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 Interview: Kurdish writer learns words are risky in new Iraq

 Source : Reuters
  Kurd Net does not take credit for and is not responsible for the content of news information on this page

 


Interview: Kurdish writer learns words are risky in new Iraq 7.4.2006
By Shamal Aqrawi






ERBIL, Kurdistan-Iraq, April 7 (Reuters) - Writer Kamal Karim came away with a troubling lesson from his Kurdish homeland in Kurdistan (northern Iraq) -- an opinion can get you a 30-year jail sentence.

The Iraqi Kurd, an Austrian citizen, returned to the semi- autonomous Kurdistan expecting a new era of human rights after a U.S.-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

But he soon learned the risks of exposing what he said was the abuse of power by regional President Massoud Barzani.

After facing a 30-year prison term in December for defamation that was reduced to 18 months in a retrial, he was pardoned on Monday.

"It affected me so much. It proved to me that the road to justice in Kurdistan will be long," he told Reuters in an interview this week.

Karim was arrested by the Parastin intelligence service attached to Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) after he wrote articles on a Web site accusing the Kurdish leader of abusing power and corruption.

Dr Kamal Said Qadir, Austrian citizen, an international legal expert, writer and human rights activist


The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said the first time he appeared in court Karim had five minutes to confer with his lawyer before he was sentenced to 30 years, prompting European Union president Austria to call for his release.

Karim, 48, was retried and given a 1-1/2 year sentence and eventually released.

The experience has left him disillusioned with Kurdistan, where Barzani and his rival Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), now Iraq's president, promised to deliver democracy after their long-time enemy Saddam was ousted.

PRIDE ABOUT HUMAN RIGHTS

"The problem in Kurdistan is not just with political parties but also in society. It lacks enlightenment in many subjects starting with democratic principles and human rights."

The Kurdish north prides itself on having a better human rights record than public bodies elsewhere in Iraq, where violence has generated accusations of pro-government militia death squads and raised fears of sectarian civil war.

It has been stable but political rivalries and unrest over poor services have raised questions over how long it can last.

Karim said he would return to Kurdistan after spending time in Austria, and intends to keep writing about corruption.

"I will work for the principles of democracy and fighting financial and administrative corruption and serve people who are deprived of their rights such as women and children.

But Karim says he will be cautious.

"I will continue criticism but in a different style than the one I used recently. I used some words and expressions which should not be used in academic writing," he said.

"I will establish a centre for justice and human rights."

Like many Kurds, he was pleased to hear this week that Saddam could soon face new charges of genocide against the Kurds in the late 1980s. Kurdish authorities accuse him of killing tens of thousands and razing villages across the region.

And he believes most Kurds support human rights.

"I am optimistic about the future, and the many people who defended me proves the majority of the Kurdish people want to support justice."

"The country needs 5 to 10 years until it can overcome terrorism and corruption, then the principles of democracy can be applied," said Karim.

Reuters

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