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Iraqi Kurds protest unpaid salaries from Baghdad

People in Dohuk city lift the regional flag during a rally over unpaid salaries in the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq
— Dohuk (Iraq) (AFP)

Thousands of people carrying flags of Iraqi Kurdistan demonstrated on Tuesday in the autonomous region over unpaid civil service salaries which they blamed on Baghdad, an AFP correspondent reported.

The protest occurred in a region where activists usually accuse local Kurdistan authorities of repressing any sign of dissent.

It came in the context of simmering tensions after protests turned violent and led to the deaths of four people on Saturday in the multi-ethnic city of Kirkuk, whose control has historically been disputed between Iraqi Kurdistan and federal authorities in Baghdad.

"Kurdistan will not back down in the face of the Iraqi authorities' hostile policies," one banner said at the demonstration in Dohuk, the third-biggest city in the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

"Solidarity with our people in Kirkuk," said another placard.

An administrator in a hospital, Massoud Mohamed, said he had not received a salary in two months. "We must get our rights," the 45-year-old said. "They want to weaken our region."

Iraqi Kurdistan has long accused Baghdad of not sending the necessary funds to pay civil servants.

Previously the region, thanks to its oil exports, had independent funding that partially covered salaries. Since the end of March it has been deprived of this resource because of a dispute with Baghdad and Turkey, through which oil was exported.

In principle, Iraqi Kurdistan and Baghdad later agreed that sales of Kurdish oil would pass through the federal government. In exchange for this, 12.6 percent of the federal budget is allocated to Iraqi Kurdistan.

On Sunday, Baghdad unblocked a package of 500 billion dinars (about $380 million) for the region's salaries, but practically double that would be needed each month, according to the government of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The violence in Kirkuk has added to tensions.

Arab and Turkmen demonstrators had staged a sit-in near the headquarters of the Iraqi security forces in Kirkuk province on August 28, after media reports that Iraq's Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani had ordered the site to be handed over to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which used to occupy it.

In response, Kurdish protesters tried to reach the headquarters on Saturday, and the situation degenerated.

Four Kurds were killed.

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