German journalist Marlene Förster and Slovenian journalist Matej Kavčič were deported today by Iraqi authorities after a month in detention. Official charges are still unknown. Today, both will arrive in their respective home countries.
The two journalists were arrested by the Iraqi military in the Şengal (Sinjar) region exactly one month ago (April 20) while on their way back from celebrating the Yazidi New Year festival of Çarşema Sor.
From there, they were taken to the city of Mosul, and then transferred to Baghdad to the intelligence service’s prison. For days there was no information about their whereabouts and they had no access to lawyers or state representations from Germany or Slovenia; they were only allowed first contact with their lawyer on May 15th and 16th.
It is unlear why the journalists were deported, but it occured when attention to the case was rising massively in Germany. “More than 50,000 people signed our petition for the release of Marlene and Matej. Media coverage as well as statements by important organizations and public figures have increased the pressure on the German Foreign Office to work for the release of the two,” says Lydia Förster, the mother of Marlene Förster. “That it took so long in the end is also the responsibility of the German government. The question is whether the German government was doing Turkey and Erdoğan, in particular, a favor with their restraint,” says Malte Buchholz, Marlene’s friend and roommate.
Marlene Förster and Matej Kavčič have reported on Turkey’s attacks on the Yazidi region for several months. Turkey is in support of the Iraqi central government’s attempt to put the areas of Yazidi self-government under military control and has enacted numerous airstrikes, including those on civilians. In the days leading up to and following the arrest, the Iraqi Army attacked bases of the YBŞ Yazidi Self-Defense Units. They and the civilian structures of self-government were built by the local population in response to the genocide of the Yazidi in 2014.
Malte Buchholz, from the Initiative for the Freedom of Marlene and Matej: “We will contact the press again in the coming days because the case continues to raise many questions: How did the deportation come about? Will there be further legal proceedings in Iraq? How does the German government assess this attack on freedom of press? What is the role of the German Foreign Office? Why did the German authorities act so late? What role did German-Turkish relations play here?”
Lydia Förster (mother of Marlene)
Mobil: +49 160 92170839
Malte Buchholz (friend and former flatmate of Marlene)
Mobile: +49 175 9018519 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Leonie Tafel (friend of Marlene)
Mobile: +49 163 3577950