Security forces in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq arrested hundreds of people including MPs and journalists on Saturday to try and prevent protests, after the New Generation Movement, an opposition political party in the Kurdistan regional partliament, called the people to join demonstrations protesting against corruption and massive unemployment.
Earlier this week the president of the NGM, Shaswar Abdulwahid, announced that protests would begin on Saturday 6 August, to pressurise the authorities to take action against corruption and the mounting crises in the Kurdistan Region.
On Wednesday, the NGM formed a council to organise the demonstrations and announced a nine-point list of demands to the Kurdish authorities.
The movement calls for the improvement of the lives of state employees, employment opportunities, the removal of certain taxes, and reductions in fuel prices.
Large-scale security forces were deployed in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah city centres to try and prevent people gathering.
Demonstrators took to the streets in and around Sulaymaniyah, where security forces used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them.
Hundreds of people poured into the streets in several districts on Saturday, calling on the government to pay public sector workers and pensioners regularly and on time, to create job opportunities for nearly half a million graduates, to lower fuel prices and taxes, and also calling for parliamentary elections.
Dozens of journalists were prevented from covering the opposition protests. In a statement, the pressure group Metro Center Journalists Rights and Advocacy condemned the violations against journalists and called on the Kurdish authorities to allow them to report the news freely.
“Members of the security forces in Erbil and Sulaymaniyah have committed 70 types of violations against 52 journalists, intending to prevent them from covering the demonstrations.”
“There is no excuse for arresting journalists for covering demonstrations. The security forces are only showing how they repeatedly violate the laws of parliament and the right to freedom of speech. Most of the journalists were arrested before the protests even began, and no warrants were shown.”
Security forces in Erbil arrest NRT reporters Rizgar Kochar, Omed Chomani, and Hersh Qadir.
NGM MPs, officials, and volunteers were also arrested in connection with the protests on 6 August.
Many NGM members were arrested by security forces on their way to the protests in Sulaymaniyah, the NGM announced in a statement on Saturday.
“More than 30 military vehicles raided our head office in Sulaymaniyah, arresting our members and employees. We hold the authorities of the Kurdistan Region responsible for the safety of our members in their custody.”
“Rebwar Abdulrahman, spokesperson of the New Generation bloc in the Iraqi parliament, and NGM MPs Badria Ibrahim, Arian Taugozi, Omed Mohammed, Mofaq Hussein, and Vian Abdul Aziz were all arrested by security forces during Saturday’s protest.”
NGM MP Mzhda Mahmood was detained in Rania during the protest.
According to the NGM statement, all international representatives in the Region, including ambassadors and consulates, have been informed of the situation.