Kurdish leader calls for investigation into sexual assault of disabled woman in Kirkuk
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On Friday, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) leader Masoud Barzani called on the federal government and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to conduct a joint investigation into alleged evidence of the recent sexual assault of a disabled Kurdish woman in the disputed province of Kirkuk by members of the police and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) militias.
On Thursday, video footage surged on social media that appeared to show a policeman and a PMF fighter committing the crime.
The Iraqi High Commission on Human Rights said in a statement on Saturday that it "strongly condemns the hideous and inhuman crime," and called for "the formation of a fact-finding team to visit the district and meet the security leaders in it."
Barzani's statement, released on the same day, read, "A few days ago, a report was published about the assault by the Popular Mobilization Forces and the Iraqi police at a checkpoint in Pirde sub-district against a Kurdish woman with special needs from a Kurdish family with limited income."
He demanded an immediate investigation "of this despicable assault" to "punish the perpetrators."
"This crime is a great injustice practised against the Kurdish citizens under the control of authority and a military reality that is imposed on Kirkuk," Barzani added. "From the start, the current authority in Kirkuk city has become accustomed to expressing animosity toward the Kurdish citizens and their rights in various ways."
Barzani concluded his statement by saying, "Everyone must know that such acts will not go unpunished, and a blind eye will not be turned on the event," and that "the most severe punishment must be imposed on the culprits."
According to local Pirde police, the two suspects have been arrested and the incident is now being investigated.
Kirkuk, home to Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and Christians, is the center of contention between the federal and regional governments and the most prominent of the territories disputed by the two.
In Baghdad's harsh response to the Kurdistan Region's 2017 independence referendum, Iraqi forces and PMF militias attacked Kirkuk and other disputed areas, pushing Kurdish Peshmerga forces from them.
Since then, the Kurdish population has complained that ethnically-motivated attacks and other persecution against their community by the security forces that now control their neighborhoods have become commonplace.
Editing by John J. Catherine