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Kurdish detainees on hunger strike in Iraq to protest illegit arrest

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ERBIL: Amjad Yusuf Rekani, a human rights activist from the Shiladze area of the Duhok province in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq, is in “very bad health” after over 20 days of a hunger strike to protest his arrest and torture by Kurdish security forces, his family said in a statement to the press on Monday.   

Four other detainees joined Rekani’s hunger strike this past Sunday, also to protest their arrest and ill-treatment by the security forces. All five detainees are activists who have been held without trial since late 2020.

“Since our abduction by the [Kurdish] security forces, we have been severely tortured and they forced us to confess some alleged crimes. They have videotaped our false confessions and plan to release them to the public,” reads a statement by the detainees that was shared with their families, who in turn sent a copy to Arab media.

“The Kurdish authorities denied us access to our lawyers, and during interrogation, they changed our testimony and forced us to sign unknown confessions,” the statement added. 

Both the detainees and their families urged the United Nations offices in Iraq, local and international media as well as various human rights organizations, Kurdish lawmakers, and the people of Kurdistan to “urgently” spotlight the case and pressure the authorities to allow the detainees access to their lawyers and set a final date for their trials.  

Since early 2019, security forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have detained hundreds of protestors, activists, and journalists across the region, following widespread protests against poor services, unpaid salaries, the existence of Turkish military bases as well as airstrikes against civilians in the region. 

In June 2020, residents of the Shiladze area of Duhok province took to the streets to protest Turkey’s airstrikes which claimed the lives of several locals from the area. The five detainees were arrested in December of that same year.

While a few of the detainees were sentenced over charges of “endangering national security”, several other detainees still await trial amid indifference by the Kurdish executive and legislative authorities. 

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