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Assyrian Journalist Khlapieel Bnyameen
Detained by KRG since October 31, 2019

by Assyrian Policy Institute. November 10, 2019. | various sources.

Posted: Monday, November 11, 2019 at 10:42 PM UT | Updated: November 15, 2019

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Khlapieel Bnyameen was released on November 12, 2019, on bail from a Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) Asayish prison through the efforts of an official of the Assyrian Democratic Movement's ( Dohuk Branch.
William Bnyameen Adam (Khlapieel Bnyameen)
William Bnyameen Adam (Khlapieel Bnyameen)

Khlapieel Bnyameen | YouTube | Twitter
Assyrian Journalism Day (8 minutes)
Atour archive: MP4
Young Kurds Debate Independence, Nepotism, and Assyrians.
Source: MEMRI, August 23, 2016.
Atour archive: MP4

Assyrian Journalist Khlapieel Bnyameen Detained by KRG since October 31, 2019

The Assyrian Policy Institute is deeply concerned by the arrest of well-respected Assyrian journalist William Bnyameen Adam, known publicly as Khlapieel Bnyameen, whose investigations have been critical of the human rights record of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Bnyameen was detained on October 31 by Asayish (KRG intelligence forces) in Zakho, Iraq when returning from a 2-week trip to northeastern Syria. Bnyameen was on assignment in Syria documenting the impact of the Turkish incursion on the local Assyrian community for an upcoming documentary by Assyrian National Broadcasting. He was later transferred to Dohuk where he has been held largely incommunicado. Concerns have been raised of his wellbeing, as Bnyameen has previously received direct threats from members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party for his work.

Assyrian Activist Faces Death Threats After Criticizing KRG Officials

“What I published was just an attempt to object to the way my people are being treated, which I consider to be an insult to them. The Kurdistan Democratic Party confiscates and infringes upon the free will of my people by imposing on us their loyalists and puppets to represent our national cause.”

Khlapieel Bnyameen
William Bnyameen Adam

A prominent Assyrian human rights activist residing in Ankawa, Iraq named William Bnyameen Adam — known by his pen name “Khlapieel Bnyameen” — has received death threats after publishing Facebook posts to his personal account criticizing newly-installed Chief of Staff to the KRG Presidency Fawzi Hariri and KRG Minister of Transportation and Communication Ano Abdoka. Both men are ethnic Assyrians and members of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party.

In a statement published yesterday to ALAP, a popular Iraqi Assyrian media site to which Bnyameen is a contributor, Bnyameen wrote: “What I published was just an attempt to object to the way my people are being treated, which I consider to be an insult to them. The Kurdistan Democratic Party confiscates and infringes upon the free will of my people by imposing on us their loyalists and puppets to represent our national cause.” Bnyameen also noted that his Facebook account was hacked and has since been permanently deleted.

The statement goes on: “The personal and direct language used in the threatening messages I have received only confirm the brutal nature of the [Kurdistan Democratic Party] within the lawless region in which we live.”

The Assyrian Policy Institute can also confirm that members of Bnyameen’s immediate family have been directly threatened by KDP members. One family member was warned that if Bnyameen does not cease his activist activities, the KDP will “make him disappear” and that the lives of his family members would become a “living hell.”

These deeply disturbing threats are the latest example of the KDP using the threat of violence against Assyrian activists and their family members. KRG authorities should immediately stop harassing and threatening activists and journalists and their families as a means to silence dissent and criticism. Iraqi and KRG authorities should promptly and thoroughly investigate these threats and make sure that adequate steps are being taken to ensure the safety of Bnyameen and his family.

We urge US officials to make it clear to their partners in the KRG that threats against human rights activists are unacceptable.

SBS radio broadcast, November 11, 2019

Archive: audio file

Assyrian journalist detained in Iraq for 13 days after reporting trip to Syria

by Committee to Protect Journalists. November 13, 2019.

Kurdish Asayish security forces detained William Bnyameen Adam, an Assyrian journalist, for 13 days after the contributor to the California-based broadcaster Assyrian National Broadcasting (ANB) returned from a two-week assignment in northern Syria, the journalist told CPJ. The journalist said that security forces confiscated his equipment, beat him, and questioned him about his reporting.

Asayish security forces arrested Bnyameen at a checkpoint run by the Kurdish Army, also known as peshmerga, on the outskirts of the northwestern Iraqi city of Zakho, on October 31, 2019, according to the Assyrian rights group, Assyrian Policy Institute, the Iraqi press freedom group Press Freedom Advocacy Association in Iraq, and Bnyameen, who shared an account of his detention with CPJ via email a day after his release.

Bnyameen told CPJ that before leaving for Syria on October 15, he applied for permission to enter the country from the Asayish-run Office of Relations at the Faysh Khabur border crossing. He said his application was rejected on the basis that Kurdish authorities do not recognize ANB as an authorized media outlet.

Zaya Yaro, a board member for ANB, told CPJ that the broadcaster doesn’t have permission from Kurdish authorities to operate in the Kurdish region in northern Iraq, despite repeated attempts to register and obtain a license.

