Guhdar Zebari prison

Journalist Guhdar Zebari released from prison

Iraqi Kurdish journalist Guhdar Zebari was released from prison on February 17, 2024, marking the conclusion of a legal process lasting three and a half years. Zebari’s imprisonment stemmed from convictions on charges including anti-state activities, which were widely viewed as retaliation for his journalistic endeavors.

Bandinan prisoners

Zebari is among the group known as the “Badinan prisoners,” comprised of journalists and activists from the Badinani ethnic group, who were detained following the 2020 anti-government protests. The judicial proceedings surrounding their cases have been criticized as flawed and politically motivated. Notably, journalists Sherwan Sherwani and Qaraman Shukri remain incarcerated, symbolizing the challenges to freedom of expression in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Following his release, Zebari discussed his arrest, detention experience, and the state of press freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan in an interview with CPJ. Requests for comment from various Kurdish authorities went unanswered.

Zebari refuted claims that his arrest was unrelated to journalism, citing his investigative report on youth migration from the Shiladze district in Duhok governorate. He asserted that the charges against him were fabricated to justify his imprisonment.


Describing the legal proceedings, Zebari highlighted difficulties such as lack of access to legal representation and restricted communication with family. He criticized the authorities’ approach of arresting individuals first and then seeking evidence, alleging a disregard for due process.

Zebari detailed his prison experience, including solitary confinement and overcrowded conditions. He raised concerns about ongoing threats to his safety and expressed uncertainty about his future as a journalist in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Despite the challenges, Zebari affirmed his intention to continue journalism, advocating for human rights and press freedom. He called for international support to establish a media outlet in the Badinan area and urged the Kurdistan government to uphold democratic principles.

Reflecting on the deteriorating press freedom situation in Iraqi Kurdistan, Zebari emphasized the risks faced by journalists and the importance of distinguishing between independent journalism and state-affiliated media.

Zebari conveyed gratitude for the support received and urged continued solidarity from the international community.