A prominent Assyrian human rights activist residing in Ankawa, Iraq named William Bnyameen Adam--known by his pen name "Khlapieel Bnyameen"--has received death threats after publishing Facebook posts to his personal account criticizing newly-installed Chief of Staff to the KRG Presidency Fawzi Hariri and KRG Minister of Transportation and Communication Ano Abdoka. Both men are ethnic Assyrians and members of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party.
In a statement published yesterday to ALAP, a popular Iraqi Assyrian media site to which Bnyameen is a contributor, Bnyameen wrote: "What I published was just an attempt to object to the way my people are being treated, which I consider to be an insult to them. The Kurdistan Democratic Party confiscates and infringes upon the free will of my people by imposing on us their loyalists and puppets to represent our national cause." Bnyameen also noted that his Facebook account was hacked and has since been permanently deleted.
The statement goes on: "The personal and direct language used in the threatening messages I have received only confirm the brutal nature of the [Kurdistan Democratic Party] within the lawless region in which we live."
The Assyrian Policy Institute can also confirm that members of Bnyameen's immediate family have been directly threatened by KDP members. One family member was warned that if Bnyameen does not cease his activist activities, the KDP will "make him disappear" and that the lives of his family members would become a "living hell."
These deeply disturbing threats are the latest example of the KDP using the threat of violence against Assyrian activists and their family members. KRG authorities should immediately stop harassing and threatening activists and journalists and their families as a means to silence dissent and criticism. Iraqi and KRG authorities should promptly and thoroughly investigate these threats and make sure that adequate steps are being taken to ensure the safety of Bnyameen and his family.
We urge US officials to make it clear to their partners in the KRG that threats against human rights activists are unacceptable.