Journalist Sleman Ahmed was arrested by Iraqi Kurdish authorities at the northern Faysh Khabur border and taken to an unknown location on October 25, 2023.
Ahmed is an Arabic editor for the local news website RojNews, an outlet that backs the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and reports on its activities.
The journalist’s brother Ahmed Mohammed Ahmed and RojNews editor in chief Botan Garmiyani said that Ahmed was returning from a visit to his family in Syria when his family lost contact with him at Faysh Khabur, which is part of the Duhok Governorate.
The Security Directorate (Asayish), which is responsible for border security in Duhok Governorate, said in a statement on its Facebook page that Ahmed’s arrest had nothing to do with his journalism but was because of his “secret and illegal” work for the PKK.
The PKK is a militant group and political party that is legal in Iraqi Kurdistan but is classified as a terrorist group by the United States, European Union, and Turkey.
Asayish said that Ahmed had confessed to his actions during the investigation and would be brought to court and dealt with according to the law.
The journalist’s brother told CPJ that Ahmed was “never a fighter but only a journalist.”
Garmiyani also rejected the allegations against Ahmed, who he said had been working for RojNews since 2018, possessed all the necessary legal documents, and had never been arrested before.
“We do not know why he was arrested,” Garmiyani told CPJ. “We have contacted the security forces, but neither we nor his family have received any responses.”
Ahmed’s brother told CPJ in late 2023 that the family still has no information about the journalist’s whereabouts or whether he is facing formal charges.
Ali Auni, head of the Duhok bureau of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which controls Duhok Governorate, declined to comment.
In November 2023, CPJ messaged and called Ashti Majeed, Asayish’s spokesperson in Duhok and Erbil, about Ahmed’s case, but did not receive a response.