Mesûd Elî Hajî, Bendewar Eyûb Reshîd, Karker Ebas Elî and Shêrwan Teha Emîn, all held in prison by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan, began a death fast on 6 September. They are now into their 23rd day.
The Behdinan activists’ death fast actions are being undertaken in protest against all the obstacles, pressures and injustices they have been subjected to.
A support campaign has been initiated to support these imprisoned journalists, luminaries and writers, Roj News reports.
Mass solidarity actions are to be organised in the Kurdistan Region on 4 October in support of the Behdinan activists on their death fast. The organising group has called all sectors to support the action. In a statement, the group stated that persecution has increased against the hunger strikers. The statement added that many thinkers, writers and journalists are being detained unlawfully.
The statement calls for people to join in the protest actions at 10.00 on 4 October outside all judicial buildings in all the provinces and districts of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
The orgasnisers stated: “People who defend the rights of the community, individuals who defend the welfare of the people, are arrested and made to pay. Great injustice is being applied to the prisoners. They must not be left alone. We, on the outside, must fulfil our duties and responsibilities and stand up for those who are in prison for our sakes. On 4 October, we will organise actions outside all judicial buildings against the injustices directed at prisoners.”
It was noted that 82 journalists and activists are currently on hunger strike protesting against the adjournment of their court hearings.
A number of civilians were killed by Turkish shelling and air strikes on the town of Sheladize (Şêladize) on 23 January 2019. Thousands took to the streets, protesting against Turkey’s military presence, but Nechirvan Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Region, targeted the protestors and announced that an investigation was to be launched against them.
Hundreds of people, including journalists, activists, writers and intellectuals were detained immediately after Barzani’s statement.
As the pressure on journalists, activists, writers and academics gradually increased after the Sheladize protests, detentions and arrests continued into 2020.
House raids were launched on 13 June 2020 in Duhoq, Behdinan, Amiye, Shêladize, and Qeladize and continued for several days. Of approximately 400 people who were detained in the raids, 320 were released, but 76 were formally arrested.
On 16 February, an Erbil Court sentenced activists and journalists Sherwan Sherwani, Ghudar Zebari, Hussein Issa, Ayaz Karan and Shvan Saeed to six years in prison. The trial was defined as “unfair” by Amnesty International, who declared that the Behdinan activists were jailed on “trumped-up charges” of “destabilising the security and stability of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.”
“When a person is detained, there should be an accusation against them, but there is no charge that can be the subject of punishment against the Behdinan activists,” Belen İsmail, a member of the Goran Movement in the Erbil (Hewlêr) Parliament noted in a previous statement, as reported in Yeni Özgür Politika.
The imprisoned Behdinan activists went on a hunger strike in February to protest against the grim conditions they were being held in.