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  • Jul 27, 2020

Kidnapped German Curator Has Been Freed

Curator HELLA MEWIS, who was kidnapped in Baghdad, was freed by the Iraqi security forces. Image via Twitter.

Hella Mewis, the German curator and activist who was kidnapped in Baghdad last Monday has been released on July 24, although identities of the perpetrators are still unknown.

In a statement to AFP, Iraqi military spokesman Yahya Rasool announced that Mewis was freed by its security forces outside Baghdad. German foreign minister Heiko Maas verified via Twitter that Mewis is in the care of the German Embassy, and thanked Iraqi authorities for their assistance in ensuring her release. According to the spokesman for Iraq’s Judicial Council, Abdul Sattar al-Birqadar, the court in the Al-Rufasa district has been put in charge of investigating the incident. 

Mewis was kidnapped while leaving her office on July 20 at the independent artists’ group Tarkib Baghdad Contemporary Arts Institute, which she currently runs. The abduction reportedly happened “near a police station, but the police did not intervene.” Both the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and the German Federal Foreign Office deployed investigative teams.

Berlin-born Mewis moved to Baghdad in 2012, and has been involved with the country’s anti-government protest movement. In a 2019 interview with PBS, she criticized the Iraqi government for its lack of funding for the arts and culture. 

Many have expressed discontent with Iraqi authorities upon news of Mewis’ kidnapping. On July 25, EPIC, an organization promoting peace and development in Iraq, called for the perpetrators’ arrest. Ali Al-Mikdam, an Iraqi human-rights activist, tweeted on July 24 that “For everyone who believes that the Iraqi authorities and the Iraqi Ministry of Interior are interested in the issue of Hella Mewis, it’s a delusion.” 

This is the latest in a series of activist abductions in Iraq over the past months. On July 6, Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi scholar in support of the anti-government protests, was killed by unidentified men outside his home in Baghdad. In November 2019, Iraqi activists Saba al-Mahdawi, Ali Hisham, and Mary Mohammad were abducted by unidentified groups and later released within that month. 

Fion Tse is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

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