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 Iraqi Kurdish students demand Massoud Barzani apology for protest deaths

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Iraqi Kurdish students demand Massoud Barzani apology for protest deaths  19.2.2011  







February 19, 2011

SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Around 2,000 university students were demonstrating on Saturday in Kurdistan region in Iraq's north, demanding an apology from regional president Massoud Barzani after protests earlier in the week left two dead.

The rally in Sulaimaniyah, along with another protest in the same city and others in Baghdad, were the latest in a string of nationwide demonstrations that have drawn thousands out to denounce high level corruption, unemployment and poor basic services.

"The authorities in the region do not understand what democracy means," said Frishta Karim, a 21-year-old student of Sulaimaniyah University. "We firmly reject the use of weapons against demonstrators."

Police at the rally refused to allow the protesters to exit the university campus, according to an AFP journalist at the scene.

One banner in Saturday's demonstration called on Barzani, whose Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is the dominant political force in the region, "to apologise to the people of Sulaimaniyah for his guards' shootings."

On Thursday, two young men were killed and 54 others were wounded when KDP guards fired into the air in an attempt to stop protesters from reaching KDP's headquarters in Sulaimaniyah, the autonomous Kurdish region's second city.

Around 1,000 people were also at Sulaimaniyah's main square on Saturday demanding the release of individuals arrested in connection with Thursday's rally, and the prosecution of the head of the city's KDP office who,
www.ekurd.netthe protesters claimed, gave the order for security to open fire.

Barzani has called for a full investigation into the incident.

Immediately after Thursday's protests, looters attacked the offices of opposition movement  Gorran in Erbil and Dohuk provinces, which along with Sulaimaniyah make up the Kurdish region.

Gorran denied it was part of the Thursday demonstration, and party officials have claimed that the looters were KDP loyalists.                    

Around 2,000 university students were demonstrating on Saturday in Kurdistan region in Iraq's north, demanding an apology from regional president Massoud Barzani after protests earlier in the week left two dead. February 19, 2011. Photo: hawlati.co


Iraqi riot police officers carry the body of a protester in front of the headquarters of Kurdish President Massoud Barzani's political party in Sulaimaniyah, Kurdistan region, Iraq, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011. Kurdish security forces opened fire on a crowd of protesters surrounding the headquarters of the party affiliated with the Kurdish president. Photo: AP

An incident in the national parliament on Saturday highlighted the differences between the two sides. 

Gorran's parliamentary leader Shoresh Hadji claimed in the Council of Representatives that KDP guards had fired on peaceful demonstrators, but he was interrupted by KDP representative Ashwaq al-Jaff, who shouted back: "That's not true! It was the demonstrators who attacked the KDP and not the opposite!"

For decades, the KDP of regional president Massoud Barzani and the PUK of Iraq's President Jalal Talabani have lorded over the region.

Massoud Barzani, the KDP chief and current Kurdistan president, and his relatives control a large number of commercial enterprises in Kurdistan-Iraq, with a gross value of several billion US dollars. The family is routinely accused of corruption and nepotism by Kurdish media as well as international observers.

Gorran enjoys wide support in Kurdistan region. It's emerged in regional elections in 2009 as a rival to the two main ruling Kurdish parties and won 25 seats in the parliament.

Gorran is challenging Talabani's PUK and the KDP of Massoud Barzani and accuses the parties of corruption. It’s headed by the former senior PUK-leader Nawshirwan Mustafa, who was Talabani’s deputy until 2007. Since the July 2009 elections in which it secured almost a third of the seats of 111-member Parliament of Kurdistan.  

Copyright ©, respective author or news agency, AFP | ekurd.net | Agencies 

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