New York, March 26, 2020 — Authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan should conduct a swift and thorough investigation into the torture and robbery of journalist Adnan Rashidi and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
In the evening of March 11, between three and five unidentified people wearing masks stormed into Rashidi’s home in the eastern Iraqi Kurdistan city of Penjwen, and beat him while holding his wife and daughter hostage, according to Rashidi, who spoke to CPJ via messaging app.
Rashidi is an Iranian Kurdish freelance journalist based in Iraq, who contributes to local outlets and is the editor of the Kurdistan Human Rights Association, an advocacy organization and news website based in Iraqi Kurdistan that documents human rights abuses in the Kurdish regions of Syria, Iraq, and Iran, he told CPJ.
The assailants, who claimed to be working for the Kurdish Asayish security forces, punched and hit Rashidi with sticks, handcuffed his arms and legs, and broke his hands while demanding he hand over his electronic devices and hard drives containing the identities of activists in Iran, he told CPJ and his employer reported.
Rashidi told CPJ that he gave over the information after realizing that the attackers were also holding his wife and daughter, and had forced his wife to strip and filmed her naked. The attackers fled the scene after he gave them his electronic devices, he said.
On March 17, police in the northeastern Iraqi city of Sulaymaniyah released a statement saying that two suspects in the attack, who were identified by the initials K.M.S. and J.H.A., had been arrested.
“The brutal assault of Adnan Rashidi and attack against his family should not go unpunished,” said CPJ’s Middle East and North Africa Representative Ignacio Miguel Delgado. “Iraqi Kurdish authorities must leave no stone unturned in pursuing his assailants. The best way to ensure that such attacks do not happen again is to bring all the perpetrators to justice.”
Pictures posted by the Kurdistan Human Rights Association show that Rashidi sustained a skull fracture, bruises, and a broken arm and hands as a result of the assault. Rashidi told CPJ that he has been unable see a doctor because of the ongoing lockdown in the region in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and said that the local hospital in Penjwen does not have the appropriate equipment to x-ray his skull.
“I was jailed in Iran for 8 years because of my work. I was tortured really badly. But even Iran’s intelligence service did not do what was done to me this time here,” Rashidi told CPJ.
Rashidi said that he has been under threat from Iranian security and intelligence services for years, which has led him to lock himself inside his home multiple times. He told CPJ that a man claiming to work for Iranian intelligence had recently threatened to kill him if he didn’t stop reporting on human rights abuses in Iran.
“He said all the people I was reporting on were terrorists and offered me a new life in Europe in exchange for quitting my job. When I refused, he threatened to kill me,” Rashidi said.
He told CPJ that the attackers threatened to publish the video of his naked wife if he ever revealed what was done to him and his family. Rashidi said he recognized the voice of one of the assailants, an Iranian Kurd who had worked as Rashidi’s driver during his reporting assignments in the past.