Shots have been fired in Sulaymaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, as marching university students, protesting the government’s suspension of student allowances since Sunday, reached the city centre on Wednesday evening.
Thousands of people gathered in the city centre in support of the protesting students. Police have reportedly fired at the crowds with live ammunition.
The protests by university students spread to many cities on 24 November, while tens of thousands of students from different universities rushed to attend peaceful demonstrations all over the region.
Protests had started on 21 November over the suspension of monthly allowances and the government’s failure to provide basic services like drinking water in campuses.
As protests were staged on the fourth day in cities with university campuses, including Sulaymaniyah, Kalar, Erbil, Halabja, Chamchamal, Kifri and Koya, thousands of people marched towards the city governor’s office in Sulaymaniyah, while in Erbil groups of students blocked the Erbil-Kirkuk highway.
The police responded to the protesters with violence in all cities, using teargas and water cannons, causing many injuries among the students. Many students have been detained, although the number of students in custody is yet to be announced.
Tevgera Azadi (Freedom Movement) expressed its support for the protesters in a public announcement on Tuesday.
Tara Hisên, the co-chair of Tevgera Azadi, stated that the demands of the students were the demands of all people. “The people want their demands to be heard,” she said.
“Those who have caused the suffering of the students have their own private universities. The students must not limit their demands to the payment of monthly allowances. They must form an assembly to protect their rights.”
Hisên called for the immediate release of the students who have been detained in protests.
Payments of student allowances have been suspended for years now, after the debt crisis began in 2014. Students who stay in dormitories are supposed to be paid 100,000 dinars, or roughly 61 euros per month, while those who stay at home are supposed to be paid 40,000 dinars, or 24.5 Euros.