ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi Shia militias in the Yezidi (Ezidi) city of Shingal (Sinjar) on Friday detained and expelled a Kurdistan 24 correspondent and cameraman after verbally and physically assaulting the team for reporting incidents in the area.
Reporter Mahir Ilyas and cameraman Nayif Eido Hassan have been reporting, on a daily basis, issues related to Ezidis in Shingal, one of the few media outlets still in the city.
“On Friday morning, Ezidis in Domiz Housing Complex contacted us and asked us to cover the forceful evacuation order imposed by the Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias,” Ilyas said. There are roughly 30 families in that complex.
“The Ezidis in the area told us the Hashd al-Shaabi gave them 24 hours to leave their homes and move into the center of Shingal. We were filming and talking to people before we were arrested at 11:45 am by militiamen,” he explained
The reporter noted that two vehicles, carrying some 14 militiamen, arrived and began interrogating them on what they were reporting.
“We told them we were [members of the] press and that we had all the necessary and legal documents to allow us to work here,” Ilyas argued before getting detained and blindfolded by the militiamen.
“On the way [to their headquarters], they kept beating us as we rode in separate vehicles. We did not know where we were headed,” he continued. “Once we reached our destination, they took us to someone named Abu Obeida, who is responsible for the Ansar al-Hija faction, linked to Saraya al-Salam militia within the Hashd al-Shaabi.”
Ilyas asserted that Abu Obeida conducted his own interrogation, asking the team who they worked for, and later told his militiamen to remove them from his office.
“The Ezidi person we interviewed in Domiz was also taken with us. The militiamen made us kneel and held guns to our heads, threatening to kill us all,” Ilyas added.
“My colleague, Hassan, pleaded with one of them, saying he has a family and a child, asking to talk to them one last time.” At that point, the men were taken elsewhere where the abuse continued. “They sat me on a dirty toilet, and every once in a while, somebody would come to beat me.”
The Kurdistan 24 team was detained until 6:10 pm that day. Once they were released, the militia issued further threats, reportedly warning them to “no longer report on the Hashd al-Shaabi,” also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and that Kurdistan 24 should follow the instructions of the militia should they want to operate in Shingal.
“They want to block the free press and prevent the voice of Ezidis in Shingal from being reported in the media,” Ilyas noted, who was transferred to Duhok along with his cameraman.
Following the detention of the Kurdistan 24’s team, the Metro Center for Journalist rights and advocacy released a statement, labeling the arrest “illegal and unacceptable."
The center also stated that the Shia militias often arrest and verbal assault reporters and camera operators.
The PMF has been in control of Shingal and surrounding areas near the Syrian border since Oct. 2017.
Editing by Nadia Riva