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Protest over the murder of journalists and civil society activists in Kurdistan

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​Civil society activists and journalists are facing severe repression in Kurdistan - now activists are asking for solidarity from Scots

Scottish civil society is being asked to stand with Kurdish human rights activists and reporters in the face of state-sponsored torture and murder.

Hundreds of people have been killed for speaking out about and exposing corruption in areas of Kurdistan currently in Turkey and Iraq.

Journalists have been a particular target, with the Metro Centre, an independent organisation specialising in the rights of reporters, documenting 145 cases involving the harassment, beating or assassination of journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2015 alone.

Campaigners held a vigil in Glasgow’s George Square recently over the plight of journalists who have been killed in the Kurdish part of Iraq.

The murder of Wedat, is another episode of the seemingly never ending cycle of killings, harassment, beating, intimidation and arbitrary detention of journalists

In particular, they highlighted the case of Wedat Hussain Ali, a young journalist from Duhok in Iraqi Kurdistan.

On 13 August, the 28-year-old RojNews Agency reporter was kidnapped and murdered, his body dumped on the street.

It is believed he had been investigating links between the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and so-called Islamic State, as well as links between the KDP and the Turkish regime and corruption in the oil industry.

His agency is thought to have links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) which opposes the KDP in Iraq and Recip Erdogan’s government in south-east Turkey.

The killing and harassment of journalists is the thin end of a brutal wedge which extends to the suppression of human rights and pro-democracy activists.

Scots Kurdish activists are now calling on civil society groups here to amplify their calls for an independent investigation into the killings and to keep the spotlight on what’s happening in Kurdistan.

Goran Abdulla spoke at the Glasgow vigil. He said: “The murder of Wedat, is another episode of the seemingly never ending cycle of killings, harassment, beating, intimidation and arbitrary detention of journalists in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

“The murder of journalists such as Sardasht Othman, Soran Mama Hama, Kawa Garmiani are only examples of numerous cases of assassinations, beatings and harassment against journalists.

“We have every reason to believe that the KDP of Masoud Barzani, is the prime suspect behind the assassination of Wedat Hussain. The KDP is the ruling party in Duhok governorate. It control all aspects of politics and life in Duhok, including security and intelligence.

“Wedat, as many of the other killed and harassed journalists, was fearless in exposing and investigating sensitive political matters that the KDP found embarrassing.”

The Kurdish activists have been backed by the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Scotland.

Scottish organiser Paul Holleran said: “We have a duty as journalists and trade unionists to stand with those who are risking everything in the name of press freedom.

“We have now accessed information from the International Federation of Journalists regarding specific complaints from Kurdish and Turkish journalists who had been arrested, tortured and stopped from doing their jobs.

“I will be taking steps to contact the Turkish Embassy to submit a formal complaint from the NUJ in Scotland.”

Abdulla welcomed the NUJ’s backing, but urged Scottish civil society groups to join in condemning the deaths.

Reporters Without Borders places Iraq at 158 and Turkey at 151 in its 180-strong league table of countries which violate press freedoms.

It said: “The regional context – the war in Syria and Turkey’s offensive against the PKK Kurds – is exacerbating the pressure on the media, which are also accused of “terrorism.” The media and civil society are nonetheless resisting Erdogan’s growing authoritarianism.”