Iraq’s president urges end to violence in protest-hit Sulaimaniyah

Iraqi President Barham Salih weighed in on the increasingly violent protests that have gripped the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.

al-monitor Iraqis demonstrate over unpaid salaries in Sulaimaniyah, Dec. 2, 2020. Photo by Twitter/ahmadalhindi.

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iraqi protests, barham salih, iraqi kurdistan region

Dec 8, 2020

Iraqi President Barham Salih has called for an end to the violence in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, where protests over unpaid salaries have turned deadly. 

According to Reuters, a protester was fatally shot on Monday by guards outside the Kurdistan Democratic Party headquarters in the town of Chamchamal in northern Sulimaniyah province. Local Kurdish news outlet Rudaw put the death toll at four people, with many more injured in clashes with security forces. 

Violence is not a solution to confront the legitimate demands of citizens and the will and the demands of the peaceful demonstrators must be respected,” Salih said in a statement, adding that Iraqis have a constitutional right to peacefully protest.

"The relevant authorities must meet these demands and work on radical solutions to the problem of salaries," he added.

Protests broke out in Sulaimaniyah city last week, with angry federal workers taking to the streets to demand they be paid their full salaries and calling for an end to perceived government corruption. On Sunday, protesters in Saidsadq reportedly torched the offices of the major Kurdish political parties as well as the mayor’s office. 

Public sector workers have seen their salaries slashed and gone entire months without pay in 2020. The Kurdistan Regional Government has been unable to pay their full salaries due to ongoing budget disputes with the central government in Baghdad. 

Iraqi Kurdistan Prime Minister Masrour Barzani called for patience and blamed the overdue salaries on Baghdad failing to release “our rightful share of the budget.” 

“The current economic crisis has been forced on us by outside events and we are doing our utmost to overcome the financial challenges that have affected the Kurdistan Region, Iraq and the world,” he tweeted Monday.

Meanwhile, internet blockage monitor Netblocks reported temporary access restrictions in the region on Monday, with connectivity at 48% of ordinary levels before it was restored eight hours later. 

Voice of America reported that regional TV station NRT’s broadcasts have been suspended for one week due to the network’s “current irresponsible behavior,” according to an order from the Ministry of Culture and Youth. NRT’s general manager told VOA that security forces raided its offices in the city of Sulaimaniyah. 

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