An urgent call for action by Christian Peacemaker Team Iraq (Newletter Feb 3, 2017) that the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative endorses. Take action, send emails and post on Facebook to protect this Human Rights Defender in Sulaymaniyah, who took part in the ICSSI Conference 2017!
Awat Hassan is a teacher, human rights defender and civil society activist. He was also a main organizer of the 110 day nonviolent teachers’ campaign in the city of Sulaimani, Iraqi Kurdistan. Awat and many his fellow teachers peacefully demonstrated demanding their full salaries be paid and asked the government to stop corruption in its institutions. As Awat became known, he also became a victim of a systematic campaign of harassment and threats by local security forces and other unnamed actors. During the protests Awat was unlawfully detained three times by the security forces and his car was burned in front of his house while his family slept inside the home. His nine year old daughter was also detained along with Awat while he was taking her to a sport club. The security forces took Awat and drove his daughter around in their car ultimately leaving her on the side of the road alone. Awat along with the other main organizers have ended their peaceful demonstrations due to immense pressure from the government and local security forces.
Awat says that he is puzzled by reactions of the security forces as he only organized peaceful demonstrations. Awat and other organizers worked hard to maintain the nonviolent nature of the demonstrations throughout the campaign. In of his speeches he said ‘’Even if they threaten or beat or kill us, we will never raise our hands towards the security forces as they are our brothers and sisters’’
Since the demonstrations ended, Awat and his family are scared for their lives due to continuous threats they receive from the security forces and other unnamed people and because it is not uncommon for journalists, religious leaders, and others expressing dissent within the region to be found dead. His children have also been traumatized by the experiences they have gone through.