duhok province, received solidarity from MPs of all the political factions but the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).”

On the evening of October 10, 2020 journalist and civil rights activist Sherwan Sherwani was arrested in his home in Erbil by local security forces. In defiance of the legal proceedings, his lawyer and family are in the dark about where the journalist is held or what he is charged with.

According to Rwgash Izzadin, the security force was not exactly violent when arresting him, but they shoved her to the kitchen and told her to “sit there and be quiet”. Sherwani’s wife also stated she was presented an arrest warrant “handwritten in Arabic, signed with the judge’s name on it” but said the charges were not present in the warrant. The security forces turned up in six vehicles, “two police cars, two state cars and two private cars.”

Harem Raf’at Abdullah, Sherwani’s lawyer, stated that “arresting the journalist was not legal”. He mentions that “legally the accused is charged then called to court by a judge, if he is to be arrested the lawyer should be present when he is tried, but we still don’t know where he is detained.” Raf’at also told Peregraf “whereabouts of the detainee should be known, with their lawyers present during investigations, their families should know why they are charged and where they are held, but we haven’t received any response from security.”

Arresting journalist Sherwan Sherwani follows as campaigns were held by teachers and civil rights activists against arresting journalists in Duhok province.

According to a report published by Peregraf, during August about 100 journalists were arrested only in one week in Bahdinan region.

As stated by the youth of Duhok, what happened was an arbitrary arrest, as police clamp down on people without authorization.

“What is going down in Bahdinan are not acts of legal detention, they’re arbitrary arrests, as dozens of journalists and activists are detained without an authorized warrant,” said Aihan Saaid, journalist and activist in Bahdinan.

According to a Peregraf coverage, Duhok’s security forces use direct and indirect methods of threat to silence activists and protesters, especially those who express criticism on social media and call for protests.

Like other areas in Kurdistan Region, Bahdinan region has multiple political parties and activists, but only the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) dominates the area and wins the votes successively, despite a weak competition from The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and The Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU).