Family of a 23-year old Kurdish man show photos of his imprisonment. They say he was kidnapped by the mainly-Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces in Tuz Khurmatu and then referred to the town's police under the accusation of being a terrorist. Photo: Rudaw video
TUZ KHURMATU, Kurdistan Region – Cases of kidnapping are on the rise in the multi-ethnic town of Tuz Khurmatu, as tensions remain high between Kurdish and Hashd al-Shaabi groups.
Ten days ago, a young Kurdish man, 23-year old Bakhawan Aziz, disappeared. Four days ago, his mother received photographs of her son which showed signs of torture. The sender of the photograph said Aziz is being held by Hashd al-Shaabi forces and he will not be freed until his family pays a ransom.
Aziz was tortured so severely that he was near death. Fearing he may die, his captors brought him to the police, saying that he is a terrorist.
The police are still holding Aziz where they have given him basic first aid.
Aziz’s brother has visited him in police custody. Aziz told his brother he was seized by Hashd al-Shaabi at a checkpoint where he had been strip-searched for explosives before taken to their base.
Aziz said he was shot twice in his feet and is unable to move his arms or legs.
The police are now demanding money from the family, who say that the police are the same as the Hashd al-Shaabi, his family claims.
“Where to bring the money to give as a bribe to release my son?” his mother asked. “My plea is to release him and perform an operation on his feet. I hand over to God those who have oppressed us.”
Aziz’s mother has raised her son on her own. “He has not had father for 15 years,” she said of her son. “I raised him in hardship.”
The security situation in Tuz Khurmatu is stable after deadly clashes between Kurdish and Shiite force last year, but kidnapping cases are on the rise. Civilian officials say they know who is responsible, but they don’t have the power to bring them to justice.
Mayor Shalal Abdul said, “There are some apparent parties performing kidnappings who are part of the Hashd. I believe that when they need money, they kidnap rich people, particularly Sunni Arab and Turkmen.”
The Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi, which jointly provides security in the town along with Kurdish Peshmerga, rejects any connection to kidnappings or torture.
Ali Husseini, spokesperson for the Hashd al-Shaabi in Tuz Khurmatu, said, “We as Hashd in front of God and in front of the law, we distance ourselves from those armed people who kidnap people. Hashd’s duty is eradicating ISIS, not kidnapping people.”
“This is not our work,” he maintained, asking anyone who has evidence against individuals accused of kidnapping or torture to submit it so that the individuals responsible can be “punished.”
There have been at least 33 cases of kidnapping in Tuz Khurmatu in the past three months. The fates of six of them are still unknown. The others have been freed after payment of a ransom.
According to Kurdish security, Asayesh, in the city, some of the kidnapped were seized by persons claiming to be members of the security forces.
In this town, more than 13 armed groups exist. Each belongs to a political party and most of them wear uniforms of Iraqi official forces.