An Iraqi Kurdish journalist told AFP Tuesday he was beaten with the butt of a pistol outside his office, as a rights group condemned “escalating attacks and threats” against media in the Kurdish region.
Asos Hardi, the journalist who helped found two of the region’s biggest independent newspapers, told AFP that he did not expect the police to catch his assailant, despite official pledges to bring him to justice.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the assault on Hardi was the latest in a series of “escalating attacks and threats” faced by journalists in the northern Iraqi autonomous region, and called for an independent investigation.
Hardi, publisher of the Awene newspaper, said by telephone that upon reaching his car after work Monday evening in Sulaimaniyah, the autonomous region’s second-biggest city, he was attacked by a young man who beat him to the floor with the butt of a pistol before fleeing the scene in a waiting car.
“Because of Ramadan, the street was empty, no one was around,” Hardi said, referring to the holy Muslim fasting month which concluded for Sunni Kurds on Monday evening.
Hardi, who suffered six wounds to his head, said his attacker only left when two men saw what was happening and rushed to the scene.
Sulaimaniyah governor Buhruz Mohammed visited the journalist in hospital and pledged to open an investigation and find Hardi’s attacker.
Hardi, however, told AFP he did not think anything would come of those promises, saying: “I am confident they will not find him. Dozens of attacks happen like this (against journalists).”
Asked if he believed he was targeted because of his occupation, he replied: “There is no other reason why this guy would have come after me.”
HRW Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson said the attack on Hardi was “the latest example of the grave risks faced by independent media workers in Iraqi Kurdistan.”
“Kurdish authorities should act decisively to bring whoever is behind this attack to justice,” she said in a statement.
Kurdistan, made up of three provinces in Iraq’s north, has this year been the site of regular protests against corruption and nepotism within the government, which has been dominated by two parties for decades.