Guhdar Zebari

Beats Covered:
Local or Foreign:

On October 22, Kurdish security forces raided the house of Kurdish reporter and editor Guhdar Zebari and arrested him. No reasons or charges have been disclosed, and his editor and family have not heard from him since his arrest.

Zebari reports and edits for the news website

Wllat News

in the northern Kurdish city of Akre in the Dohuk governorate. At the time of his arrest, he was getting ready to launch a Kurmanji dialect edition of

Wllat News

, according to the paper’s editor-in-chief, Wrya Hussein.

In an interview with CPJ in May, Zebari said he reported on a range of topics, including the alleged murders of people killed over freedom of expression or political activism in the Badinan region, Turkish airstrikes in the area bordering Turkey, corruption, embezzlement, and daily life for Kurds amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Zebari previously worked for the opposition-affiliated broadcaster NRT, which Kurdish authorities have repeatedly harassed by raiding its offices and arresting its journalists.
On October 22, Kurdish security forces riding in at least 13 sport utility vehicles showed up at Zebari’s home, raided the house, and arrested him, according to Ayhan Saeed, the Dohuk representative of the Metro Center for Journalists’ Rights and Advocacy, a local press freedom group that also reported on the incident on its website. Hussein, the editor-in-chief of Wllat News, confirmed the arrest with CPJ and it was reported in the local press.

Saeed sent a video to CPJ showing Zebari’s room immediately after the raid, with the mattresses scattered and the contents of the closets thrown to the floor. According to Saeed, security forces searched for Zebari’s laptops and cell phones, and seized all the electronic devices in the house, including those belonging to Zebari’s wife and daughter and two visiting relatives.

Hussein told CPJ that in the weeks leading up to the arrest Zebari had been “living in fear” and hiding because he had received threatening messages, though did not provide further details. He said he believed that Zebari had been targeted over his journalism, but was unable to point to any specific articles; he added that Zebari was consumed with launching the Kurmanji-edition of Wllat and running Wllat’s Kurmanji Facebook account in the leadup to his arrest.

Zebari’s brother, Zedan Zebari, told CPJ that he didn’t know his brother’s whereabouts or the reasons for his arrest. Since he was arrested, neither he nor Hussein have heard from the journalist, they told CPJ.

In an email to CPJ, Dindar Zebari, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s coordinator for international advocacy, said he would look into Zebari’s arrest and respond as soon as possible but as of November 2020 CPJ had not heard again from him. Zebari is a tribe in the Dohuk governorate; CPJ was unable to determine if the journalist is closely related to Dindar Zebari.