At least eight people killed in anti-government protests in Iraq’s Kurdistan region

The protesters, mostly government employees and unemployed youth, are demanding timely disbursal of their delayed salaries and employment

December 09, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Teachers and other government employees protesting in Kurdistan against the delay in disbursal of their salaries

At least eight people have been killed by security forces in violence against the protestors in Iraqi Kurdistan which continued on Tuesday, December 8. On Monday, six people were killed when security forces and some cadres of the ruling parties opened fire on the protesters demanding timely disbursal of their salaries and more employment. Two more people died in similar incidents on Tuesday.  

The peaceful protests in different districts of Iraq’s Kurdistan region started on December 3 when thousands of teachers and other government employees demonstrated against the delay in their salaries accusing the regional government of widespread corruption and demanding the resignation of Kurdistan Regional Government president Nechirvan Barzani. The protesters also demanded fresh elections to the region’s parliament. The protesters were joined by a large number of youths who demanded employment.

The protests continued through the weekend. It intensified on Monday when security forces and cadres of the ruling parties reportedly attacked the protesters killing six and injuring at least 26 of them. Security forces used tear gas and water cannons to prevent them from marching in Sulaymaniyah city. Security forces also attacked similar protests in other parts of the region.

The protesters responded by torching the offices of ruling political parties — Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDU) and Gorran (Movement for Change) — near the capital Erbil. Some protesters died in the firing by cadres of these parties.  

The Kurdistan Regional Government led by Barzani has failed to disburse salaries for all its 1.2 million employees since October this year due lack of funds. However, the protesters argued that the lack of funds is a result of widespread corruption in the government. They accused the regional leadership of appropriating government funds.  

Opposition parties such as the New Generation Party accused the regional government of indulging in political vendetta. The offices of its news channel NRT were shut by the government on Monday citing violation of regulations.

Meanwhile, Iraq’s president Barham Salih asked the regional government to desist from using force against the protesters saying “violence is not a solution in facing people’s legitimate requests.” A similar statement was issued by the Iraqi Commission for Human Rights, news portal Rudaw reported.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued a statement condemning the violence against the protesters and demanded that “the right to peaceful protest must be protected.” It also called for an investigation to identify the perpetrators of the violence and hold them accountable.