Iraqi journalist abducted from her home in Baghdad

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is very concerned about Afrah Shawqi, a journalist who was kidnapped in Baghdad last night, and calls on the Iraqi authorities to do everything in their power to find her as soon as possible.

The family of journalist Afrah Shawqi told Ziyad al-Ajeeli, the head of the Baghdad-based Journalistic Freedoms Observatory, that she was abducted from her home in the southwestern district of Saidiya at around 10 p.m. by eight armed men in civilian dress who claimed to be members of the security forces.

The gunmen carried handcuffed her 16-year-old son, and ransacked her home, taking mobile phones, computers, jewels and cash, Ajeeli said. As they left with Shawqi, they also took her car.

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has issued a communiqué condemning her abduction and ordering the security forces to “do the utmost to protect her, find her and capture the group or groups responsible.”

“We are extremely concerned and firmly condemn this abduction,” RSF editor-in-chief Virginie Dangles said. “We urge the prime minister to keep his word to do everything possible to find Afrah Shawqi and those responsible for taking her. We also point out that the government has a duty to improve the safety of journalists in Iraq.”

Iraqi journalists staged several demonstrations today in support of their kidnapped colleague.

Saad al-Massoudi, Al Arabiya’s Paris correspondent, said Shawqi’s professionalism as a journalist was widely recognized: “Her articles often draw attention to the problems in Iraqi society and the corruption, and she is not scared to tackle the sensitive subjects that concern Iraqis”.

Shawqi writes for many newspapers and websites including Aklaam (which means “Pens” in Arabic). It was on Aklaam that she posted an article yesterday criticizing how gangs and armed groups are able to operate with complete impunity in Iraq.

Shawqi, aged 38, is also head of women’s affairs for the Iraqi culture ministry and is active in the defence of human rights.

Iraq is one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists, with a total of seven killed in 2016, according to RSF’s latest annual round-up. It is ranked 158th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.