Ahmed Ghafur Hakim, a VOA Kurdish Service stringer based in Erbil in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, was arrested by the police on Saturday, March 4, 2017. According to Hakim, he was on his way home when he saw a large gathering of people surrounded by security forces and police near the Diwan Hotel and Sami Abdulrahman Park in Erbil city. Hakim said that he came out of his car and put on a VOA badge in order to cover the events for VOA, but he was stopped by security and police forces who took his badge and confiscated his camera and cell phone.
Hakim, known locally as Ehmed Zêbarî, was taken into custody with his cameraman (who is also his brother) and transported to the police station. According to Hakim, he repeatedly asked the officers why he and his brother had been stopped and inquired if there were any issues with the location where they had parked their car. He offered to move go back to the car and leave but officers chose to go through with the arrest.
Hakim was detained with around 30 other people. The Director General of Police in Erbil, Ebdulxaliq Telhet, personally questioned him and, despite having Hakim’s journalist credentials in hand, assumed he was there as a demonstrator. The Director later denied having spoken with Hakim.
The pair was verbally insulted at the detention center and was there for 8 hours until they were released. The stringer said that, after his release, he contacted the Journalists’ Syndicate of Kurdistan, the Independent Human Rights group and the US Consulate in Erbil as well as the General Police office about the arrest.