The mayor of Alqosh, Nineveh Plain, Faiez Abed Jahwareh was arbitrarily detained yesterday on Sunday, July 15, 2018 by Kurdistan Regional Government political police and intelligence services known as the Asayish.
Jahwareh was arrested without warrant at his office to an unknown location at approximately 10:30am. This was the first time Jahwareh reported for duty after the Governor of Nineveh enforced a Federal Court order reinstating him as Mayor of Alqosh. Multiple eyewitnesses were present.
An eyewitness reported to the API that Asayish officers threatened the town hall staff, warning them against recognizing Jahwareh as the town's mayor. An Asayish officer also reportedly declared in front of staff members that the area [Alqosh] was under the control of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and that they [the KDP] will "decide what happens in Alqosh."
Jahwareh was released around 2:00pm that afternoon. Sources close to him reported to the API today that he was severely beaten. The API can confirm that this is the second time Jahwareh has been detained by Asayish since his removal from office.
Last year, on July 16, 2017, ahead of the September 2017 Kurdish referendum, Jahwareh was expelled by the Nineveh Provincial Council on the orders of KDP member Bashar al-Kiki. Currently, 31 of the 41 members of the Nineveh Provincial Council are members of the KDP. His dismissal followed an interrogation centering around baseless charges of corruption which were later entirely dismissed by the Iraqi Administrative Court of Justice.
Eleven days after his removal from office, the Alqosh District Council installed KDP member Lara Yousif to the office of mayor. Four of the six councilmembers are KDP members.
The residents of Alqosh staged three protests after Jahwareh's removal and Yousif's subsequent installment. The first took place on July 20, 2017. The second was held on August 2, 2017 following Yousif's appointment, and the third was held on August 18, 2017. In all three protests, residents carried Iraqi flags in response to the KRG's stated objective to conduct its upcoming independence referendum in the Nineveh Plain. A petition was also signed by thousands of Alqosh residents and delivered to the District Council and other relevant authorities.
On August 30, 2017, eleven residents of Alqosh received formal notices which warned against future protests, threatening consequences.
According to the 2017 U.S. State Department Report on International Religious Freedom:
"In July, Christian civil society organizations reported the Assyrian Christian mayors in Al Qosh and Tel Kayf were replaced, reportedly due to corruption, with KDP members who were also Christian. At the direction of the mayor, security forces in Al Qosh arrested and threatened a group who publicly protested this decision. Christian groups stated this was part of a "Kurdization" of their towns."
At an event held by the United States Institute of Peace in August 2017, KRG Representative to the United States and member of KDP leadership Bayan Rahman responded to questions about the KRG's role in the Nineveh Provincial Council's decision to depose Jahwareh. Rahman denied any KRG involvement and claimed that the decision was not politically-motivated.
Jahwareh filed an appeal with the Administrative Court in Baghdad, as the Nineveh Plain is recognized by the Iraqi Government and its residents as federal territory. A hearing was held on August 30, 2017.
On October 30, 2017, the Iraqi Administrative Court of Justice ruled his removal was unlawful, dismissing all charges and ordering his reinstatement as Mayor of Alqosh. Locals celebrated the court's decision ordering his reinstatement as seen in this video. Jahwareh was subsequently detained by the Asayish and held for several hours. Asayish officers reportedly threatened his family, and he was warned against continuing his efforts to reassume office.
Yousif unsuccessfully appealed the court's initial ruling, and the administrative court ratified its October 2017 decision to reinstate Jahwareh as mayor on March 28, 2018. Despite the court's order, Jahwareh has yet to return to office.
In May 2018, the Governor of Nineveh Province, Nofal Hammadi issued a formal notice to Yousif, ordering her to turnover duties and responsibilities to Jahwareh, but she refused to comply.
He returned to work Sunday morning after receiving another order from the Governor of Nineveh dated July 10, 2018 which states:
"Based on the powers vested in us and for the public interest, it is decided:
As an implementation of the final decision of the Court of Administrative article No. 1075/2017 dated October 23, 2017, which revokes the decision of dismissing Mr. Faiez Abed [Jahwareh], director of Al-Qush district, and based on our administrative order No. 1598 on April 9, 2018 as well as ultimatum No. 2313 on May 16, 2018 regarding Mrs. Lara Yousif Ishaq, director of Al-Qush district, which stated the need to hand over the administration of the district to Mr. Fayez Abed [Jahwareh] and to implement the Court's decision above..."
The Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) published a statement immediately after Jahwareh was detained: "These practices are illegal and are designed to undermine the free will of the people who have demonstrated more than once against these practices, and at the same time they are undermining the administrative authority in the region and disrespecting the decision of the relevant parties, including the federal court." On November 5, 2017, the Asayish shut down ADM headquarters in the neighboring Assyrian town of Tesqopa.
The API conducted interviews with 14 Alqosh residents by phone between July 15-16, 2018 following the incident. Although the Asayish have restricted the rights of Assyrians in the Nineveh Plain for more than a decade, locals claim that their aggression towards Assyrians and other minority groups has worsened since federal authority was restored in Kirkuk in October 2017. Residents of Alqosh report that the community is more fearful than it has ever been, and very few are willing to speak out.
"There is no freedom here. There is no democracy," a 41-year-old man explained. "If you demand your rights, you suffer the consequences. People don't want any more problems. They fear being imprisoned and tortured. They worry their families will be targeted. They too afraid now. We have no backing inside Iraq or outside it. There won't be any more protests. If the central government doesn't retake these lands, all of that will have been for nothing. But we've learned--we're used to it. They [the KDP] want to instill fear in our people, and they've succeeded."
"This has been our reality for fourteen years," said a 30-year-old man. "There aren't many of us left. If the Peshmerga and Asayish don't leave, we will. And that's what they want."
A 26-year-old Assyrian man told the API, "It seems everyday someone new is taken [by the Asayish]. If you're in Zowaa [ADM], you're on their watchlist. If you're in the [Iraqi] Communist Party or Abnaa al-Nahrain [an Assyrian political party], you're on the watchlist. If you have a relative in the NPU, you're on the watchlist. They want to advance their national goals and they're doing it at our expense. They'll silence anyone that stands in their way."
A 32-year-old man whose brother was detained by Asayish last year said, "What kind of life is this? Our people need to know their rights. We are a peaceful people--we deserve better than this. That's why I'm happy to know there are Assyrians in the diaspora. To know that at least there are Assyrians somewhere living in dignity."