Ezz Alnatour is a young JHR-trained journalist who works for 7iber.org, one of JHR’s partners in Amman, Jordan. Recently he covered the issue of ongoing imprisonment of Jordanians who fought in Iraq during the war of 2003. Published on 7iber.com , the article has since led to the release of one prisoner from an Iraqi jail, and an advocacy campaign to demand justice for many others.
Says Ezz: “The story of dozens of Jordanians imprisoned in Iraq who fought in the war of 2003 is usually covered in a highly politicized way. There was a need to highlight the human side of their story in the Jordanian press, shedding light on the reasons and the conditions of their imprisonment, as well as why they went to Iraq. Some went to participate in the fighting. The majority, however, were college students who went to take advantage of the low fees that Iraq charged for higher education at that time. Some were simply working in Iraq. Many have completed their sentences yet still not been released. Also, I wanted to tell the stories of their families who, in many cases, haven’t seen their children or relatives for 12 years.”
Ezz’s original story highlighted the story of one prisoner’s mother and was published on November 2, 2015 on 7iber.com in collaboration with Journalists for Human Rights (JHR). It put a human face on data from Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports that described conditions Jordanians prisoners endured and emphasized the questionable legality of sentencing procedures in the months following the fall of the Ba’ath regime.
The Iraqi authorities reacted by re-opening cases after years of silence – and one prisoner, Saleh Abed Allatief, was actually released. (Abed Allatief has not yet returned to Jordan, due to the refusal of the Jordanian Interior Ministry to issue a security permit for his return.)
The Iraqi parliament’s human rights committee has since asked Ezz for more information and called upon prisoners’ families to submit requests for follow-up through legal Iraqi channels. Further, through its offices in Jordan and Iraq, a follow-up meeting to bring together the families of the prisoners with an Iraqi delegation in Amman to go through the issue in detail and seek justice is planned.
None of this would have happened without the spark of Ezz’s story. This shows that shining a light on a major issue, even one as murky as Jordanian political prisoners in Iraq, can, with time, bring justice.