The wife of a former UK student is begging the Government for help after he was arrested and charged with high treason for “working with Britain”, and could face the death penalty in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Sherwan Ameen was arrested in the city of Duhok in September last year after being taken away by officers of the Asayish, the security and intelligence agency of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
His wife, Jwan Hussein, told i she had not seen or heard from the 35-year-old father-of-two for nearly four months until she received an out-of-the-blue phone call from him saying he was in prison in the Erbil, capital of the Iraqi Kurdish region.
She was shocked to learn her husband was charged with working with the UK and US to sabotage and destabilise the KRG – which carries the death sentence if found guilty.
Ms Hussein has begged the UK Government to intervene, saying she hopes “outside pressure” will make a difference, ensuring that either her husband’s case is reviewed or the “unbelievable charges” are dropped.
“I am hoping the UK Government is trying to do something for him,” she added.
“I am left with no hope. Sherwan is a wonderful father and husband, I can’t bear my life without him.”
The couple studied at the University of Glasgow in 2015, with Mr Ameen graduating with a master’s in teaching while Ms Hussein left with a science master’s.
Upon returning to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), took part in global educational programmes with the UK and US embassies, and taught English at Nawroz University in Duhok.
She believes her husband was arrested because he had joined hundreds of civil servants – mostly teachers and healthcare workers – in days-long protests over unpaid wages.
As an austerity measure, the KRG paid civil servants reduced monthly salaries every few months.
“They are using Sherwan as an example for people not to speak,” Ms Hussein said. “They have no evidence, they have nothing against him.”
Ms Hussein said his innocent activities with the British and American consulates – which Mr Ameen did voluntarily with no pay – were being used against him despite being publicly documented in news reports and social media as anything but untoward.
“He was just trying to help his country, he didn’t know one day all these things will be used against him,” she added. “He loved the UK.”
Mr Ameen had said he wished Duhok was more like the UK, with similar opportunities, rights and government, his wife said.
She told how the couple spent “wonderful days” in Glasgow and elsewhere in Britain, admiring the “spectacular views” in London and other cities.
“He was also proud of the Kurdistan flag. When he went to the UK and US, he was always taking his flag with him,” she added.
The family’s suffering has been exacerbated after Mr Ameen’s trial was postponed for a third time this month, and rescheduled for 20 October.
Ms Hussein has told their four-year-old son Shad and three-year-old daughter Zari that their father is away at work, but after a year they have started asking questions.
“I was crying until I fall asleep,” said Ms Hussein. “My family said, ‘Don’t do this to yourself.’ I said,’ I am not crying for myself, I am thinking about Sherwan being far from his kids.’”
Mass protests demanding an end to corruption and better public services intensified last year, leading to a crackdown on activists, with more than 100 people arrested in Duhok between March 2020 and April this year, according to Amnesty International.
The human rights group criticised the KRG for the arbitrary arrests, saying some people were forcibly disappeared, tortured during detention and imprisoned after making “confessions” under duress.
Mr Sherwan’s case has been raised in an early day motion put forward to Parliament by Patrick Grady, the SNP for Glasgow North. The motion has cross-party support.
The Foreign Office said it did not have the power to intervene in the legal processes of other states, saying that its primary role is to support the welfare of Britons abroad.
It added that the Government has a longstanding policy of opposing the death penalty.