Savan Abdalrahman – Iraqi Kurdistan
For three days in a row, last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, protests took place in the Sulaymaniyah province of Iraqi Kurdistan. The protests were organised by teachers whose salaries were to be cut by 21% by the authorities due to the economic crisis. Soon, hundreds of teachers and ordinary people took to the streets to join the protests against corruption and the economic crisis.
Najmadin Muhammed, a member of the teacher’s union stated: “Forty-three teachers and civilians were arrested on Wednesday, the second day of the protests. Twenty-one of them were released”. Masrour Barzani, the Kurdistan Region Prime Minister, announced on Wednesday morning that they would begin to pay the salaries for October on Thursday. However, this did not stop protesters in Sulaymaniyah from taking to the streets for another day of demonstrations.
The protesters intention was to have a peaceful protest, “but the police forces blocked us from protesting”, said Najmadin. “Even if we now receive our salary, we will not stop the protests, because they still owe us eighteen previous payments that we have still not received”.
Shirin Amin, a member of parliament from the Goran movement joined the march along with the people and due to the tear gas fired by the police, she fainted on the streets. She said: “The police forces acted so roughly with the protestors and due to their heavy use of tear gas, I fainted twice”.
She added: “We are not asking from the authorities political positions or personal fortunes: we just ask them for the daily basic earnings of these poor people in order that they are able to continue living”.
On Wednesday, protests in Kalar, Darbandikhan and other districts of Sulaymaniyah took place. The protestors proposed a united march of all the provinces in the Kurdistan Region. Fearing the demands of the people, the authorities were active in preparing to confront the protesters. In Erbil, the police forces put temporary security control points in the market place and on the streets on Wednesday, banning people from starting protests.
In Zarayan, protestors blocked the highway between Zarayan and Sulaymaniah as a part of their protest.
“I am a worker: I work day and night, I have no money in my pocket. I’m the youth of this generation and yet I have not lived out my youth. We desperately need change”, said a young participant in the protests in Sulaymaniyah. The Political Council of The New Generation Movement stated that: “People are marching in the streets, regardless of their political beliefs. They ask for their most basic rights. That is why we support these protests”.
A statement by the government banned the protests. Rebaz Majeed, a young photographer from Iraqi Kurdistan who captured the clashes between the police forces and the people, spoke to Medya News: “While taking photos of clashes between the police and the protestors, I was afraid that the police forces might confiscate my memory card and camera”. He added: “When they fired the tear gas, it was painful for my eyes and throat. Apart from my own discomfort, it was so sad to see the police treatment of the people who were peacefully protesting their most basic rights”.
On Thursday, a wide range of police forces were located on every corner in Sulaymaniyah and banned any gathering that exceeded more than three people, fearing that the protests might spread.
Several people expressed the view that they had little hope from peaceful protests and stated that these type of protests are not effective enough. An elderly man interviewed in Erbil by a reporter from Esta News said: “Protests need to lead to armed revolution, otherwise it is not effective”. He added: “We have seen many peaceful protests and many of those who participated in them were killed: who fights for their rights now? We need to hold weapons”.