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Iraq: Journalist Afrah Shawki released after being kidnapped and held for over a week

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) welcomes the news that independent Iraqi journalist Afrah Shawki has been freed more than a week after being kidnapped by an armed group from her home in Baghdad, Iraq.

Early in the morning of Wednesday 4 January 2017, Shawki was able to drive her car back home with all her belongings, following her release from captivity late Tuesday night. In an interview with Iraqi television channel NRT, Shawki is shown sitting at home with her family while she relates her ordeal. See:

Shawqi told NRT that the anonymous kidnappers questioned her. “I am alright now,” she said. “Those who kidnapped me treated me well and asked me several questions. After [they] found out I am innocent, they released me.” She added, “I hope all those who are innocent in the prisons of the country will be released because they need people to stand with them.” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi promised to offer her protection.

On the evening of 26 December 2016 at 10:15pm, an armed group of approximately 15 people wearing masks and military uniforms stormed the house of the journalist, located in West Baghdad. They separated the journalist from her children and confiscated her jewellery, car and laptop.
Reports suggested that the kidnapping was related to an article Shawki published recently which called for the State to control both the unlawful use of weapons and the various illegal armed groups. See:

Shawki, who is 38 years old, is an independent journalist who works at the Ministry of Culture in Iraq. She also writes regularly for some media outlets and is involved in many cultural activities.
GCHR believes Afrah Shawki’s kidnapping was solely motivated by her journalistic work and views that act as part of the ongoing deterioration of freedom of the press in Iraq.

GCHR urges the authorities in Iraq to:
• Carry out an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation into the kidnapping of Afrah Shawki with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in line with local laws and international standards;
• Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Afrah Shawki and all journalists in Iraq, including by improving protection measures; and
• Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Iraq are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.