ARBIL, Iraq: An Iraqi Kurdish editor of a magazine that advocates relations between the Kurdistan region and Israel has been missing for more than 10 days, a journalist and a media rights group said on Wednesday.
Mawlud Afand, the editor-in-chief of the Israel-Kurd Institute's magazine, has been missing since June 8, said Diyari Mohammed, a correspondent for the magazine in Sulaimaniyah, in the autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.
Media watchdog Reporters Without Borders expressed concern about the missing journalist.
"We fear the worst and we urge the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government's authorities to do everything possible to find" Afand, RSF said in a statement on its website, calling for an immediate investigation.
During a visit to Sulaimaniyah, Afand "went alone for an appointment... and disappeared," Mohammed said.
"He called in the afternoon the next day and told us that he was on a private visit and would return back after a week," he said.
A woman who spoke Persian answered Afand's phone on June 13, but it has been switched off since then, Mohammed said, adding Afand's colleagues have raised the possibility he was kidnapped by Iranian intelligence.
Mohammed said the president of the Israel-Kurd Institute, Dawood al-Baghistani, had been informed by the Kurdistan region's government last year that Iran wanted the magazine closed, but that Kurdistan declined to do so.
RSF said the magazine "promotes better relations between Israelis and Kurds and encourages Kurdish Jews who emigrated to Israel to return to Kurdistan," noting that "its aims and activities are controversial and constitute a major source of discord between the Kurdistan Regional Government and Iran."
Iran has alleged its arch-foe Israel was operating in Kurdistan, claims the region has rejected as "untrue."
On May 5, Tehran's consul in Arbil, Azim Hosseini, said Iran's security agencies had found evidence that "Israelis are in Kurdistan, and they are working against Iran."
"Israelis are working under different passports and names and banners," he told Safil, a Kurdish weekly published in Arbil.
And on April 21, Iranian MP Esmaeel Kosari told Al-Alam, an Iran-based Arabic-language news channel, that Kurdistan and Azerbaijan "should know that the presence of the Zionist regime on their soil will be harmful to them."
"The neighbouring nations should not allow this regime to have any activities against Iran."
The Kurdistan regional government responded by saying: "This is not the first time that Iranian officials are saying this without presenting evidence or reasons."