By Shwan Zulal
It is more than a month since the protests in the Kurdistan Region were quelled by security forces. Since then the military presence has eased off in the towns and cities but a larger-than-usual military presence can still be felt on the outskirts of the cities. The protests flared up in February, spurred on by the Arab spring. Many Kurds took to the streets demanding better government and an end to chronic corruption. The protesters were greeted with bullets when they started throwing stones at the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) office in Sulaymani. After this, the protesters’ demands grew more radical, with calls for the fall of the current Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
Once the protests started, many human right violations took place, ranging from shooting protesters to attacking activists, arresting journalists, terrorising them and intimidating opposition parties. Recently Human Right Watch (HRW) published a damming report condemning the Kurdish Government’s human rights violations and comparing their antics to the previous Iraqi regime.
The KRG responded to this letter and many promises were made but then an arrest warrant was issued for the editor of Lvin magazine and Ahmed Mira was arrested. This was due to the pending libel case which both incumbent parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), had lodged against him.
The magazine claims that it is protecting its source. However, the plaintiffs claim the story has been fabricated and has no basis because it is motivated by politics. The allegation of an assassination plot is a grave one and it gives the government the right to object and sue in a civil court, but this does not mean that they can harass and imprison the journalist who instigated the story.
While concentrating on a few technicalities of the HRW report, the KRG fails to see the bigger picture and understand the enormity of these allegations and facts. HRW is not in the business of smearing people and scoring points. They are merely documenting human rights violations and bringing these to the government’s attention. The KRG does not need to reply to HRW with so many letters They simply need to show that they have changed through their future conduct.