Whereabouts of former Kurdistan Border Crossing officials unknown

The disappearance of two former Iraq-Iran border crossing officials has raised questions and sparked concerns among their families and the local community.

Aram Saya Khan, the former head of communication and relations at the Parvez Khan Border Crossing, and his wife, Sharmin Ali, the former head of media and information at the same crossing, were reportedly abducted from their home in the Kalar district by a team of masked, heavily armed Sulaimaniyah Asayish forces, according to the victims’ family members.

The families of the two former officials have sought clarification from authorities but have received no answers, said Hassan Saya Khan, Aram’s father, who spoke to NRT English. The armed individuals reportedly forced their way into the couple’s house and conducted a thorough search of the property.

A few months before the abduction, Finance Minister Awat Janab transferred the pair from the border crossing to Garmyian’s Property Tax Directorate, but no reason was given for the transfer.

Sarbaz Ali, Sharmin Ali’s brother, told NRT English that the family has not received any information about the grounds for their detention or their current whereabouts. Despite extensive searching, they have not found any satisfactory answers.

Sarbaz believes that their arrest is likely connected to their employment at the customs office in Kalar since they were taken directly to Sulaymaniyah city without further details about where they are being held.

The Parvez Khan Border Crossing, one of the three main entry points between Iraq and Iran, falls under the control of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). It became a source of disagreement between the PUK and its historical rival, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), last year when the PUK refused to allow KDP-affiliated security forces to oversee its operations.

Revenues from customs and excise have long been a contentious issue between the two parties, with each controlling its own border crossings with neighboring countries and the rest of Iraq. Each party has accused the other of embezzling public funds at these frontiers.

NRT English reached out to Yasin Sami, the spokesperson of Sulaymaniyah Asayish security forces, and the Kurdistan Special Counter-Terrorism unit, affiliated with the PUK, for comment but has not received any responses yet.

Sharmin Ali also worked as a correspondent for KNN in Kalar for more than eight years, but her brother says it’s unlikely that this was the reason for their arrest. KNN is the official broadcaster for Gorran, a former opposition party that splintered acrimoniously from the PUK.

In a joint statement, twenty-four journalists from Kalar condemned the circumstances surrounding the couple’s disappearance and held the security agencies and officials of the PUK responsible for this “insult.” They expressed their concern about the way the two employees were arrested and treated, stressing the need for a full and transparent investigation into the fate of the two former officials.

“The reason for their arrests is still unclear, especially since no explanation has been given, which is worrying,” they said.

“Moreover, we are concerned about the manner in which the two employees were arrested and how they were treated.”

The group of journalists also stated that “both detainees are civilians, peaceful people, and government employees, with no criminal record or history of illegal activities; yet their homes were raided in a very unpleasant manner as if they were about to arrest terrorists.”

“We strongly condemn this behavior and hold the government, security agencies, and officials of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) responsible for this insult. They must officially apologize and investigate the cases of the two detainees in a principled and legal manner.”