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Iraqi Kurdistan: 16 arrested after video of girl's assault

December 31, 2022

The attack happened at a motorcycle rally in the northern Iraqi region's second city, Sulaimaniyah.

A police vehicle in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil on September 29, 2013
Knives, machetes, and knuckledusters were confiscated from those detained, a police official told local mediaImage: Mustafa Kerim/AA/picture alliance

Sixteen young men were arrested Saturday in Iraq's automonmous Kurdistan region after a viral video showed a teenage girl being attacked by a group of youths.

The incident took place a day earlier at a motorbike rally in the suburbs of Sulaimaniyah, the region's second city.

Footage of the attack was shared on social media, sparking widespread condemnation.

It shows dozens of young men and teenage boys following the girl before some of them assaulted her, kicking her against a car.

The KurdistanWatch NGO later showed an image on Twitter of those arrested standing with their backs to the camera.

Kurdistan 24 cited Sarkawt Ahmed, the spokesperson for Sulaimani Police, as saying that knives, machetes and knuckledusters were also confiscated from the detainees.

"Between yesterday evening and today, we arrested 16 suspects involved ... in the assault of a young woman," Ahmed told a press conference, adding that the victim was 17 years old.

He said the young men had confessed to taking part in the attack and three of the youngsters filmed the incident and posted it on social media.

Women permitted, then banned from motorbike rally

Kurdistan 24 reported that the weekly rally is used by riders to conduct motorbike stunts. According to the website, women had been allowed to participate but were recently barred.

The website added that the girl — who was originally from Iran — joined the rally on Friday, causing a fight between the organizers over her participation.

Though Kurdistan is keen to project a more progressive and tolerant image than other areas of Iraq, gender-based violence remains prevalent.

On Tuesday, police in Sulaimaniyah announced the arrest of seven people suspected of having kidnapped and sexually assaulted a young woman.

The prime minister of the Kurdistan region, Masrour Barzani, denounced the latest assault on Twitter.

"The mob attack on a young girl in Slemani yesterday, at a moment that should've been about celebrating the New Year, is shameful, inexcusable and completely unacceptable. I’ve spoken to the Interior and Justice Ministers to investigate and hold those responsible accountable," he wrote.

The Kurdish authorities made similar comments and insisted they were "against all kinds of violence and violations of human rights in general, including women's rights."

With material from Agence France-Presse

Edited by: Elizabeth Schumacher