Kurdish military presence halts protests
in Iraq's Kurdistan
Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — The deployment of
thousands of heavily armed troops in Iraq's Kurdish
city of Sulaimaniyah appears to have quelled, for
the moment, two months of protests against
corruption and authoritarian rule.
The protests in the semi-autonomous northern
Kurdistan region were the largest and most sustained
of rallies across Iraq, which followed uprisings
around the Middle East. Thousands
protested every day for months,
demanding the removal of their government.
"They failed 100 percent," said Jamal Anwar,
commander of a military unit
deployed in Sulaimaniyah's main
square, where protesters had gathered daily since
February. "They thought they could topple the
government. Their agendas have all failed."
Heavy security forces around the Azadi Square in
Sulaimaniyah, Kurdistan region of Iraq.
"It was not a
demonstration staged by the people. It was staged by
opposition parties. We don't allow that," he added.
At least 10 people,
including two members of the peshmerga security
died in the
protests, and hundreds have been wounded.
Rights organization Amnesty International
criticized the Kurdish and Iraqi
governments for using excessive force against
Kurdistan has often been referred to as "the other
Iraq" because it was spared much of the violence and
sectarian strife that ravaged the rest of the
country after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that
toppled dictator Saddam Hussein.
The Sulaimaniyah protesters had persisted until this
week in their demands that the two long-time ruling
parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led
by the Kurdish president Massoud Barzani,www.ekurd.netand
the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), led by Iraqi
President Jalal Talabani, loosen their grip.
The region, funded by 17 percent of Iraq's oil
income, has seen an economic boom in the past eight
years but Kurds complain that Barzani and Talabani,
like other Middle East leaders, failed to use oil
riches to build a vibrant economy and democracy.
This week, Sulaimaniyah's Liberation Square, where
protesters had camped out for weeks chanting
"freedom, freedom, freedom," was a military zone
watched over by hundreds of armed forces.
The ruling parties have said the demise of the
protests represented a success over "trouble-makers"
staging "politically motivated" demonstrations.
"What the authorities did here was beyond
expectations," said Asos Hardi, manager of Awene,
one of the few Kurdish newspapers not tied to the
political parties. "Thousands ... of troops were
brought in to suppress civilian
protesters, who are students, artists and
"I did not even see as many troops present in 1983
and 1984 while we demonstrated against Saddam,"
Nasik Qadir, a protest organizer, accused the
Kurdish security forces of hunting, arresting and
"We can't live under such autocratic rule," Qadir
said in a telephone interview. She refused to meet
with a reporter out of concern for her safety.
"If we have done anything wrong, let them tell us
and we will go before the courts. They don't have to
chase us and raid our houses. This looks like mafia
Since February 17, security forces harassed,
arrested, wounded or
said Rahman Gharib, manager of the Metro Center To
Payam TV in Sulaimaniyah, a channel belonging to an
Islamic opposition party that offered extensive
coverage of the rallies, has been
surrounded by soldiers for eight
days. On Wednesday, more than 300 people were living
in makeshift tents as a "human shield" in front of
the TV station.
"It's the only Islamic channel which tells the
truth," said Basoz Ali, 27, who carried a
7-month-old child. "We don't love our lives more
than the employees of the channel. If they kill
them, let them kill us too."
Hardi said the government's use of military force
might maintain the status quo longer, but it would
"Losing a battle does not mean losing the war," he
said. "Any new revolutionary success in Yemen or
Syria could trigger an even bigger protest in
For the past two months thousands of protesters are gathering daily
in Sulaimaniyah and other parts of Kurdistan against
corruption and the lording over Kurdistan region by
two main parties KDP and PUK. Kurdish
protestors demand the ouster of the local Kurdistan
government KRG, calling for improving services and
living conditions and fighting corruption.
After 62 days of protests, the Governorate of of
Sulaimaniyah has banned unlicensed demonstrations in
the city. Huge Kurdish forces deployed in the
Sulaimaniyah city to prevent any demonstrations, and
still occupying the city center and other parts of
Most of the demonstrators opposed Massoud Barzani, and the ruling
Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP. Ten people
were killed and more than 700 others wounded and 220
more have been arrested in clashes between
demonstrators and Kurdish security forces during a
wave or protests that swept Sulaimaniyah. The
Kurdish security forces (Asayish) arrested and
tortured a lot of activists and journalists.
The protesters demand the Kurdish government and
parliament resign to give way for “early transparent
elections”. They complain about “monopolizing the
economic and political authority,” by the two major
parties of Kurdistan. Many observe allegiance to
either of the two ruling patties a must to get
employed and hence were deprived of the right. Kurdistan suffers from
electric power deficiency but after almost 20 years
of semi autonomy.
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 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.
Iraq's Kurdish regional government has near
total autonomy and is funded by a share of the
country's oil revenue. The two parties that share
power each command former guerrilla militias that
have been given the status of regional security
Earlier Massoud Barzani told an Italian newspaper that if
50,000 Kurdistan citizens require him to step down,
he will. Afterwards, the opposition parties led a
signature campaign and reportedly
more votes to oust the president. However, the
fate of those signatures is
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