On the morning of Sunday 31 January 2016, in front of the Kurdistan Region Parliament – Iraq, in its capital, Erbil, the leftist activist Ali Mahmoud, and 7 other well-known leftist activists, were subject to arbitrary arrest by security forces there. The activists had been demonstrating peacefully in protest against rampant corruption and the policy of austerity imposed by the government of Kurdistan, which resulted in a large number of employee salaries going unpaid since September of last year.
Although the Iraqi constitution, Iraqi laws, and the laws of the entire province of the Kurdistan Region guarantee the right of peaceful protest and demonstration, and prevent arbitrary detention, we are now seeing a direct violation of these laws. This violation comes in the broader context of continued peaceful protests within Iraq as a whole, and within the Kurdistan region in particular. There, groups of activists continue to demonstrate peacefully, calling for an end to government corruption, and requesting that workers and employees be paid the salaries they are entitled.
Iraqi civil society and civil society in Kurdistan are concerned about these incidents which so blatantly violate established rights, and we, in the Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI), share their concern. Freedom of expression and peaceful demonstration are guaranteed rights, both nationally and within recognized international standards. As such, they cannot be compromised. The current security situation, and the struggle against the extremist organization “Daesh” cannot be used as an excuse to suppress the freedom of Iraqis, and this includes the practice of arbitrary detention by security authorities in Kurdistan or in Iraq.
ICSSI calls on the Kurdistan Regional Government to release immediately the activist Ali Mahmoud and his colleagues, and to ensure the safety and freedom of all activists who engage in peaceful protest, and to take decisive action against security forces that detain or suppress the demonstrators.
International civil society is looking — with eyes wide open — into the developments in Kurdistan, where all hopes look forward in anticipation of a recovery from the economic and political crisis, and towards the enhancement of democratic institutions, the continued fight against corruption, and ever-increasing respect for human rights.
The ‘Civilized Dialogue’ website has launched a campaign to collect signatures under the title “Solidarity campaign with the leftist activist Ali Mahmoud and his colleagues, and demands to KRG authorities to release them and respect the freedoms of expression and opinion”.
The website asks for support for the campaign, and action at the level of the Kurdistan region, in Iraq, and at the international level.