NUJ supports detained Iraqi journalist Rizhwan Amin

The National Union of Journalists’ Manchester and Salford branch has launched a campaign in support of a political journalist who fled Iraq in 2010 after being threatened as a result of newspaper articles he wrote at the time of the elections. 

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Rzhwan Amin (Jaf), who has been living in Tameside, Greater Manchester, is now in Morton Hall immigration removal centre, Lincolnshire, after being detained when he went to report at Dallas Court Home Office Reporting Centre, Salford, on January 8th.

Rzhwan, aged 32, wrote political reports for a newspaper in Kirkuk,  a city which is disputed territory in Iraq and has one of the country’s biggest oilfields on its doorstep.

Rzhwan left Iraq after he was summoned to appear at a meeting of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party (PUK) to discuss his journalism – he was warned by a friend not to attend because it was a trap.  PUK, whose leader is Jalal Al Talabani, the current president of Iraq, has a history of dissension with other Kurdish political organisations.

Rzhwan escaped through Turkey and ended up in the UK where he claimed asylum in June 2010.  His immigration case was refused by the first judge who  ruled out an expert’s report on Iraq and did not attach any weight to letters written by academics. In addition to   his newspaper journalism, Rzhwan wrote several political articles while he was studying Philosophy at Baghdad University.

A fresh asylum claim was submitted by Rzhwan’s solicitor early last year with a new country expert’s report. The fresh claim also relied on a Court of Appeal ruling which said country guidance regarding the risk of violence in Iraq needed to be reconsidered.

The UKBA refused the fresh claim, however, and Rzhwan was detained. His lawyers are  now preparing an application for judicial review. Rzhwan’s case is also being taken to the European Court of Human Rights under Articles 2,3,9 and 10.

Support from other journalists who have confirmed Rzhwan’s story include:

·         The Kurdistan Journalists’ Syndicate

·         The editor of a newspaper in Kirkuk

·         The former director of a TV station in Kirkuk

·          Iraq’s Journalists Freedom Observatory (JFO)

·         A journalist at Charmu newspaper in Kirkuk

·         Reporters Without Borders

Risks to journalists in Iraq:

John Drake, head of Global IntAKE, an organisation which assesses political situations and risks in countries throughout the world, has submitted information to the UKBA on Rzhwan’s behalf. He says the Iraq Journalists’ Defence Association has reported 50 violations against 75 media personnel and organisations during 2012.  At least five journalists were killed because of their profession. 

Political tensions in Kirkuk

There have been political tensions in Kirkuk  – last week, the New York Times reported that 19 people were killed and 200 injured after car bombs were placed outside the local headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Another four people were killed by a car bomb outside a building used by Kurdish security forces.

Support for Rzhwan from organisations in Greater Manchester:

Rzhwan is a member of the Manchester-based human rights organisation RAPAR which is backing his campaign. He has also been a volunteer caseworker, interpreter and translator for the British Red Cross in Manchester and has done volunteer advocacy, advice and interpreting for Manchester Refugee Support Network.  Both organisations have written in support of Rzhwan, praising his conscientious work. 

Manchester and Salford NUJ branch is campaigning for Rzhwan to be granted asylum in the UK and the union’s national executive council has given its backing to the case.  

How you can help:

a) Write letters of support for Rzhwan – please include his Home Office number A1434433. At the moment, Rzhwan’s solicitor is asking that all letters of support to the UKBA be sent through him.  We can pass them on so please email letters to manchesterbranch@nuj.org.uk , or send them to:

NUJ Manchester and Salford Branch, 

c/o NUJ North and Midlands Office, 

5th floor, Arthur House, 

Chorlton Street, 

Manchester.

b) Write to your MPs asking them to contact Rzhwan’s MP David Heyes (Ashton under Lyne) about his case.  If you live in David Heyes’ constituency, please send him a personal letter urging him to support Rzhwan’s asylum case. All letters should include the Home Office number A1434433.

c) Send messages of support to Rzhwan himself – you can email him rzhwan@hotmail.com or at rzhwan_t@yahoo.com 

If you have any queries or need more information, please contact Manchester and Salford Branch Secretary Kath Grant kath.northernstories@googlemail.com  07812471047

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