Kurdish lawyer given US state department's Human Rights Defender Award

Kurdish lawyer given US state department's Human Rights Defender Award
In the first such case, a Kurdish lawyer and his legal team won a prestigious award given by the US department of state for supporting human rights in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.  
3 min read
07 February, 2023
View of central square in Erbil, the capital city of Iraqi Kurdistan region. [Getty]

Bashdar Hassan, a Kurdish lawyer leading a voluntary legal team defending the Badinan prisoners of Duhok province in the Iraqi Kurdistan region was granted the annual Global Human Rights Defender Awards by the United States Department of State early this month. 

Hundreds of teachers, civil society activists and journalists mainly from the Badinan area of Duhok province were arrested by the Kurdish Regional Government's (KRG) security forces after a series of anti-government protests erupted in 2019 and 2020 over unpaid salaries and poor public services.

The US Department of State on 1 February announced the winners of the annual Global Human Rights Defender Awards. Ten individuals from around the globe, including Hassan, have all been awarded in a special ceremony in Washington.

After receiving the award, Hassan wrote on Twitter that he is " honoured" to receive the award and dedicated it to the "Bahdinan detainees". 

"My team and I are grateful for the United States, and I hope they continue to support freedom in Iraq and Kurdistan," he added. 

 "Mr Hassan is an Iraqi human rights lawyer who headed a group of lawyers who served as defence counsel for the 'Badinan detainees' – a group of journalists, activists, and protesters that Amnesty International stated were 'arbitrarily arrested' and 'forcibly disappeared' in Badinan (Duhok Province) in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region," the state department said in a statement.

"The team represented these high-profile cases at great personal and professional risk, facing intimidation efforts, harassment, and anonymous death threats," it added. 

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The Near Eastern Affairs at the state department said in a tweet on 4 February that Hassan has accepted the award on behalf of his legal team, including Reving Yassin, Ramazan Artisi, Kamaran Taha, Shorish Karim, Rebaz Wsu, Karzan Rashid and Faraidoun Fadhil.

International and local rights groups have criticised authorities in the Kurdish region for abusing human rights, freedom of speech and freedom of gathering and press.

Eleven prisoners, including journalists Sherwan Amin Sherwani and Guhdar Zebari and activists Shvan Saeed, Ayaz Karam and Hariwan Issa - have been sentenced to six years imprisonment by the Kurdistan region Judiciary in February 2021.  Their sentences were upheld in June. 

Hassan told The New Arab in April that the prisoners were charged with destabilising Kurdistan's security, but the court could not prove the accusations. He also said that the activists and journalists would complete their terms and will be freed in March or April.