Today for Art & Politics we are exploring the kidnapping of Hella Mewis in Bagdad.
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Hella Mewis kidnapped in Baghdad
According to Iraqi security officials, German national Hella Mewis was kidnapped in Baghdad this week. Mewis had been living in the Iraqi capital since 2010. She ran the Bait Tarkib Arts Centre which promoted art and culture in the country.
Since October 2019, Iraq has a seen an endless series of protests against their current administration. Corruption in the system and strict consequences against protesters has only added fuel to this fire. Mewis was known to have supported these protests. She provided a voice and space for the artists associated with it. In fact, in 2019, a group of artists represented by her had even painted parts of Tahrir Square during the protests. Her kidnapping is believed to be linked to her support of these rallies.
A Veil of Uncertainity
Mewis’ move to Iraq from Berlin was organised by the Goethe Institute. Her primary motive for moving was to provide a platform to local artists who were in dire need of both resources and representation. The news of her kidnapping comes just a few weeks after the assassination of Hisham al-Hashimi. Hashimi was a leading security expert and an advisor to the Iraqi government.
Mewis was kidnapped around 8pm outside Bait Tarkib. Her kidnappers came in two cars. According to reports, both the Iraqi government and the German Embassy have set up task forces to look into the kidnapping. However, no militant group has taken responsibility for the act. Reports also suggest Mewis had expressed concern for her own safety to friends, especially in the wake of the Hashimi incident.
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