Kawa Ahmed (also known as Kawa Germyani): assassinated at age 32, married since 2012, leaving a widow who is eight months pregnant. He was known for his anti-corruption investigative reports, particularly at a local level. Kawa was born into a poor family, and he lived in a small room with his wife.
He has been described by those close to him as a “very calm and smart” individual who put public interests before his own and who was, unsurprisingly, on the left. Since the start of his career in journalism eight years ago, he was subjected to numerous arrests, torture, and direct and indirect threats from political party officials as well as government and security officials as a direct result of his work. But he was adamant to tell the truth without caring for the immediate rewards or the bitter consequences.
Kawa was previously the chief editor of ‘Garan’ magazine and then recently became the chief editor of ‘Rayan’ magazine and ‘Awene’ newspaper’s correspondent in Kalar.
After publishing an article in his ‘Garan’ magazine on 25 July 2012 about the PUK military leader Mahmoud Sangawi, he received an abusive telephone call from Sangawi, which Kawa recorded and published. The telephone conversation is widely available on the internet and contains clear threats and very abusive language. Throughout the several minutes’ conversation, Kawa remains very placid and he urges Mr Sangawi to calm down, stop threatening him and let him speak. Mr Sangawi has released a video message less than 48 hours after Kawa’s murder, refuting the allegations of his involvement in the assassination, and vowing to work tirelessly until the perpetrators are brought to justice.
Kawa clearly feared for his life, and he met with the US consulate official Matt Mason in Slemani, asking him for protection. The US consulate official promised to support him, but Kawa remained hopeless, and he expected to be assassinated at some point. Kawa wrote: “After the assassinations of Soran Mama-Hama and Sardasht Osman, it’s my turn now, I’m nothing more than them.”
He additionally filed a complaint in the Kalar court against the PUK official who had threatened him. The case is still open as Mr Sangawi has allegedly failed to attend court while the court lacks the power to force him to. Concurrently, Kawa filed another complaint in the Kalar court against Jamal Abdula, who is the former Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) spokesman and chief editor of ‘Balga’ magazine (a mouthpiece of the KDP), claiming that Jamal Abdula had forged a document purportedly from Kalar City Council in an attempt to discredit Kawa’s work. Jamal Abdula did not attend court, and so Kawa went on hunger strike in front of Kalar court for five days. Only then did the court decide to issue an arrest warrant for Jamal Abdula, who later attended court.
On Thursday evening (5 December 2013) just after 21:00 hours, two days after posting a message on his personal Facebook account (“We have obtained documents about latest officials’ corruption which we aim to publish soon”), a group of armed men in a 4×4 vehicle visited Kawa’s mother’s house, where Kawa was at the time. They gunned him down in front of his mother with seven bullets, one of which struck his head. Kawa’s mother told local media: “The group claimed to be Kawa’s friends at first when I opened the door; they just wanted to see my son. As soon as Kawa went out the door, they opened fire on him.”
Three days on and despite scores of condemnations by the coalition government officials and promises to bring his killers to justice, there is no sign of the perpetrators’ arrest. Indeed, in the light of previous counter-productive and often misleading investigations into similar assassinations, there is little public confidence in the government, which is blamed for harbouring murderers.
On Sat 7 December, demonstrations took place throughout the Southern Kurdistan (with exception of Hawler), demanding that the perpetrators to be revealed and brought to justice. The protests continued today at the University of Slemani, where students and lecturets gathered in the morning, calling for justice: “Enough is enough, stop murdering journalists”.
In his speech to the crowd yesterday, Asos Hardi, chief editor of ‘Awene’ said: “The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is responsible for the murder of our journalist. In these situations, it’s not the job of the authority to release false condemnations. Its job is to take action and find the perpetrators. Recent events have taught us that the law is very effective on the powerless and equally very ineffective on the powerful.”
Over the past four years, there are have been numerous similar cases, including Dr Star Sharif, Soran Mama-Hama, and Sardasht Osman, all of whom were outspoken journalists who criticized the oligarchs and were assassinated, and their assassins are still at large. In all, 17 protesters were killed in February 2011 and the oligarchs are still reluctant to hand over their killers to the courts. There is currently no assurance that the oligarchy isn’t going to harbour Kawa’s murderers, too.
- Video of mourners visiting Kawa’s home