Economic stalemate ignites protests across Iraqi Kurdistan

Kurdistan Regional Government struggles to power through repeated protests across the region, as a result of delayed salaries and economic difficulties

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Residents take part in a protest during clashes with riot police in Sulaimaniya, northern Iraq, October 8, 2015.

Protests raged across Iraq’s Kudistran Regional Government (KRG) on Thursday, mainly in larger cities including Erbil, recently witnessing mass protests, often turning violent as a result of escalated anger stemming from unprecedented economic difficulties.

Thursday's protests encircled around Sulaimaniyah hotel, located in Iraq's north where Kurdish political parties were convening, allegedly to help solve the standoff over the vacant presidency since last July.

"The crises must not be mixed up with political matters that will take Kurdistan in an unstable direction," the region's deputy prime minister, Qubad Talabani, said at a meeting with the teacher's union in Sulaimaniyah.

Public sector employees including doctors, teachers and government employees, took the streets by storm on Thursday and started their week-long strike demanding their three months late salaries from the (KRG).

Dozens of protesters held demonstrations in Erbil and Halabja. In Erbil, local doctors who have not been paid announced they would continue to help patients, according to media reports, but they also stressed that the government needs to pay the doctors and other workers need their salaries.

"Instead of resolving the crisis they have deepened it," said Ari Ahmed, the headmaster of a secondary school in Sulaimaniyah.

"Only ordinary people are suffering in this political game."

On the other hand, the KRG says the massive economic stalement stems from a number of reasons, most prominent of which is the influx of 1.3 million Iraqi refugees, fleeing violence from Baghdad and other Iraqi regions suffering from ISIS militancy and Shiite militias violence.

Baghdad’s freezing the KRG budget since February of last year, coupled with falling oil prices and the refugee crises, have all led to the economic problem growing monstrous. In addition to fighting with ISIS, they have been arming, training and supporting the Peshmerga fighters.

KRG former President Massoud Barzani's mandate expired on August 20, and rival political parties have failed to agree on valid, clear terms to extend his tenure.


TRTWorld and agencies