Bnyameen, who also reports for the news website Alap, said that he spent 12 days reporting in Qamishli and Khabour, before trying to return to Iraq via a smuggler. On October 31, a smuggler led Bnyameen and about 30 Syrian Kurds into a Kurdish region in northern Iraq and took them to a checkpoint manned by peshmerga. While at the checkpoint, Asayish security forces arrived and asked him about his reason for travelling to Syria, Bnyameen said.

The journalist said that during questioning an Asayish officer struck him. Bnyameen added that he was handcuffed and blindfolded, and that security forces seized his cell phone, laptop, camera, voice recorder, and hard drive, and forced him to provide his passwords.

Bnyameen told CPJ he was moved to Sahela Prison, near Zakho, where he was kept incommunicado for three days. Bnyameen said he was accused of being a member of the militant group Islamic State and was interrogated about his trip to Syria and his relationship with the People’s Protection Units (YPG). Bnyameen said that when he denied ties to the YPG, Asayish officers beat him and threatened him with torture. Bnyammen said they also interrogated him about his political affiliations.

On November 4, the security forces transferred Bnyammen to a detention facility in the city of Duhok, where Asayish officers interrogated him again about his political affiliation, his criticism of Kurdish authorities, his reporting for the news website Alap, and his relations with political dissidents and Iraq-based Assyrian political parties opposed to the ruling KDP. He was forced to fingerprint documents that he couldn’t read, Bnyameen told CPJ.

On November 5, the journalist was allowed to phone his family and two days later his mother was allowed to visit him at the detention center, in the presence of a security guard. Guards instructed him to not mention the interrogations, the journalist said.

On November 7, Bnyammen was brought before a judge, who asked about the trip to Syria and the smuggler. The judge filed no charges, Bnyameen said. The same day, he was transferred to Zirka Prison in Duhok.

His lawyer, Benyamin Issa, visited on November 12, and informed him that a request for his conditional release had been denied twice, Bnyameen said.

On November 12, Bnyameen was released and his belongings were returned to him. He told CPJ he still doesn’t know if charges are pending and he said that he believes he was targeted because of his work and his criticism of the Kurdish authorities.

Dindar Zebari, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s deputy minister for international advocacy coordination, told CPJ in an email on November 12, 2019 that he would look into the arrest and let CPJ know his findings. Zebari told CPJ via email on November 27 that Bnyameen was arrested for crossing the border illegally from Syria and that his case is ongoing. Zebari said that Bnyameen “did not cross to Syria for journalism and reporting activities” and that the Asayish security forces had informed his office that the journalist was not beaten or tortured during questioning.

ANB board member Yaro told CPJ that Bnyameen has been contributing as a freelancer to ANB since 2014 and had been on assignment in Syria for two weeks, reporting on the situation for the Assyrian minority in Qamishli and villages near al-Hasakah. Bnyameen told CPJ that he interviewed local Assyrian politicians and civilians for a documentary and documented the situation for the Assyrians.

Bnyameen previously received threatening phone calls from members of the ruling KDP in July 2019 for criticizing on Facebook the appointment of two Assyrians to senior government positions, according to the Assyrian Policy Institute. The institute did not provide further details of who allegedly made the calls. A relative of Bnyameen’s, who spoke with CPJ on condition of anonymity, said that the journalist had received threats recently.

The KDP media office did not immediately reply to CPJ’s email request for comment about the threatening calls allegedly made by KDP members.

[CPJ Editor’s note: The thirteenth paragraph has been updated to include a response from Dindar Zebari, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s deputy minister for international advocacy coordination.]

Khlapieel Bnyameen
November 13, 2019 at 4:12 AM

 (Google English Translation)

Khlapieel Bnyameen
November 13, 2019 at 4:12 AM

I confirm that the investigations conducted with me were not only about the illegal crossing of Syria, (even though the Fishkhabur crossing, which is considered an "official crossing" is illegal and is not recognized by the Syrian state), but also about my political positions and my publications in the social media and the reasons for my vote. NRT, Gali Kurdistan, KNN and former Iraqi Kurdish MP Dr. Mohammad Kayani were with me in the same "illegal" way during the media mission in Syria, but when they were beaten during the investigation in Sehila prison and asked about the reasons for my rejection of the name of the region, I realized that this arrest has nothing to do with Syria and neither the border nor the legitimate and illegal crossing.

