Kurdish Blogger, political & security risk analyst and Due Diligence consultant with legal background; writing about policy, political & legal reforms in Kurdistan, Iraq and wider Middle East. Special focus on Kurdistan Region oil & gas sector, investment & economic development.
Violent clashes between the protesters and security forces are continuing and today students from Salahaddin University in Erbil and others in the centre of the capital have started demonstrating. The demonstrations were quelled, as soon as they started because KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) security forces subjected the protesters to knive attacks and beatings by batons, said Awena newspaper.
There are many reports of violations against protesters, students, journalists and opposition MP's. It has been reported that plain cloth security personnel in centre of Erbil have beaten an MP. Lvinepress have been reporting that opposition Goran, Iraqi MP, Muhamad Kyani have been beaten in Erbil while trying to take part in a peaceful protest in Erbil, and it has been reported that he has suffered from minor injuries.
At least one journalist has been reported missing and many more been subject of beatings by the authorities. Hawlati newspaper have reported that Rasul Hussain, editor-in-chief of Samal magazine have been kidnapped by a number of unidentified people driving a car without registration number. Theses repeated attacks on journalists have been occurring on a daily bases in Kurdistan and Amnesty in Intentional and Reporters Without Borders have also reported the violation and condemned it.
Goran, the largest opposition parties, claimed today that five of their MP's have been shot at while they were responding to a call by another Goran MP whom his house have been surrounded by unknown armed men in Erbil. The identity of the gunmen is not known and none of he MPs were injured in the incident.
Meanwhile, in Slemani (Sulaimaniyah) clashes and violence continue from yesterday. So far emergency hospital spokesperson has said 99 people have been admitted and 16 suffering from gunshot wounds, reported Hawlati.
The security forces have been using tear gas and live ammunition as well as throwing stones to try to disperse the crowds. Protesters claim that the tear gas used by the authorities has passed its use by date. Many protesters have been suffering form severe symptoms due to the tear gas used.
Due to the adverse effects of the tear gas on the protesters and security forces, many volunteered doctors are in Maidani Azadi (Sera Square) to treat people affected on the scene, reports Kurdiu. There are reports of unrest and violence from other towns and villages in Kurdistan, and Hawlati reports that two people were shot in the town of Duakn earlier this afternoon and many other were beaten. Similar reports from Koya University, as the situation appears to be deteriorating.
After today's events in Erbil and Slemani, one thing is becoming clear; the resolve of the protesters remains strong after all the violence committed against them. Moreover, the authorities are not willing to give in that easily and are willing to escalate the violence by targeting opposition MPs and Journalists.
Violence erupted again in Slemani (Sulaimaniyah) yesterday, resulting in many injuries among protesters and police. The emergency hospital in Slemani said that 48 people were admitted, seven of them suffering from gunshot wounds. The latest violence was blamed on a breakaway group from the main square where the demonstrations are taking place and confronted by heavy-handed security forces. It not clear who started the aggressions but both sides are blaming the other. Tear gas, machine guns and stones were used to by the security forces, meanwhile the protesters hurled stones and sticks at the security forces, according to the media outlets in Kurdistan.
A pattern is emerging from the latest violence as a hardcore group determined to confront the authorities are losing patience. Every three week there appears to be some altercations and a clash between the two sides ensues. Could this be part of a conspiracy as many believe or just a built up of frustration by the protesters and authorities. Protests have been ongoing for two month now and many are tired and want to go back to their lives including the authorities. Nevertheless, both sides are not willing to compromise and just like any other political decisions in Iraq, it is going nowhere.
The only strategy by the incumbent political parties is to wait it out and hope it goes away. The protesters demands can only be called legitimate, as the authorities including the President himself have called it so. However, the authorities are only willing to call it so and do absolutely nothing about it. PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) and KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) want to be seen willing to change, knowing that they cannot defend the way things are and have been in the past. Yet the government have to make any concrete commitment to any changes to the current arrangements. It is not clear what the authorities are planning to do with the continuing protest, as there is no end in sight.
The protests in Slemani is fast becoming PUK problem as the KDP stronghold areas have yet to show their discontent. Part of the protesters frustration is that the capital Erbil has not yet being able to join them in the protest even after numerous attempt by activist to obtain a permission to do so.
The latest shootings and heavy-handed approach by the PUK militia indicates that the sense of desperation is growing among PUK leaders. PUK has been calling for reforms and just last week PM, Barham Salih announced an initiative to return public property taken unlawfully by political parties and it appears to be a flop already. KDP has not commented and did not respond to the PM's appeal, and as things stand PUK is the only party "committed" to return such properties.
PUK have a dilemma at the moment, they know if they try to push the protesters too hard, they risk losing supporters and in particular military support. If shootings and violence becomes a daily occurrence, defections among PUK ranks will be grater and could include senior military commanders. Many of PUK supports and military personal are still loyal to the party due to the patronage system and the risk of losing their jobs and salaries. Nevertheless, if the situation deteriorates further, PUK may find itself losing control over its security forces.
Ignoring the protesters demands by PUK is a not option and sooner or later they have to stand up to their partner in government and demand immediate changes to the political system. Otherwise, within a very short time, PUK would become history and Goran (Change movement) will have to fill the power vacuum. Although Goran is a none militia based political party, its leader, Nawshirwna Mustafa who used to be the previous deputy leader of PUK still has a large following among PUK supporters and military grass roots. If this happens, it is not clear how the new power would deal with KDP, and what would be KDP's reaction to it.
The main reason protesters are in Maidani Azadi (Sera Square) is to end militia politics and if PUK withers away and Goran steps in its shoes, Kurdistan Region will still end up with two militias dominating politics. PUK and KDP need to listen to what people are asking for, and continuing as if nothing has changed would only make things more complicated. They are the incumbent parties therefore; they can end this stalemate by listening to people's demands. Accusing opposition parties of inciting violence and disorder does not help, as the opposition parties are not armed and they do not have the intention to do so. They are merely reflecting what the public in Kurdistan yearn for which is a more transparent politics along with strong and accountable government.