New York, August 11, 2014–A Kurdish journalist was killed in Makhmur district, south of the city of Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, on Friday when shrapnel from mortar shelling hit her in the chest, according to news reports. Deniz Firat, a freelance reporter, was covering clashes between Kurdish forces and insurgents with the Islamic State, an Al-Qaeda splinter group formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham, the Firat News Agency said.
“As the violence in Iraq increases, all parties involved need to ensure that journalists covering the conflict are treated as civilians and can report safely,” said Sherif Mansour, CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Coordinator.
Firat, who was from the Kurdish city of Van in eastern Turkey, had been embedded with Kurdish forces, according to Rahman Gharib, general coordinator for the local press freedom group Metro Center to Defend Journalists, and news reports. She was reporting for the Firat agency, an outlet based outside Turkey that offers a pro-Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) viewpoint. She also reported for several pro-Kurdish TV stations, including Sterk TV, Med NUÇE, and Ronahi TV.
Kurdish forces regained control over Makhmur district after U.S. air strikes in the region on Friday, according to reports. The strikes aimed to stop the Islamic State offensive in northern Iraq, reports said.
The escalation of violence and the instability in Iraq have led to a substantial increase in the risks that journalists face in the region. More than a dozen journalists have been killed in the past year in Iraq, according to CPJ research.