By Narim Rostam.
For lawyers working on sensitive cases, especially corruption cases, in Iraqi Kurdistan, death and other threats are just part of the job.
On New Year’s Eve in the district of Bakhtiari, in Iraqi Kurdistan, there was gunfire at local lawyer Omar Tawfik’s house. But this hail of bullets was not celebratory. Tawfik believes he was targeted by unknown assailants and blames those who previously threatened him.
Tawfik received these threats because he was involved in a complex court case, that started in 2012 but has yet to be resolved, around corruption involving land sales and senior politicians and administrators. The case saw the arrest of the then-mayor of Sulaymaniyah, Zana Hama Salih, who died in mysterious circumstances while in custody.
Tawfik says he knew he would be threatened as a result of this case – even though he hasn’t been able to make much difference, he says.
The fact that those working in the legal profession are threatened is nothing new in Iraqi Kurdistan. However recently the frequency of the threats and attacks seems to have increased.
Last year, many local lawyers said at one time or another, that they were threatened. But not many of them want to chase those who harass them nor do they like disclosing the details of the threats. This is a worldwide phenomenon – lawyers are often threatened but they don’t often report the threats to the police.
In fact, details released by the Kurdistan Bar Association say that out of their 9,000 or so members, only 7 were threatened last year.