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Kidnapped German curator Hella Mewis freed

July 24, 2020

The arts curator was taken by armed militants from a Baghdad street on Monday. Iraq's military said she has now been released, but gave no details about who was behind the abduction.

Hella Mewis
Image: picture alliance/dpa/Tower of Babel for Media Development

German arts curator Hella Mewis was freed by Iraqi security forces early Friday, Iraqi officials said.

"Security forces free German activist Hella Mewis," Military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Rasool confirmed on Twitter in Arabic.

A security official cited by the Associated Press said she was released at 6:25 a.m. (0325 UTC/GMT) in a security operation outside the capital Baghdad.

Snatched on Monday

Mewis was taken by armed militants on Monday night from the street near the art collective she helped set up in the Iraqi capital.

The Berlin-born art curator was reported missing on Tuesday by friends and activists who said she wasn’t answering her phone. 

In response, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the Foreign Ministry had created a task force to deal with her disappearance.

Read more: Kidnapped in Iraq: Who is Hella Mewis?

Syrian refugee in Iraq: Life after tragedy

Mewis supported protests

The German national has lived in Baghdad for several years, promoting the work of young Iraqi artists.

Mewis is a prominent figure in the Iraqi art scene and a known supporter of the widespread demonstrations that erupted last year against the Iraqi government, which some critics accuse of being corrupt and too close to Iran.

Her abduction sparked concern among other foreigners and activists living in the country and authorities have not given any information about who was behind her disappearance.

Dhikra Sarsam, a friend of Mewis, told DW that the abduction had highlighted the dangerous situation in the Iraqi capital.

“Kidnapping became a part of our daily life in Baghdad,” she said. “We are in fear every day because most of our colleagues have been either kidnapped or threatened, so they left the city.“

Months of deadly protests

Hundreds of people have died in protest-related violence since October. About two dozen activists were shot dead by unidentified men, and dozens more were kidnapped.

Last week, Hisham al-Hashemi, a prominent jihadism expert, was gunned down outside his home in Baghdad by two men on a motorcycle.

His support for the protests and his work on pro-Iran groups had angered Tehran-backed factions in Iraq's Hashed al-Shaabi military network.

nm/mm (AFP, AP, dpa)