It’s rare to hear Iraq described as “heaven,” but that is how a Christian Iraqi described his hometown in northern Kurdistan after returning to the US from a trip to visit his family there. Electricity, food and clean water are in abundance, and Christians live in peace with their Kurdish neighbors.
In his speech last week, President Obama stressed the United States’ support for universal rights, including the freedom of religion “whether you live in Baghdad or Damascus; Sanaa or Tehran.”
Later in his speech, he presented Iraq as an example of how other countries in the Middle East should proceed:
“In Iraq, we see the promise of a multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian democracy. There, the Iraqi people have rejected the perils of political violence for a democratic process, even as they have taken full responsibility for their own security. Like all new democracies, they will face setbacks. But Iraq is poised to play a key role in the region if it continues its peaceful progress.”
This tragedy is compounded by the fact that the Iranian authorities continue to refuse to turn over his body to his grieving family for proper burial. Meanwhile, at least sixteen other Kurdish activists remain at imminent risk of execution in Iran.
Farzad Kamangar was arrested by Ministry of Intelligence officials along with two other members of the Kurdish minority, Ali Heydariyan and Farhad Vakili, in Tehran around July 2006. The three men were sentenced to death on 25 February 2008 after being convicted of Moharebeh (enmity against God) in connection with their alleged membership in the armed group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
Walid Yunis Ahmad, a Turkomen and father of three children who worked at a radio station, has been detained without charge in the Kurdistan region of Iraq since 2000. He was “disappeared” for three years and tortured. February 6th is the 11th anniversary of his detention.
Recently we learned that Walid Yunis Ahmad has been charged, nearly 11 years after his arrest, for terrorism-related crimes which, implausibly, he is alleged to have committed from his prison cell. His lawyer believes the charges have been fabricated.
Walid Yunis Ahmad now faces the possibility of an unfair trial that could result in the death penalty.
We need your help to flood the Kurdish Regional authorities with Tweets, emails and letters on or around February 6th, urging them to ensure that Walid Yunis Ahmad receives a fair trial, without recourse to the death penalty. Here’s what you can do:
Amnesty International released a new report on Iraq today: New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful Detentions and Torture in Iraq. After the United States’ withdrawal from Iraq, the majority of Iraqi prisoners captured by the US army have been transferred to Iraqi custody, joining those who were in jails before the US invasion and others who were captured by the Iraqi security forces after 2003.
Many prisoners have not gone on trial and as a result have no charges against them. Others have release orders that have not been enforced. Thousands have been tortured, held incommunicado and have no access to their lawyers. Their families were not informed of their detentions or allowed to visit.
In the Kurdistan region of Iraq, which is run by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and where the security situation has generally been better than in the rest of Iraq, similar abuses have been reported.
For example, Walid Yunis Ahmad has been detained without trial for ten years. He was arrested by men in civilian clothes, believed to be Asayish officials, on an Erbil street on 6 February 2000. He disappeared. His relatives began looking for him and sought information from the authorities but they received none. Three years later his family learned that he had been detained and discovered his whereabouts, when they were notified that he was being held at the Erbil headquarters of the Asayish, where they were then able to visit him.
Walid Yunis Ahmad had worked for a local radio and TV station linked to the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan. He was held in solitary confinement and probably tortured. When his family visited him on 23 November 2008 they found him in poor health following a 45-day hunger strike. At the end of March 2010 he was questioned twice and told that he was accused of trying to revive Ansar al-Islam from prison and that he is considered a danger to the security of the Kurdistan region. On 1 April 2010, he was questioned about his past activities with a legal Islamist political party, the Kurdistan Islamic Union. The Director of the Asayish in Erbil told Amnesty International delegates that Walid Yunis Ahmad was “too dangerous to be freed” but gave no details.
Please urge the Kurdistan government to give Walid Yunis Ahmad and other prisoners a fair trial, to investigate allegations of torture and to release those who have release orders. You can also order pre-addressed postcard actions that you can mail on behalf of Walid Yunis Ahmad by sending your mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit Amnesty International’s page on human rights in Iraq for further information and to take action on other human rights issues in Iraq.
Action for Human Rights. Hope for Humanity.