Open letter calls for the release of foreign journalists arrested in Şengal

"Freedom of the press is not a luxury. It is a system-relevant achievement" - with this quote begins an appeal to Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock to take action for the journalists Marlene F. and Matej K., who have been arrested in Şengal.

Last Wednesday, two journalists were arrested by the Iraqi army in the Yazidi settlement area of Şengal. They are the German Marlene F. and the Slovenian Matej K. Relatives, friends and representatives of numerous organizations, parties and individuals, including the Member of the Bundestag Cornelia Möhring (Left Party), the Hamburg Left Party Chairwoman Cansu Özdemir and the Marburg City Councillor Lena Frewer (Green Party), appeal with an open letter to the German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock (Green Party) for the release of the two journalists.

The open letter, which was initiated among other things by the parents of Marlene F., reads as follows:

Dear Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock,

"Freedom of the press is not a luxury. It is a system-relevant achievement" (Horst Pöttker / APuZ).

Two journalists whose work is based on this systemic achievement were arrested on April 20, 2022 by the Iraqi army without giving any reason at a checkpoint in Şengal; the same settlement area in Iraq that has been known worldwide since the genocide of the Yazidis by the so-called Islamic State in 2014.

We urgently request your support for the release of the two journalists, German citizen Marlene F. and her Slovenian colleague Matej K. The two journalists have been researching the social conditions of the Yazidi community in Şengal for months. This included interviews with representatives of various civil society organizations and institutions in the region. Both were on their way back from a celebration of the Yazidi New Year "Çarşema Sor" with three other people when they were detained at an Iraqi army checkpoint and searched against their will, although they immediately identified themselves as journalists.

The Iraqi army has been very brutal in its actions. Private belongings - including telephones, backpacks - have been confiscated. Marlene F. and Matej K. were arrested by the Iraqi army, interrogated for hours and transferred to Baghdad on Friday, April 22, 2022. It is with great concern that we read reports that those arrested were threatened and humiliated. Ms. Baerbock, we appeal to you not only as Foreign Minister, but also as a person who has traveled the region. In a Spiegel article from 2019, we can read, "She is particularly interested in the Yazidis, the minority, especially from the Sinjar region on the border with Syria.  'An affair of the heart,' her spokeswoman calls it."

( Matej and Marlene, two young people from Slovenia and Germany are just as interested in the fate of the Yazidis and want to contribute to the demand and the right of the Yazidi population to self-determination being heard worldwide.

Ms. Baerbock, dear Ministers Keul, Lindner and Lührmann - a feminist foreign policy means standing up for values - and for the rights of oppressed communities and population groups. In the shadow of the Ukraine war, both the Turkish and Iraqi armies are repeatedly attacking the Şengal region. The arrest of the two journalists is a further escalation in a conflict that is directed primarily against the dignity of the Yazidis, but which concerns us all.

We count on your support and full commitment for the release of Marlene and Matej, also and especially in the sense of a value-based foreign policy. Please let us know in a timely manner what you can and will do. Until then, we remain with kind regards."

Research work in Şengal Iraqi authorities not welcome

Research work in Şengal is not welcomed by the Iraqi authorities. Especially not at the present time, when tensions between the political and military forces of the central government in Baghdad and the Yazidi self-governing structures threaten to escalate. For exactly a week now, the situation in Şengal has been taking an ominous turn. There have been clashes as a result of Iraqi attacks on positions of the YBŞ Şengal Resistance Units (YBŞ), the Şengal Women’s Units (YJŞ) and the Asayîşa Êzîdxanê (security forces of the Yazidis), in which fighter Faraşîn Şengalî was fatally injured. These attacks by Iraqi forces in Şengal occur in parallel with the Turkish army's invasion of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (Southern Kurdistan), which was launched on April 17. Baghdad has been trying for some time to disarm the security and defense structures built up under the impact of the IS genocide in Şengal in 2014 and to dissolve the autonomous administration. This is based on the "Şengal Agreement" reached over the heads of the Yazidi community between the Kurdish government in Hewlêr (Erbil) and the Iraqi central government in October 2020. Furthermore, the Iraqi state has begun to build a wall between Şengal and Rojava, which the Yazidi community opposes, as Rojava was the only means of retreat during the IS attack on Şengal in August 2014.

"It's not just about Marlene"

Locally, the arrest of Marlene F. and Matej K. is interpreted as an attempt to scare off possible international witnesses to the clashes. Lydia F., the mother of the German journalist, told ANF that she was extremely concerned because she had not been able to contact her daughter. She said she is in contact with the Foreign Office in Berlin and the German Embassy in Baghdad, and will also contact Matej K.'s parents. A lawyer from Marburg has also been called in, she said.

"It is not only about Marlene, but also about the situation of the Yazidis in Şengal, which is also Marlene's concern. I know my daughter is strong, but I am very afraid," said F. The embassy responsible told her that they would contact her as soon as they knew something more specific.