A German citizen was abducted late Monday by unidentified militants in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, human rights activists said.
Hella Mewis, who runs the arts program at Tarkib, an Iraqi art group, was kidnapped outside her office in central Baghdad, said Ali al-Bayati, a semi-official member of the Iraqi High Commission on Human Rights.
A spokesman for the Iraqi Interior Ministry confirmed the abduction of Mewis to the DPA news agency.
Mewis had left his office and was riding his bicycle “when two cars, one of which was a white pickup truck used by security forces, were seen kidnapping him,” according to a source quoted by AFP news agency.
Another activist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said his phone could not be reached and security forces began to look for him.
Dhikra Sarsam, a friend of Mewis, wrote in a social media post that police officers witnessed the abduction but did not intervene. “Hella is expected to be kidnapped because we all hope for this fate,” he wrote.
Mewis, a Berlin-born art curator, is associated with the Goethe Institute in Baghdad, where he lived for several years. He worked to build an art collective aimed at promoting the work of young Iraqi artists.
Sarsam said that Mewis was worried about the killing of Hisham al-Hashemi, an Iraqi scholar and government adviser who had voiced support for anti-government protests. “I spoke with him (Mewis) last week and he was really involved in the protest too, so he was nervous after the murder,” Sarsam told AFP.
Rise up in political violence
Widespread demonstrations erupted last year against the Iraqi government, which some critics accused of being corrupt and too close to Iran. Since then, hundreds of people have died in violence related to protests. About two dozen activists were shot dead by strangers, and dozens more were kidnapped.
Last week, Hisham al-Hashemi, a prominent jihadist expert, was shot dead outside his home in Baghdad by two men on motorbikes. His support for the protests and his work with pro-Iranian groups has angered Tehran-backed factions in Iraq’s Hashy al-Shaabi military network.
“Armed forces from various affiliates have killed the protesters and others are willing to openly criticize the government and the armed forces with impunity,” said Belkis Wille, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“But killing someone from his good looks hits a country where several groups have become so brave by total impunity for serious violations, so they can kill anyone they want without paying a price,” he said.
adi / rc (AFP, dpa)