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24 November 2017 – PEN International is deeply concerned about the safety of Saad Salloum, a prominent Iraqi writer and activist, as well as his colleagues at Masarat Foundation for Cultural and Media Development. They have been recently subjected to death threats by an unknown Islamic group through phone calls and letters asking the Foundation staff to halt their activities.
The Masarat Foundation is an Iraqi based non-governmental organisation working to support the rights of minority groups, collective memory studies and inter-faith dialogue. Since the liberation of most Iraqi territory from Daesh, Masarat has been playing a central role in reinforcing interfaith and intercultural dialogue, and reconciliation among different groups. Subsequently, Masarat’s General Coordinator Salloum reports being subjected to continuing threats and harassment from unknown Islamic armed groups. Other writers and civil society activists within the organisation also report having repeatedly received death threats this year from unidentified armed groups.
“Harassment and threats against Masarat Foundation and its General Coordinator, Saad Salloum, affect the right to freedom of expression, including the right to receive and impart information regardless of frontiers, as guaranteed by article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said Iman Humaydan President of PEN Lebanon and PEN International’s Board member. She added that: “Masarat is part of Iraqi civil society, and plays an important role in denouncing human rights violations, and providing vital and valuable information for the public, both inside and outside Iraq. The protection and the safety of the activists should be guaranteed.”
A recent statement by the Masarat Foundation asserts that: “such threats of killing are not new as the Foundation suffered in the current year from two cases of robbery of its archive material and possessions. In this context, we hold the security and legal authorities responsible for providing security and protection to the personnel of Masarat Foundation”.
PEN international calls on the Iraqi authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of Masarat Foundation staff, as well as to investigate reports of threatening behaviour, robbery and attacks, and prosecute those responsible. PEN also demands that the Iraqi government respect and protect the right of all citizens to freedom of expression and association, in accordance with its obligations under international human rights law.
Saad Salloum is an Iraqi academic and writer specializing in Iraqi minorities and human rights. He is the General Coordinator of Masarat and the editor-in-chief of its magazine. He is also an assistant professor in the College of Political Sciences of Mustansiriya University, and is one of the founding members of the Iraqi Council for Interfaith Dialogue. Salloum is the author of many publications, including 14 books and hundreds of articles, in which he mainly focuses on Iraqi religious minorities and their rights. Among his books, one entitled “Minorities in Iraq: memory, identity & challenges” edited in 2013, as well as “Christians in Iraq” and “Policies and Ethnic Groups in Iraq”, both published in 2014. More recently, Salloum has published “A hundred illusions about minorities in Iraq in 2015″, “Êzidîs in Iraq: Memory, Beliefs and Current Genocide” in 2016 and “At Crossroads: Iraqi Minorities after ISIS” in 2016.
The Masarat Foundation has published several books about cultural diversity, literature, history and sociology in the objective of promoting cultural development in Iraq and the rest of the Arab region.
For any further information, please contact Nael Georges, PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London SE1 2AN | Tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338 | Email: Nael.Georges@pen-international.org