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Ruthless blow to press freedom in Kurdistan:
The assassination of Soran Mama Hama

Kurdistan Democratic Alliance (KDA)
23 July 2008

On July 22, 2008, Soran Mama Hama, was assassinated at 9:00 am, it is a turning point for the freedom of expression in Kurdistan. It is the case that a high number of journalists have been assassinated in Kurdistan, but Soran Hama is the first one who was an active reporter for independent press in Kurdistan, reported to Livin and Hawlati.

Soran, as a young man of 23, had no enemies except his reports. He was assassinated for the reports that have been posted on free media and clearly linked Kurdish leadership to the protestation and corruption. The question that imposes itself is this: why other more prominent journalists where not targeted and why in Kirkuk.

Soran was a soft target, but a hard evidence for those journalists and civil activists who are critical of the Kurdish administration and clans and individuals within the political groups. Kirkuk was chosen because it is officially outside the Kurdish administration. However Soran was assassinated in a relatively secure quarter of Kirkuk, and most importantly the security dosser of Kirkuk is under the PUK and KDP control. The perpetrators spoke Kurdish with Soran.

These assassinations resemble the kidnappings and assassinations of journalists and intellectuals by the “deep state” in Turkey. If these crimes are not investigated and condemned a killing culture shall loom upon us. Like Turkey, we could see thousands of proponents of free speech killed or silenced.

There are a number of other journalists and civil activists who are in queue to be eliminated, which may include the staff working for Hawlati and Livin, and a high number of Diaspora journalists and activists who continuously visit Kurdistan.

Soran was not the only journalist of Livin who was persecuted. In May 2007, Ahmed Mira is the editor-in-chief of the bimonthly “Levin” magazine was called and threatened by the PUK Asayish after publishing a report on Jalal Talabani’s deteriorating health and the possible successor after his death.

On 05 March 2008, Abdul Sattar Taher Sharif, 74, served as a Labour minister in the 1970s under Saddam Hussein and later fled Iraq, settling here. The psychology professor's murder came 10 days after he was interviewed by Livin in which he criticised Kurdish leaders and revealed some embarrassing facts about Talabani, the PUK leader, and Barzani, he KDP, leader.

The perpetrators may not yet be known, but the pattern is clear, silencing Livin. The pressure was not on Livin only.

Another courageous journalist Nebaz Goran, who lives and works in Arbil, on 03 April 2007, was kidnapped by a group of armed men in the KDP Asayish uniform and taken to a remote area, where he was badly beaten. He was also warned not to write critically on any of the Kurdish officials.

Around 22 January 2007, Mohammed Siyassi Ashkani of Pega newspaper in the town of Rania, province of Sulaimaniya, was detained at his home by members of the PUK Asayish, and transferred to an unknown location in the city of Sulemani. The reasons for his arrest are not known and his family have been unable to obtain any information about him. Mohammed Siyassi Ashkani has been held incommunicado for over a year by PUK Asayish. The reasons for his detention are not known. Amnesty International claims, he is at risk of torture or ill-treatment.

Rahman Garib is a journalist based on Sulemani province and a member of the Kurdistan Communist Party. He claims that he was threatened by a Kurdish official for naming him as a corrupt politician on TV.

In March 2007, The Kurdish Radio Nawa reported that the Arbil reporter of Al-Sumaryah TV was kidnapped by unknown men in Arbil for reasons unknown so far.

On 17 March 2006, PUK Asayish arrested Hawez Hawezi, a 31-year-old high school teacher, who also writes for the independent Kurdish biweekly Hawlati, at his home in Koya.

Very recently, on July 2, 2008, two journalists from Hawlati, were humiliated and banned by Parastin agents from entering Barzan region.

These are only a handful of murder and persecution of media professionals by Kurdish groups in Kurdistan region.

The assassination of Soran must not go without revealing the identity of perpetrators and those who are behind them. This is a serious threat to the freedom and freedom of expression in Kurdistan.

Those believe who can get away with murdering civil activists and media professional in order to cover up for their corruption and human rights violations are seriously miscalculating.

No organisation is in a position to investigate these brutal crimes in Kurdistan, fearing for the lives of their members. For the sake of saving freedom of expression in Kurdistan and in the region, an international body must take the responsibility for investigating into these persecutions and assassinations.

If the United States and Britain, as stakeholder in Kurdistan and Iraq, keep a blind eye on these criminal acts, they will be regarded as irrelevant to the case of democratic principles, the main goal for which they claim to achieve the country.

We draw attention to the fact that for a while the KRG and the main Kurdish political parties (the KDP and PUK) have clearly voiced their discontent with the free press, and are trying to bring it under the partisan umbrella, using the policy of sticks and carrots to end free press in Kurdistan.

The Kurds have sacrificed thousands of their children to get to this stage. They should not allow this relative freedom to be hijacked by certain people who have put their own personal interests above the interests of the Kurdish people.

Comments should be sent to: km@ikurd.com

Kurdistan Democratic Alliance (KDA)
23 July 2008