Even at nine in the morning on a Friday, when most of us would normally be counting down to the weekend, the energy in the Foundry in Washington, DC is phenomenal. In the sunshine outside, groups color flags in support of Filep Karma, while inside roses and key actions are passed around for signatures. Larry Cox hasn’t even arrived yet, and everyone is already buzzing with excitement.
By the time everyone has settled inside for the opening speeches, the count is well over one hundred Amnesty International activists. The various speakers infect the crowd with even more passion and anticipation, reaching a pinnacle when Larry announces that he has decided that joining us for Get on the Bus is more important than going home to meet with the IRS.
The group splits, half heading to demonstrate for the Women of Zimbabwe (WoZA) at the Zimbabwe Embassy and half for Walid Yunis Ahmad at the Iraqi Consulate. We march in long ovals, chanting and holding our signs, the very picture of peaceful protest. At the Iraqi Consulate, faces peer out from the windows and passers by stop to watch.
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:
Walid Yunis Ahmad is quite possibly the longest serving detainee in Iraq. He is a member of the marginalized Turkoman minority and has been imprisoned in Irbil, Northern Iraq, without charge or trial for more than ten years.
Walid was detained by Kurdish security forces in February 2000 after he was given a lift in a car that allegedly contained explosives. Although the driver of the car was released within three months, Walid remains locked up more than a decade later.
For the first three years after his detention Walid’s family received no official notification of his arrest and believed he had simply disappeared.
During these early years of confinement, Walid was tortured, held in solitary confinement and transferred from prison to prison until he finally ended up in the cells of the Kurdish security police headquarters, where he remains to this day.
Walid told Amnesty International delegates who visited him last June:
“I haven’t seen my children for 10 years. I did not want to see them in this terrible predicament.”
In response to our new report detailing the plight of about 30,000 Iraqis imprisoned without trial, Aljazeera spoke to Talib Alhamdani, of the Iraqi Council of Ministers; Malcolm Smart, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International, and David Pollock, Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Watch Aljazeera’s Inside Iraq as the discussion unfolds:
Inside Iraq includes a clip from a press conference in which Dara Nourredine, Iraqi justice minister, said, “Gone are the days when prisoners are treated inhumanely.” This was in July of this year, after the transfer of Iraqi prisoners from Camp Cropper to the Iraqi authorities. “We no longer have any detainees in Iraq without proper warrant,” said Wijdan Salim, Iraq’s human rights minister. However Talib Alhamadani admitted during the interview with Aljazeera that prisoner abuse does take place.
Alhamdani told Aljazeera, “We need to change the culture of oppression.” He also said that the Iraqi government will study the report, investigate the allegations with the Justice Department and the Security Council, and hold the necessary trainings.
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.