Hella Mewis, a Berlin-born, Baghdad-based curator and activist who was kidnapped earlier this week, has been released by Iraqi security forces.
The news was confirmed by both Iraqi military spokesman Yahya Rasool and German foreign minister Heiko Maas. The motive for the curator’s abduction still remains unclear.
“I am very relieved that the German citizen kidnapped in Baghdad on Monday has been free again this morning,” Maas said in a statement this morning. “The Iraqi authorities handed it over to our embassy in Baghdad a few minutes ago.”
The foreign minister thanked the Iraqi government and security agencies for “ensuring that this case ended well.”
Mewis was leaving her office on bicycle Monday night at around 8 p.m. when two cars pulled up next to her. Friends and fellow activists reported her missing the next day. Soon after, the German foreign ministry launched a task force to locate her.
Mewis is the founder of the Tarkib Art Center, a venue for contemporary art in Baghdad that’s supported by funding from French and German cultural institutions. An outspoken activist, she has publicly supported numerous anti-government demonstrations since moving to the capital city in 2010, and participated in the wave of ongoing protests that have rocked the country over the last nine months.
“Hella expected to be kidnapped because we all expect this fate,” wrote Dhikra Sarsam, a friend and colleague of Mewis, on social media, according to German newspaper Deutsche Welle. “We are in fear every day because most of our colleagues have been either kidnapped or threatened, so they left the city.“
Sarsam claimed that Iraqi police officers watched the kidnapping.
Mewis was released outside Baghdad at 6:25 a.m. this morning.