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 Kurdish opposition in Iraqi Kurdistan rail against new law to regulate demonstrations 

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Kurdish opposition in Iraqi Kurdistan rail against new law to regulate demonstrations  10.11.2010  
By Nawzad Mahmoud

November 10, 2010

SULAIMANIYAH, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — After the Parliament of Kurdistan passed a law that regulates demonstrations and protests by 54 votes from the two ruling parties, the opposition groups have objected to the approval urging Massoud Barzani, the region’s president, to not sign the law until it will be amended.

The opposition parties believe that the possible law restricts freedom of expression since it requires people to get government permission prior to staging any demonstration.

“%70 of demonstrations are spontaneous here in Kurdistan,” said Karwan Salih, a lawmaker affiliated with Gorran, the major opposition party meaning change in Kurdish.

“If 2000 people suddenly pour on the streets, should government arrest them?” said Salih, adding that the law was aimed at “blocking” rather than “regulating” demonstrations.

However, other lawmakers affiliated with the ruling parties defend the approved law as necessary to help civilize demonstrations and prevent them from turning into chaos.           

Angry demonstrators gather near fire during riots in the Iraq northern Kurdish town of Halabja. A 14-year-old boy was killed when Iraqi security forces fired into a massive crowd of Kurds. A tense demonstration that took place in 2006 and led to the burning of the memorial of the victims of Halabja. AFP photo.
“I have seen many other similar laws in other countries; this law is excellent,” said Sherwan Haydari, a parliamentarian with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP),www.ekurd.netone of the two ruling parties of the Kurdistan region.

Haydari believes that there is no such a thing as “spontaneous demonstrations”.

“Even in European nations this term doesn’t exist. If you organized a demonstration, then what would be so spontaneous about it?”

But one lawmaker with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the other ruling party of the region, shares a similar view to that of the opposition parties on this matter.

“Instead of permission, only notifying the agencies should be enough. But this is my personal point of view. The agencies should be notified 24 hours in advance,” said Rizgar Muhammad Amin, a lawmaker with the PUK.

In a region where the political parties rather than an institutionalized government rule, the opposition parties question how a government agency could permit a demonstration to be staged against itself.

“We consider this law as a step backwards,” said Bayan Muhammad, a parliamentarian affiliated with the party Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), demanding the president to not approve the law.

“Massoud Barzani is the president of all Kurds and has a broader view than the members of the Kurdistani Alliance,” added Muhammad referring to the joint bloc of the two ruling parties.

Protests have sometimes turned to violent rallies in Kurdistan as demonstrators faced barrier from police and security forces. One of the unprecedented demonstrations occurred in Halabja in 2006 when the protesters burnt a memorial that was built for 5,000 victims of the chemical gas attack of Saddam Hussein's regime in 1988.

In that unrest one protester was killed as clashes happened with police and authorities arrested recognized faces afterwards for burning the monument.

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