Kurdish model arrested for 'praising' Saddam Hussein’s Halabja gas attack
Police forces in the Iraqi Kurdistan region arrested Sana Yousif Ahmed, a prominent Kurdish model from Sulaymaniyah, on charges of misusing electrical devices and allegedly praising the former Saddam Hussein regime and its 1988 gas attack on Halabja that killed more than five hundred people.
Ahmed, who has more than half a million followers on Instagram, was arrested late Sunday after a lawsuit was filed by the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) Ministry of Martyrs and Anfal Affairs following a recording of Ahmad that circulated social media platforms and garnered rebuke by Kurdish users, particularly families of the victims of the Halabja gas attack.
Kurdish authorities filed the complaint based on the controversial Article 2 of 2008 of KRG's law that "prevent the misuse of telecommunications equipment" and is punishable with six months to five years of prison or a fine that ranges between one to five million Iraqi dinars ($US 700-$US 3,500).
In the recording, the model can be heard "praising" Saddam Hussein for attacking Halabja with internationally banned chemical weapons. However. it is not yet clear how the recording was leaked online to various social media platforms, and the comments may be taken out of context since it seems that she was angrily responding to a fan.
"She has been arrested as a result of insulting the blood of Halabja martyrs, as well as people of Halabja. Following her insults, the Directorate General of the Martyrs and Anfal Affairs in Halabja province related to our ministry filed a legal case against her," Adil Mullah Salih, head of media and relations at the ministry told The New Arab in a phone interview.
"She will be brought in front of the court soon. We consider the blood of our martyrs, especially Halabja, a red line that no one should cross," the official said.
Salih also added that they have no information on whom Sana was speaking to when she made her comments nor how the recording was published online, nevertheless stressing that her comments have had a "very negative impact on the psychology of the families and relatives of the martyrs."
KRG's Article 2 to prevent the misuse of telecommunications equipment has been widely criticized by the international rights groups on the grounds that its use by the Kurdish authorities was to "curb the freedom of speech" and censor journalists and political activists.
KRG's parliament has been urged by Halabja's community to pass a law to formalise punishments towards hate speech directed at "Kurdish national symbols" in the region.
Several civil society organizations, including the KRG's Journalist Syndicate, have backed a proposal at the Kurdistan parliament to pass a law to criminalise denial of the Halabja's gas attack and any glorification of the ousted Iraqi Baath regime or Saddam Hussein.