20 October 2020
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Hella Mewis: German kidnapped in Iraq freed in government operation

Saturday, 25 July 2020 12:33
Mewis' kidnap comes in the wake of widespread anti-government protestsAP Mewis' kidnap comes in the wake of widespread anti-government protestsAP

A German art curator who was kidnapped in Baghdad has been freed by a government operation, officials have said.

Hella Mewis, who was was taken by armed men outside the Beit Tarkib arts centre on Monday night, was rescued at 6.25 a.m. local time on Friday in a security operation outside the Iraqi capital, according to a security source speaking to AP.

Mewis is originally from Berlin but has lived in Baghdad for seven years, running an arts programme for young people in the city as well as being a rights activist.

She is said to be an ardent supporter of recent mass anti-government protests across the capital and the country's south, which is mostly Shia.

 Demonstrators have called out the country's government saying it is incompetent, corrupt and bound to Iran.

Violence sparked from the months-long demonstrations later saw over 500 killed, including several well-known activists who were shot in Baghdad and other cities for speaking out against armed groups.

Mewis' kidnap on Monday came in the wake of the unrest, which began in October, and led to a campaign under the hashtag #freedom_for_hella for her release.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who travelled to Tehran on Tuesday on an official trip, has since promised to rein in armed groups.

But pressure is mounting on the government to act following a series of rocket attacks targeting US installations, as well as assassinations and disappearances in Iraq.

Two weeks ago, armed men killed internationally-renowned historian and terrorism expert Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi, in Baghdad.

National media directed suspicion at Iranian-backed militia and the militant Islamic State group (IS), but no group has claimed responsibility for the killing.

Political commentators have suggested Hashemi's death was embroiled in the struggle between Kadhimi, who is US-friendly, and powerful Iran-backed militias.

Mewis was "outraged" at al-Hashimi's killing, DP cited her friend activist Sirka Sarsam of the NGO Burj Babel as saying.

Sarsam called her abduction "a human disaster".

The Iraqi writer Najem Wali, who lives in Germany, in 2017 described Mewis to the weekly German news magazine Der Spiegel as a woman who, contrary to Iraqi conventions, goes into cafés, wears her hair loose and rarely reaches for a headscarf.

In 2016, she organised a women's bicycle demonstration on the banks of the Tigris river.

 Military spokesman brigadier general Yahya Rasool also confirmed the rescue on Twitter, but gave no specific details.

There was no immediate comment from the German foreign office; however, foreign minister Heiko Mass had assured earlier in the week that "the person concerned and her well-being would be secured".

Source: Euro News

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