ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A lawmaker from a newly-established party in the Kurdistan Region on Wednesday alleged that followers of the movement’s leader are attempting to blackmail her with explicit and possibly doctored videos of her taken clandestinely in a bugged apartment.
"Await the release of your nude film," Shadi Nawzad first claimed a message she received from an anonymous mobile number read. She later sent a screenshot of the purported one-sided exchange that included two posts. The first was an almost three-minute-long video—which had been blurred by Nawzad—and the second was the threat itself.
The messages as shared contained no specific demands or course of action she could take to prevent videos from being shared publicly. So far, no other party members have made similar claims.
Nawzad is a legislator in the Kurdistan Region's parliament from the New Generation Movement (NGM) who has recently endorsed sharp criticism by various other members of the party against its founder and leader, wealthy businessman Shaswar Abdulwahid.
The NGM first entered the political scene in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region in early 2018 and was able to secure four seats in the most recent national parliamentary elections held in May. It also has eight representatives in the 111–seat regional parliament in Erbil, where they sit as opposition. The movement has been able to rally a large number of youths to join its cause, especially in the province of Sulaimani.
"This gang, if they treat the leadership of the movement and its friends thus, how must they treat the young girls who visit New Generation offices daily," Nawzad lamented in a press briefing in front of the Kurdistan Region's parliament building in which she announced plans to sue Abdulwahid.
She claimed that a team acting on behalf of Abdulwahid had installed cameras in villas and apartments where members of the party would stay from time to time, "so they could later use it to intimidate" those who had been filmed.
Nawzad's accusation comes just three days after two other NGM MPs in the Iraqi legislature issued a public statement, decrying what they claimed to be a culture of cronyism within the party's main leadership, primary among them Abdulwahid.
Lawmakers Raboun Ma'ruf and Sarkawt Shamsadin said in the joint-letter that they were being "marginalized" from all "important decision-making" within their party, adding that the NGM "has been mixed with family and business in such a way that separating them is difficult."
A day later, half of the party's bloc in the Kurdistan Region including Nawzad voiced support for their colleagues' rebuke in Baghdad.
Abdulwahid responded to both statements on social media without specifically addressing the claims against him.
"We trusted them," he wrote. "We were with them as dear friends. Unfortunately, these days, only through money and posts do you find your true friends."
On Wednesday, Shamsadin reiterated this position along with denouncing the alleged attempt on Nawzad's reputation in a tweet, writing, "Absolutely disgusting. I am more confident that we are on the right path by standing up against these disgraceful actions."
The current scandal, especially when combined with the level of party support for the recent criticism directed at Abdulwahid, suggests a significant and growing crack within the year-old political movement.
Editing by John J. Catherine