KRG rearrests official's bodyguards accused of raping 7-year-old girl after father speaks out publicly

In a case that highlights the need for meaningful reform to a political system that often shields those connected to government or party officials, Kurdistan Region security forces detained a number of men for their alleged involvement in the rape of a seven-year-old child only after a public announcement from her father sparked widespread outrage and led to intervention from top Kurdish politicians.
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ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – In a case that highlights the need for meaningful reform to a political system that often shields those connected to government or party officials, Kurdistan Region security forces detained a number of men for their alleged involvement in the rape of a seven-year-old child only after a public announcement from her father sparked widespread outrage and led to intervention from top Kurdish politicians.

The incident occurred on April 3, 2019 when bodyguards for a local official who the father named as “Doctor Pirot” abducted the girl near her school, assaulted her in an unnamed location, and then dropped her off near Topzawa, a village to the west of Erbil.

Luqman Ismael appeared with his daughter before local media on Friday in Erbil where he told reporters present that, since then, he has received multiple death threats to keep quiet about the rape from those involved, as well as “pressure” from others protecting them who include local government officials, law enforcement, and even judges.

He added that he believed the girl had initially been targetted as some sort of party-based retribution against him because he is a veteran Peshmerga from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Ismael named several local officials whose bodyguards he claimed were behind the assault on his daughter as “Didar Qasim Aziz, Bashdar Qasim Aziz, Ibrahim Ismael Othman, and two bad women,” but he did not specify the names of the actual perpetrators. He claimed that members of the local police who were connected to the officials employing the bodyguards had threatened to kill him if he spoke to the media about the case and that local authorities had repeatedly impeded the progress of the court case. 

If the father's charges are true, such behavior would constitute a clear pattern of a coordinated cover-up involving local government officials of a serious premeditated crime against a minor.  

Ismael called on the offices of the Kurdistan Region's president, prime minister, and also the PUK to intervene in support of his pursuit of justice for his daughter.

Later that day, Erbil Governor Firsat Sofi held a press conference on the issue, explaining that the child had indeed been sexually assaulted and that legal proceedings were ongoing. He added that the court had previously allowed the release of all but one of the suspects on bail.

The governor added that, after Ismael spoke out publicly, KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani personally ordered all those who were out on bail to be arrested again.

Sofi noted further that Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani had also contacted his office to state that the perpetrators of the brutal act must be brought to justice. Sofi and local security then coordinated with the KRG's Interior Ministry to redetain five individuals on suspicion of involvement in the crime.

“I would like to announce that all the defendants that have been named will be tried in a just court and will be met with legal punishment,” Sofi affirmed. “We assure the father of this child, her family, and the citizens of Kurdistan that this case will be resolved in a just manner.”

“I also declare that anyone in any [official] post or level who has threatened the father of the child or has in any way intervened to impact the case negatively - we will immediately investigate this,” he said, “and they will be punished by law.”

Sofi remarked that he found it disconcerting that the court had allowed the men accused of involvement in such a grave crime to be released on bail. But, he added, the suspects would remain detained until the case is settled.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), in a statement posted on its website, characterized the actions of the alleged perpetrators as “a disgusting crime” and promised that they would be brought to justice. It also noted that the government had spoken with the girl’s father and assured him that threats made against him would “not be tolerated.” 

Editing by John J. Catherine