Hella Mewis in Issam Hassam’s Stamba in Baghdad (2014).

German Curator Kidnapped in Baghdad Is Free [UPDATED]

Curator and activist Hella Mewis, a German national, was kidnapped by a group of as-yet-unidentified armed men on Monday evening in Baghdad, Deutsche Welle reports. Berlin-born Mewis is the founder and director of the Beit Tarkib Art Center, an organization dedicated to supporting young Iraqi artists, and has supported recent anti-corruption protests across the country. She first visited Iraq with the Goethe-Institut in 2010 and relocated there permanently in 2012. 

Mewis was leaving her office on bicycle when she was abducted by two cars, one of them allegedly a white pickup truck similar to those used by local security forces. Both the German Foreign Ministry and the Iraqi Interior Ministry have put teams in place to aid in the search for Mewis. According to German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, police witnessed the abduction but did not intervene.

Since widespread demonstrations against corruption in the Iraqi government broke out last October, hundreds have disappeared or died in violence connected to the protests. Dhikra Sarsam, a friend of the curator, told AFP that Mewis was concerned for her safety in light of the July 6 murder of historian and researcher Hisham al-Hashemi, a leading scholar of Islamic extremist groups and a fellow dissident.

[Update: July 24, 1 PM] This morning, German foreign minister Heiko Maas announced that Mewis has been freed, thanking Iraqi forces for their assistance. Mewis is currently safe at Baghdad’s German Embassy. No details about her rescue have emerged.