But I will avoid the details at the moment and take this opportunity to extend my thanks and appreciation to all those who have solidarity with me in various ways, especially mentioning:

  • Dr. Barham Saleh, President of the Republic of Iraq
  • Attorney Benjamin Nissan (for his continued effort)
  • Assyrian Democratic Movement (follow-up and sponsorship)
  • Sons of Nahrain Party (follow-up and declaration)
  • Assyrian Policy Institute (follow-up and accountability)
  • Professor Mona Yako (follow-up)
  • Captain Marina Azaria (continued)
  • Former politician and MP Mr. Salem Kaku (Follow-up with the Interior)
  • Assyrian friend and activist Taghlet Rommel (continued from Australia)
  • Mr. Kaldo Ramzi Ogna, Director of the Syriac Heritage Museum (continued)
  • Ankawa Youth, "Hand in Hand for Ankawa" (Solidarity)
  • HG Bishop Mar Isaac Youssef (continued)
  • Assyrian National Broadcasting ANB tv (for media coverage and film production)
  • Russian Consulate in Erbil
  • Assyrian National Movement
  • Assyrian Democratic Party (statement)
  • Assyrian Christian Relief Council (follow-up and solidarity)
  • Assyrian World Federation Australia Branch (Solidarity)
  • Member of the Australian Parliament Mr. Hugh McDermott (for solidarity and to raise my case in the Australian Parliament)
  • Assyrian Human Rights Observatory (Report)
  • Deputy Joseph Saliwa (Solidarity)
  • Mr. Rayan Chaldani, President of the Babylonian Movement (Solidarity)
  • American Assyrian Aid Society (AAASC)
William Bnyameen Adam (Khlapieel Bnyameen)I also thank all Iraqi and Syrian writers, politicians, civil activists and media outlets, Assyrians, Kurds and Arabs who have shown solidarity with me, especially my friends and relatives from Sarsink and others who have communicated with me or my family to check on my safety.

Special thanks to the security services for free shaving.
اؤكد بأن التحقيقات التي اجريت معي لم تكن فقط عن العبور الغير الشرعي لسوريا، (علماً ان حتى معبر فيشخابور الذي يعتبر "معبراً رسمياً" هو غير شرعي ولا تعترف به الدولة السورية)، بل ايضاً عن مواقفي السياسية ومنشوراتي في الإعلام الإجتماعي وعن اسباب تصويتي بـ(لا) للإستفتاء، علماً ان طاقم قناة NRT و Gali Kurdistan و KNN والنائب العراقي الكردي السابق الدكتور محمد كياني كانوا معي في نفس الطريق "الغير الشرعي" اثناء المهمة الإعلامية في سوريا، ولكن عندما تعرضت للضرب اثناء التحقيق في سجن "سحيلا" وسُألت عن اسباب رفضي لإسم الإقليم، تيقنت بأن إعتقالي هذا لا علاقة له لا بسوريا ولا بالحدود ولا بالمعبر الشرعي وغير الشرعي.

ولكن سأتجنب التفاصيل حالياً وانتهز هذه الفرصة لأقدم شكري وتقديري الى كل من تضامن معي بشتى الطرق وأخص بالذكر:

  • الدكتور برهم صالح، رئيس جمهورية العراق (للمتابعة والإتصال)
  • المحامي بنيامين نيسان (لجهده المتواصل)
  • الحركة الديمقراطية الآشورية (للمتابعة والكفالة)
  • حزب أبناء النهرين (للمتابعة والتصريح)
  • ‏Assyrian Policy Institute (للمتابعة والمساءلة)
  • البروفيسورة القانونية منى ياقو (للمتابعة)
  • النقيب مارينا عزريا (للمتابعة)
  • السياسي والنائب السابق السيد سالم كاكو (للمتابعة مع الداخلية)
  • الصديق والناشط الآشوري تغلت روميل (للمتابعة من استراليا)
  • السيد كلدو رمزي أوغنا، مدير متحف التراث السرياني (للمتابعة)
  • شبيبة عنكاوا المتمثلة بمجموعة "يداً بيد من أجل عنكاوا" (للتضامن)
  • نيافة الأسقف مار اسحق يوسف (للمتابعة)
  • الفضائية القومية الآشورية ANB tv (للتغطية الإعلامية وانتاج الفلم)
  • القنصلية الروسية في اربيل (للمتابعة والتدخل)
  • حركة آشور الوطنية (للمتابعة والإستنكار)
  • الحزب الآشوري الديمقراطي (للبيان)
  • مجلس إغاثة مسيحيي الشرق ICRC (للمتابعة والتضامن)
  • الإتحاد العالمي الآشوري فرع استراليا (للتضامن)
  • عضو البرلمان الاسترالي السيد Hugh McDermott (للتضامن ورفع قضيتي في البرلمان الاسترالي)
  • المرصد الآشوري لحقوق الإنسان (للتقرير)
  • النائب جوزيف صليوا (للتضامن)
  • السيد ريان الكلداني، رئيس حركة بابليون (للتضامن)
  • الجمعية الآشورية الأميركية الخيرية AAASC (للتضامن)

كما واشكر كل الكتّاب والسياسيين والناشطين المدنيين والإعلاميين العراقيين والسوريين من الآشوريين والكرد والعرب الذين تضامنوا معي، وأخص بالذكر الأصدقاء والأقارب من أهل سرسنك وغيرها من الذين تواصلوا معي او مع عائلي للإطمئنان على سلامتي.

شكر خاص للأجهزة الأمنية للحلاقة المجانية.

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