Security forces in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan arrested several suspects in the investigation into the killing on Tuesday morning of Kurdish feminist activist Nagihan Akarsel.
The Asayish security forces did not make public the identity of the suspected assailants, only saying they had been caught at a checkpoint on the way to the Iraqi Kurdish capital, Erbil (Hewlêr).
“We captured the perpetrators upon the orders of the Asayish President and cooperation by asayish in Hewlêr-Koye within a few hours, following a detailed investigation. Interrogation continues. We would like to thank our patriotic people for sharing information with us leading to the capture,” Iraq-based Roj News cited the Asayish as saying in a statement on Tuesday.
Akarsel, co-founder of the Jineology Research Centre, was fatally injured by 11 bullets in a shooting attack near her home early on Tuesday morning. She was a prominent scholar and the editor of feminist sociology journal Jineolojî, named after a form of feminism developed within the Kurdish political movement that means “women’s science”.
Since 2021, several activists and scholars have been killed in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region in Iraq, where the government has been growing its relations with Turkey. Three academics were killed in Sulaymaniyah since 2021, allegedly by the Turkish intelligence service MİT. Several others were killed in other cities in the region.
Akarsel’s death has sparked protests in Europe, with Kurds taking to the streets in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and France.
Women’s organisations in Sulaymaniyah had already condemned the killing, in a protest in front of the city’s forensic medicine institute on Tuesday, Roj News reported.
“This is not an ordinary attack, but a political massacre,” Şilan Şakir from the Kurdish Women’s Foreign Relations Organisation (REPAK) said in a speech in the protest.
Women’s Union member Jinêr Abdullah warned against the dangers of allowing the killings to go unpunished, saying, “If the killers of Nagihan and perpetrators of previous massacres are not punished, these will continue.”
“Enemies of Kurds have been targeting activists, intellectuals and historians in partnership with local holders of power,” Tevgera Azadî Co-chair Tara Hisên said.