Angry Demonstrations are Spreading from Sulaymaniyah Province to the Neighboring Cities and Areas
A new round of protests began on December 2 in Sulaymaniyah Governorate and cities surrounding the city of Sulaymaniyah. Demonstrators gathered to protest poor public services, lack of job opportunities, postponement of school openings, salary cuts, and the deterioration of the economic situation. Also the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) has failed to reach agreement with Baghdad government to hand over oil revenues and customs. Additionally the KRG must eradicate corruption and carry out administrative reform. Protesters affirmed that they will continue demonstrating until their demands are met.
On Thursday morning, December 3, in the main bazaar in Sulaymaniyah Governorate, security forces responded with violence, causing chaos and spreading fear among the demonstrators by using tear gas and firing live bullets at them in order to disperse them. A number of citizens suffocated, while many demonstrators and activists were arrested. Twenty-five people were injured during the events.
Sulaymaniyah’s Security Higher Committee called on all the security forces to exercise restraint and avoid violence, while also saying that unauthorized demonstrations are “not allowed.” “The disruption of the city’s calm and halting market activity is not in the interest of society,” it said.
Police and Asayish, the Kurdish security forces, arrested a large number of demonstrators. Many journalists, were temporarily detained and their equipment was seized by Asayish forces. They were later released, but their equipment has not been returned. Others were injured while the protests were being dispersed. During a press conference, a group of teachers involved in the protests called on the authorities to release all the teachers, activists, and others detained by security forces.
In the cities of Halabja, Ranya, Kalar, Bazyan, Piramagrun, Penjwen, Saidsadq, Takya, Kfri, Dukan, and Darbandekhan protestors blocked the main highway for the second day in a row, calling for improvements of basic public services, especially water and electricity. During the demonstration, protesters set fire to the local headquarters of the main political parties in Kurdistan region in response to the deaths of seven protestors who were killed in different locations and the many protestors who were injured.
On December 8, the government shut down the Internet for an entire day throughout all of Sulaymaniyah governorate. Also, because of its coverage of the protests, the authorities closed the NRT TV channel and suspended it for a week.
The opposition in parliament said “We fully support the demands of the citizens of the Kurdistan Region for a dignified life and their salaries. The right to protest is one of citizens’ most basic civil rights”.
For his part, the spokesperson for the Kurdistan Regional Government stated that it will pay the late October salary to employees with a deduction of 21%. The last time the regional government paid public sector salaries was on October 15, when they were reduced by 18%. Salaries in July and August were reduced by 21%.