by Joe Mueller

On July 22, 2008, 23-year-old independent journalist Soran Hama was assassinated in front of his home in a relatively safe, Kurdish-controlled neighborhood in Kirkuk.  He had received death threats after publishing an article exposing corruption among Kurdish officials involved in local prostitution.

At a rally held in Suleimaniya, numerous Kurdish journalists, human rights workers and democracy advocates spoke out.  One called upon the approximately 200 people assembled to re-read Hama’s recent work.  Another claimed that the Kurdish government and party authorities should be held responsible for Hama’s death.

The Kurdish Parliament passed a law last year limiting freedom of speech for journalists, and several have been arrested and jailed.  For those journalists, students, and activists who critique officials and organize outside the prescribed boundaries, the political corruption they expose morphs into political repression of their rights.

Hawlati Newspaper, an independent bi-weekly in Suleimaniya, recently reported on party officials who have murdered and tortured citizens with impunity over trifling disputes. Now those willing to shine the light on this violence fear retaliation as well.

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