Wednesday, March 16, 2011
By Shwan Zulal
Many Kurds remembers today as the darkest day in their history, when Saddam henchmen used chemical and biological weapon in the town of Halbja, killing 5000 civilians. As one Poet described it the aftermath of the event:"Why the baby does not stop feeding, why the little girl is not turning off the tabs, why the kiss is taking forever and why the children are not waking up". This was part of a systematic ethnic cleansing campaign called Anfal by the Baath regime. Chemical weapons were used including the nerve agent in many other parts of Kurdistan but Halabja was the largest atrocity and got media coverage.
Large crowds have gathered all over Kurdistan to show their respect for the victims and remember this act of genocide. Today was a day of national unity and all political differences have been set aside. However in many parts of Kurdistan once the commemoration service have ended, the crowds have decided to take part in the demonstrations. Protest continues in Slemani and all the surrounding areas and there is no singe that it will end soon.
In Maidani Azadi many speeches were read remembering Halabja victims, and a Kurdish parliament MP and many other intellectuals have taken part in today's protest. The PM has attended the official service and read a speech and was heckled by one of the chemical attack victims who lost his limbs. There has been many demonstration in Halabja since the protest started and a policeman was killed couple of weeks ago during the demonstrations.
While president Barzani was in Italy, he was quoted saying to the Italian EAGI media outlet that "if 50000 people ask him to step down, he would do so", and today the campaign by Slemani University student to gather signatures have reached 50000 names and its growing. Nevertheless; the campaign has been symbolic as most of the organizer and people who put their names down, know that the president would not go. Like the majority of Kurdish politicians the presidents words could not be take seriously as they proved time and time again that KRG politicians including the president do not mean what they say.
Meanwhile Erbil gates are still shut for Slemani residents and they are turning away people who needs to be in Erbil for official business of pleasure. There are also reports that travailing from Erbil is also affected and security services interrogate travlers and only let through people who get security clearance from them. Hawlati newspaper even report that one person had to go to turkey and then take flight to Slemani in order to take part in the protests in Maidani Azadi. This is a sign of militarisation of the region and the readiness of the incumbent do whatever it takes to protect their grip on power even if it is a not in the beast interest of people of Kurdistan.
Finally today Maidani Azadi committee has put out a statement in answer to Barham Salih's statement on Monday. They argue that the PM statement is not legally binding as the point he refers to is not backed up by any legal obligation or any official document. Furthermore, the committee refer to the statement as personal rather than an official one from the PM and points out that in the past many promises have been made by the government and none were kept. Therefore the protesters remain sceptical about the intention of the government and its ability to meet their demands.