On the evening of April 20, 2022, at around 8 p.m. local time, Marlene Förster and her Slovenian colleague Matej Kavčič were arrested by the Iraqi army. On their way back from a Yazidi New Year festival “Çarşema Sor” celebration, they passed an Iraqi army checkpoint near the city of Şengal in the region of the same name, which is the settlement area of the Yazidis in the province of Nineveh in northern Iraq.
According to press reports in the Iraqi media, the 20th Infantry Division of the Iraqi Army was responsible for their arrest.1 After having all personal belongings confiscated, enduring a body search and several hours of interrogations, they were likely transferred to the Iraqi National Intelligence Service (INIS) headquarters in Baghdad.
Furthermore, the Iraqi authorities and intelligence service prevented the two journalists from contacting their respective foreign missions or lawyers. It was only through pressure from the public – e.g. Marlene’s mother Lydia Förster and legal assistance from Germany – that the German embassy in Baghdad contacted the Iraqi authorities on April 23rd and officially confirmed Marlene Förster’s arrest. To ensure her right to legal representation and consular assistance, Marlene went on hunger strike which she kept up until April 28, when she received her first, and (thus far) only visit with one of the German embassy’s representatives. According to information from the Embassy, the meeting took place at the headquarters of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, where Marlene is being held in a solitary cell. There has been no contact with Matej Kavčič yet, but the German Embassy confirmed his presence at the headquarters of the intelligence service. They assured to work towards visiting him personally.
1 Shafaq News Agency, am 22.4.2022