Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) security forces and local police detained 32 unarmed protesters in Erbil on March 4, 2017, at a peaceful demonstration against recent clashes in Sinjar, HRW said on Friday.
According to three protesters who were arrested, 23 were released that same day, and three more within four days, but six, all foreign nationals, are still being held. A police chief ordered one protester who was released to permanently leave Erbil, where he was living.
Local media reported that on March 6, the Director General of Erbil Police, Abdulkhaliq Talaat, stated that the protesters “were arrested by a court order,” and would be released based on a court decision. He did not elaborate on the reasons for the arrests. No media coverage of the arrests alleged any use of violence or other acts that disrupted the peace.
“KRG authorities appear to be detaining protesters for no good reason,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “They are also using threats and retaliation to discourage future protests, undermining freedom of expression and assembly in the Kurdish region.”
On March 4 at about 2 p.m., several dozen unarmed protesters attempted to gather near Sami Abdulrahman Park in western Erbil to peacefully protest against recent clashes between the Kurdistan Region of Iraq's Rojava Peshmerga and PKK-affiliated Shingal Resistance Units in Sinjar, three protesters told Human Rights Watch. They had posted the event on Facebook.