Deaths Of Journalists Undermine History Of Free Speech

In October 2013, gunmen in Sulaymaniyah shot and wounded Shaswar Abdul Wahid, the owner of the ART satellite station. PUK officials were again implicated but no suspects were arrested.

In December of the same year, gunmen killed journalist Kawa Karmiani at his home in the Kalar district, south of Sulaymaniyah. Most activists and journalists in the area accused a specific PUK official, who had previously threatened the journalist by phone. The conversation between the two was published. Again, a court did not sentence anyone.

In July this year, gunmen in the Qalat Daza town east of Sulaymaniyah shot a hail of bullets on cleric Ahmad Diri and killed him.  The reasons were apparently related to politics but security forces said the incident was caused by “a social problem.”

There have been dozens of such incidents in areas controlled by the PUK. None were ever resolved and none of the officials accused of standing behind them has been brought to justice.

Stifling criticism in both zones

In the past, Sulaymaniyah represented a safe haven for journalists, critics, and activists fleeing threats in the traditionally more repressive Erbil province.

Hayman Abdul Khaleq, an activist, was kidnapped in Erbil by gunmen who later on shaved his head and his eyebrows and expelled him from the city in September 2016. He now lives in Sulaymaniyah. The province has seen its own share of repression against media figures.

Soran Mama Hamma, a journalist, was reportedly assassinated in Kirkuk in 2008 and in 2010, Sardasht Othman, a journalist, was killed in Erbil.  In 2013 Kawa Karmiani, a journalist, was allegedly assassinated in Klar and in 2016, Wadat Hussein, a journalist, was killed in Dohuk. In November 2016, Hoshyar Ismail, a cleric, was, by many accounts, assassinated in Erbil and in July this year, Ahmad Diri, a cleric, was killed in Qalat Daza.

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