Demo bill in Iraqi Kurdistan upsets
opposition and NGOs
By Dler Abdulrahman
Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Lawmakers in Kurdistan
Region are polarized over a draft law requiring
beforehand permission for demonstrations from the
authorities passed recently by the parliament.
Under the bill passed on Nov. 3 by a majority vote,
any demonstration in Kurdistan Region has to be
authorized by the ministry of the interior before
demonstrators take to the streets. officials say the
law is to regulate the demonstrations and that the
security forces provide security for the
However, the opposition factions and the civil
society organizations are upset about the bill and
consider it restrictions on the right of citizens to
demonstrate and raise their voices.
They called on the president Massoud Barzani to not
sign on the bill and return it to parliament for
The streets of the city of Sulaimaniyah were crammed
with thousands of angry demonstrators protested the
killing of a Kurdish journalist Sardasht Osman.
Osman wrote extensively on how corrupted Barzani’s
government has become. But it seems the Barzanis –
the powerful tribe which Massoud leads – could not
tolerate his criticism. May 2010.
“We thought that the
bill would be passed to expand the freedoms of the
people in Kurdistan” said Sargul Qaradaghi, an MP in
the Gorran faction in the parliament of Kurdistan
region, “it is regrettable that it was passed by a
majority vote despite expressing our concerns about
some articles of the draft law”
The Opposition, which includes the Gorran movement,
the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), and the Islamic
Group (IG) considered the bill as “restricting the
freedom of demonstrating”. They were particularly
concerned about an article which requires beforehand
permission from the authorities for any
demonstration. The law also does not allow
The demonstrations bill has been submitted to the
president of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani.
Upon Barzani’s singing, the bill will be put into
According to the amended Law No. 1 of 2005, the
president has to sign or reject the law in 15 days.
If the period expired and the president did not
reject the bill, it will automatically be effective.
“Demonstration is a right of the citizens and can
not be restricted by laws. The demonstrators only
need to inform the relevant authorities so that they
can provide security and safety for them not
permissions” said the Gorran member.
The majorities of the demonstrations in Kurdistan
Region have been unexpected in response to certain
decisions by the government that some people have
found “unfair” and did not have time to inform the
relevant authorities, which had to be addressed
separately in the bill, according to him.
Another Gorran lawmaker, Zana Raof, said requiring
people to have permission to demonstrate will alter
the law from a constitutional guarantee of the
citizens rights to a "weapon in the hands of
ministry of the interior" and which might be used
for personal purposes and preventing demonstrators.
“Also, not fitting the unexpected demonstrations in
the law will crate a big problem for the internal
security forces, as people usually take to the
streets all of a sudden,” he said, “what was passed
contains dangerous implications and restricts the
constitutional rights of people”
“There are demonstrations for certain issues which
require immediate solutions and can not wait for two
days to first inform the authorities and then the
authority in turn, reply in another two days” said
Omar Abdul Aziz, head of the KIU action in the
The differences on the bill have driven a wedge even
between the lawmakers of the Kurdistani Alliance
which includes the two ruling parties in the region:
the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Some of them believe that the law restricts freedoms
while others argue that the law is suitable for
Kurdistan Region in the current unstable stage of
Iraq and could be reformed later.
“The law contains many flaws,” said Rafiq Sabir of
the Kurdistani Alliance, “because freedom of
demonstration is restricted when permission is
required. In some articles,www.ekurd.netit
is against the law number 17 of 1993 which
stipulates that only informing the authorities is
required for a demonstration… the bill does not
comply with the developing democracy in Kurdistan”
Those who argue that the bill is necessary cite
security as the main reason to support the bill.
“Kurdistan is part of Iraq, it can not be viewed as
different” says Aso Karim, another member of the
Kurdistan Alliance, “whenever the terrorism is
curtailed in Iraq and Kurdistan, then the law can be
Some observers have dubbed Kurdistan Region "the
Other Iraq" its security and stability.
Though demonstration needs permission from the
authorities in advance, but this does not mean they
will be able to reject a request for one without
good reason, according to Karim.
Recently, hundreds of students took to the streets
without prior notice to the authorities after they
had applied to the universities of Kurdistan Region
but were not admitted.
Shorish Mohammed Amin, head of the NGO Federation in
Kurdistan which includes 15 organizations, said the
law was more “to block demos than organize them… as
if the demonstrators were the enemies of the
government and the country,”
He said they will continue a campaign they have
started to collect signatures against the bill and
will urge the president Massoud Barzani to return
the draft back to the parliament for reforms.
“Passing the law will harm the democracy in
Kurdistan and is reminiscent of the Baath regime
days when demonstrations were not allowed”
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