The "Salman Rushdie of Iraqi-Kurdistan"
forced to flee to Sweden
first reported by the Kurdish language weekly
Hawlati (translation by Hiwakan) on March 27, 2006,
and later reported by the Peyamner News Agency and
The Hewler Globe on March 28, Mariwan (sp. Marywan)
Halabjaye (sp. Halabjaee, Halabjaye, Halabjayi),
"the Salman Rushdie of Iraqi-Kurdistan," has been
forced to flee to Sweden.
Halabjaye departed from Sulaimaniyah International
Airport. Mala Bakhtiar, a political bureau member of
the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), was
responsible for facilitating Halabjaye’s escape. The
PUK effectively controls the Eastern half of
Iraqi-Kurdistan, including Sulaimaniyah.
Halabjaye is in possession of a warrant for his
arrest issued by the Sulaimaniyah police department.
Halabjaye reportedly intends to use the warrant in
an attempt to secure political asylum in Sweden.
Halabjaee is the author of the book Sex, Sharia and
Women in the History of Islam. The book is about how
Islam is allegedly used to oppress women. "I wanted
to prove how oppressed women are in Islam and that
they have no rights," said Halabjaye.
The Islamic League of Kurdistan has issued a
"conditional" fatwa to kill Halabjaye if he does not
repent and apologize for writing his book. The
"conditional" nature of the fatal fatwa is
uncertain. Halabjaye reported that "a couple of
weeks ago in Halabja, the mullahs and scholars said
if I go to them and apologize they will give me 80
lashes and then refer me to the fatwa committee to
decide if I am to be beheaded. They might forgive
me, they might not." As a result, Halabjaye went
into hiding with his pregnant wife and three
Halabjaye was forced to flee Iraqi-Kurdistan after
the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) refused to
offer him any protection or to arrest those who
threatened his life. "The Kurdish authorities have
not provided any protection from threats and fatwas,"
said Halabjaye, "any moment I am expecting a bullet
or a hand grenade to be thrown into where I live."
In response to the Halabjaye affair, the KRG
Minister of Religious Issues, Dr. Mohammad Gaznayi,
told protestors that according to the law of
Iraqi-Kurdistan, "defamation" or "criticizing"
religion or religious figures is a crime and its
punishment is severe. "We will give those who attack
our prophets a sentence so that they can be a lesson
for everyone," Gaznayi told protestors.
The coerced expulsion of Halabjaye occurred shortly
after Dr. Kamal Karim Qadir (aka Kamal Kadir Karim)
was sentenced to one and one half years in prison
for allegedly "defaming" Masoud Barzani, the
president of the Kurdistan Regional Government, in
articles on a Kurdish website. The articles accused
Barzani and his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of
corruption and abuse of power.
The expulsion of Halabjaye also occurred
approximately two weeks after the PUK arrested
Hawlati correspondent Hawez Hawezi because he wrote
an article critical of Kurdistan’s administration.
The coerced expulsion of Halabjaye, the conviction
of Qadir, and the arrest of Hawezi come at a time
when the Kurdistan Regional Government is under
increasing international scrutiny for failing to
protect freedom of speech and fundamental human
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