16 July 2012
IRAQI KURDISTAN: Reverberations
of an uprising
The father of a demonstrator killed last year in Iraqi
Kurdistan is working locally and internationally for freedom for those still in
prison and accountability for officials who have wrongfully detained, beaten,
tortured and killed people for participating in legitimate public witness.
On February 19, 2011, Iraqi Kurdistan security forces shot into a crowd of
demonstrators, killing Surkew, the teenaged son of Zahid Mahmoud Imam. Surkew
was on his way home from school when he joined the protest; security forces
shot him in the midsection. He died in the hospital later that day. It was the
third day of the Kurdish
Spring Uprisings in Sulaimani against corruption in the government.
Sixty-two days after the daily protests began,
security forces used tear gas on the crowds and burned down the stage in Azadi
(“Freedom”) Square, ending the demonstrations.
Ten people were killed during the demonstrations. Security
forces wounded and arrested hundreds of demonstrators, and beat and tortured
many of the detainees. “I was beaten up and still have breathing issues because
of the tear gas, and I have still problems in my back because of the beatings,”
said Zahid during an interview with CPT. “This happened even after my son was
|Zahid stands next to photo of a victim of repression
in Valentine’s Day action, Sulaimani, February 2012.
Over a year after the demonstrations ended, Zahid campaigns
on behalf of the still-imprisoned demonstrators and for the prosecution of
those who killed other demonstrators last year. “Until I will get to my goal [of
having those responsible prosecuted], I will continue until everyone knows
about the situation here.” He told CPT that he speaks out for the sake of “the
blood of my son who was murdered and all the others who were murdered.”
Zahid believes it will be more effective if he shares
his story outside the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Accepting an invitation from
the Swedish Green Party, he visited Sweden in April 2012. He met there with a group called the
17th of February, composed of Kurdish people who live in Sweden and are supportive of the demonstrations.
He also met with a Swedish government official
responsible for Middle East Foreign Affairs. Zahid told the official that some Kurdistan
Regional Government (KRG) authorities who have Swedish citizenship helped
people who had committed brutality leave the country. He asked him to freeze their
financial resources and launch investigations into the killings, beatings,
arrests and torture of demonstrators. Zahid told him those authorities should
be held accountable for this on their return to Sweden. The official promised to report Zahid’s message to
the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Zahid said he thinks the trip to Sweden was good for sharing the dark side of the Kurdistan
Regional Government and unmasking its pretense of democracy.
He hopes to make similar tours to other European
countries and to the U.S. Zahid told CPT that he does not need any financial
help – just an invitation. He is also happy and available to do an interview
from his home.