Reverberations of an uprising: one father's story

For a Kurdish translation of this post, click here.

On February 19, 2011, Iraqi Kurdistan security forces shot into a crowd of demonstrators, killing Surkew, the teenaged son of Zahid Mahmoud Emam.  Surkew was on his way home from school when he joined the protest; security forces shot him in the midsection.  He died in the hospital later that day.  It was the third day of the Kurdish Spring Uprisings in Sulaimani  against corruption in the government.  Sixty-two days after the daily protests began, the security forces used tear gas on the crowds and burned down the stage in Azadi ("Freedom") Square, ending the demonstrations.  During the time of the demonstrations, ten people were killed and security forces wounded and arrested hundreds of demonstrators.  The security forces beat and tortured many of the detainees.  “I was beaten up and still have breathing issues because of the tear gas, and I have still problems in my back because of the beatings," said Zahid during an interview with CPT.  "This happened even after my son was killed." 

Photo of Surkew Zahid Valentine's Day Remembrance 2012

Over a year after the demonstrations ended, Zahid campaigns on behalf of the demonstrators who remain in prison.  He also campaigns for the prosecution of those who killed demonstrators last year.  “Until I will get to my goal" [of having those responsible prosecuted] "I will continue until everyone knows about the situation here.” He told CPT that he speaks out for the sake of "the blood of my son who was murdered and all the others who were murdered."  

Zahid (right) in the 2012 Valentine's Day remembrance of those killed Spring 2011

Zahid believes it will be more effective if he shares his story outside the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.  He visited Sweden in April 2012, after accepting an invitation from the Swedish Green Party.  He met with a group called the 17th of February, which is composed of Kurdish people who live in Sweden and are supportive of the demonstrations.  He also met with a Swedish government official responsible for Middle East Foreign Affairs.  Zahid told him that some of the authorities in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) have Swedish citizenship and asked him to block their financial resources and launch investigations into the killings, beatings, arrests and torture of demonstrators.  Zahid told him that some of the people who committed brutality were helped out of the country by KRG authorities with Swedish citizenship.  Zahid told him those authorities should be held accountable for this on their return to Sweden.  This official promised that he would report Zahid's message to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Zahid said he thinks the trip to Sweden was good for sharing the dark side of the Kurdistan Regional Government and unmasking its pretense of democracy.

Zahid hopes to make similar tours to other European countries and to the U.S.  He told CPT that he does not need any financial help - just an invitation.  He is also happy and available to do an interview from his home.