I demand that my life and my family’s life be saved

“I demand that my life and my family’s life be saved. That is my message to the world” These were the words of activist Hemn Abdulkhaleq (Hemin Bnaslaway).

On Friday Sep 30th Hemin Bnaslaway, an activist and member of the Peshmerga met with CPT’s Iraqi Kurdistan team and reported that he was abducted from his home in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan by local security forces on September 26th.  Hemin has been an outspoken activist calling for protests within Erbil demanding freedom of speech and an end to government corruption. He believes this was the reason for his abduction.

Hemin sat with CPT and recounted the events of that night.

It was around 6:30 when Asaish security forces suddenly arrived at Hemin’s home in Erbil.  They were in official cars with logos. As the security forces began to pull Hemn from the premises his fifteen year old son began to shout and ask why they were taking his father.  It was then that an officer punched Hemin’s son in the face and arrested him.  The officers also became physical with his pregnant wife. The officers put a bag over Hemin’s head and forced him into their car while they beat his son and put him into a different car.

CPT recorded the interview and these are Hemin”s words…

I did not know where they were taking me but they cursed me a lot and beat me in the car. Then they stopped in a place and took me out of the car. They beat me a lot, especially on the head. After that I did not know what was happening to my son.  They put me back in the car and took me to the Sherawa checkpoint.  There they stopped.

There was a lot of security forces there. Then four security force members came.  One each pulled my shoulders and legs.Then they shaved my head and my eyebrows. Then they beat me a lot.

After that fifteen security forces came. They beat me a lot!  They punched me, they used different methods to beat me. Then they took me out of the room and said ‘You have to go to Suli (Sulaimani), Erbil is not your place because you have planned to do demonstrations in Erbil.’ Then they opened my bag.  I had 89,000 Dinars. They took away my money and they said I had to walk to Suli.

I was not at my best.  I walked for two kilometers then I stopped a taxi.  I got into the taxi and the driver said, ‘I know what has happened to you.

The taxi driver took Hemin to the town of Kirkuk where he found two police officers that offered assistance. He is now in Sulaimani and under the protection of local security.

Erbil and Sulaimani both have security forces called Ashiesh but are controlled by separate party governments within Kurdistan.  The party that is within Erbil is the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The forces now offering protection to Hemin within Sulaimani are the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

Hemin’s story gained attention when a photo was posted of him with a strip of his head shaved after his abduction.  Hemin believes that if the government within Erbil knew that this story was going to gain media attention they would have just killed him that night. Hemin is currently within Sulaimani under strict security protocols after the police forces confirmed death threats against Hemin’s life from within KDP. “They have information that people are looking for me and want to kill me.” he said.

“I have been bribed by KDP people in Erbil.  They said I only need to say three words, ‘I was wrong.’ But I am not wrong.” Said Hemin

“I have never been scared of being hungry, or not having money.  I have also never been worried about my death. I always thought that I will be killed one day.  But it is important for me to adhere to my principals.”

When asked about his family he said, “My son has been released.  My family is in Erbil.  They are not at home anymore.  I found them a place. They are also at risk.” he told us.  Hemin also found out that his wife lost their child that night and offered to show CPT the hospital report. Hemin said that he had not previously shared the information about his wife with anyone but is now ready for people to know what has happened to his family.

In the past many journalists have been killed in Kurdistan for speaking against corruption. Hemin requested that CPT help to let people outside of Kurdistan know what has happened to him.  He said that if he dies he would like for the world to know why.

(CPT has started accompanying Hemin.  We are in close contact and will report on any changes in the situation.)