Still no news of journalist Silêman Ehmed in KDP custody for 200 days

Journalist Silêman Ehmed has been held in an unofficial detention centre in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for 200 days. The KDP refuses to provide information about his condition and his lawyers are also unable to speak to him.


Silêman Ehmed, the editor of Rojnews Arabic Service, was abducted by KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) forces at the Semalka (Faysh Khabur, Kr: Pêşxabûr) crossing point on the Iraqi-Syrian border on 25 October while returning to South Kurdistan from Aleppo, where he had gone on 1 October to visit his family. The KDP has been holding the Syrian-born editor of the RojNews news agency hostage for 200 days and is not providing any information about his condition.

Silêman Ehmed was born in 1992 in the Jindires district of Afrin, the youngest of nine siblings. After graduating from the Faculty of Agriculture at Al-Baath University in Homs, he returned to Afrin and has worked for the independent Kurdish media since 2012. In 2018, he reported on the Turkish invasion of Afrin and uncovered atrocities. He only left the region when a large part of the population was evacuated after 58 days of resistance against Turkey's military superiority and its jihadist mercenary troops.  

Ehmed’s family now lives in Sheikh Maqsoud (Şêxmeqsûd), one of the two large Kurdish neighbourhoods in Aleppo. Silêman Ehmed worked for the Arabic editorial office of RojNews in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq for the last five years before his abduction. In October, he visited his family in Aleppo and was arrested at the border crossing on his return to South Kurdistan. Six days later, the Asayish (local security authority) in Duhok announced that the journalist belonged to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) and had been arrested for "intelligence activities".

Silêman Ehmed's condition has been unknown for 200 days now. His legal team made several unsuccessful attempts to contact the journalist via the security authorities. Finally, an application was made to a court in Duhok to obtain permission to visit him. When the lawyers approached the Asayish with the order, they were threatened and physically assaulted, and denied contact with their client. The defence team continued their efforts despite the threats and were finally able to find out that Ehmed was being held in an unofficial detention centre of the KDP’s secret service, Parastin. The lawyers last attempted to visit Silêman Ehmed in the detention centre on 29 April without success. Lawyers from the Defence Group have made more than 10 applications so far, but have not received a positive response.

The abduction of Silêman Ehmed has been condemned by Kurdish and international press organisations. While Reporters Without Borders and the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) are also calling for his release, the KDP has ignored all requests and has not commented on the issue. RojNews agency has contacted the UN and asked for support in clarifying the whereabouts of its editor.

In early January, Kurdish media professionals, lecturers, lawyers and activists drew attention to the case in a joint statement and declared that Silêman Ehmed was innocent: "He was arrested and abducted because he is a journalist. The Asayish in Duhok and the government of the Kurdistan Region are responsible for his life and safety. Silêman Ehmed must be released."

In a statement released on 29 January, the Democratic Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (DAANES) demanded the immediate release of Silêman Ehmed, saying: "Silêman Ehmed, our citizen, was arrested without any justification. We state that such methods are against all moral and legal values and we strongly condemn them. The KDP's negative approach makes the situation more serious. We call on the KDP government to inform the family about the situation of Silêman Ehmed and to release him immediately. We call on all media outlets and legal organisations to fulfil their responsibilities and demand an explanation of the fate of our North-East Syrian journalist who was arrested without any reason."

Rojnews stated the following in its statement on 31 January: "We reject the baseless allegations made by the KDP and the Duhok Asayish Department to justify the abduction of Silêman Ehmed. We are witnessing how the KDP takes a cowardly stance against the free press and free journalists. The KDP wants to mislead the public opinion in this case, as in the Behdînan Prisoners case, and to give journalist Silêman Ehmed a heavy prison sentence. The KDP should immediately make a statement about the fate of Silêman Ehmed and our friend should be released as soon as possible. We consider the KDP responsible for the safety of Silêman Ehmed's life."

On 28 December 2023, Rojnews submitted a petition to the UN regarding the abduction of Silêman Ehmed. In the petition, it was reminded that Rojnews reporter Vedat Hüseyin, who was abducted by KDP, was tortured to death 7 years ago, and that the murderers were not tried and punished.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the Mina Committee appealed to the United Nations (UN) Committee on Enforced Disappearances about the case of Silêman Ehmed.

The Free Press Association (YRA), within the scope of the annual Martyr Mazlum Bagok Kurdish Journalism Labour Awards, gave this year's Kurdistan-level Labour Award to Silêman Ehmed, who has been held by the KDP for 200 days. The Labour Award, which was given on the 126th anniversary of Kurdish Journalism Day with a celebration held in Qamishlo, Rojava, was sent to Silêman Ehmed's family living in Aleppo's Sheikh Maqsoud neighbourhood.