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 The "Salman Rushdie of Iraqi-Kurdistan" forced to flee to Sweden

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The "Salman Rushdie of Iraqi-Kurdistan" forced to flee to Sweden 29.3.2006

As 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.

Mariwan Halabjayi

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 children.

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 rights.



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