Iraqi Security Forces Search Baghdad For Kidnapped German Curator

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A German curator has been kidnapped in Baghdad, the Iraqi Interior Ministry, Othman Al-Ghanmi, confirmed on Tuesday.

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Al-Ghanmi has given directives for security forces to intensify efforts to find her, ministry spokesman, Saad Maan, said.

Hella Mewis was kidnapped by armed militants on Abu Nawas Street near the Bait Tarkib art collective at around 8.00 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Monday, Ali al-Bayati, a member of the semi-official Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, wrote on Twitter.

Another activist, who asked to remain anonymous, said that Mewis disappeared after she left her house in the Iraqi capital and that her mobile phone was unreachable.

A spokesman for the German Foreign Office said the ministry does not comment on cases of abduction or hostage-taking involving its citizens abroad.

Zikra Sarsam, an Iraqi activist and a friend of Mewis, said that she was kidnapped on Abu Nawas Street by gunmen in two cars.

“We do not know yet who kidnapped her,’’ added Sarsam, who is an official at the Iraqi non-governmental organisation, Burj Babel.

“Hella is a friend of all and has close relations with artists and intellectuals and even with the demonstrators of Tahrir Square in central Baghdad and has visited the protest site,’’ she said.

She added that they will work with Tahrir protesters to stage a rally to demand her release and with security agencies to uncover the kidnappers.

Sarsam revealed that a week ago, Mewis expressed, in a phone call, her anger at the killing of Iraqi strategic analyst Hisham al-Hashimi by gunmen outside his house in Baghdad.

Earlier this month, gunmen shot Al-Hashimi near his home in eastern Baghdad and he died of his wounds at hospital.

Mewis was born in Berlin and has lived in Baghdad for several years, where she worked on establishing the Bait Tarkib collective, which aims to promote the work of young Iraqi artists.

Political Islamism experienced a revival in Iraq after Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship was toppled in 2003, with non-religious art often criticised as “haram” (forbidden).

Najem Wali, an Iraqi writer novelist who lives in Germany, described Mewis in a 2017 interview with the Spiegel news magazine, as a woman who broke Iraqi conventions, for example by visiting cafes, wearing her hair down and only seldom wearing a headscarf.

In 2016, Mewis organised a women’s bike demonstration along the river Tigris in Baghdad.

She is said to have political contacts in the country and be well established there.

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