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 Iraq's Kurdistan president condemns violence in Zakho, calls for calm

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Iraq's Kurdistan president condemns violence in Zakho, calls for calm  4.12.2011  
By staff writers

December 4, 2011

ERBIL-Hewlêr, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — In a statement Iraq's Kurdistan region president Massoud Barzani condemned Friday evening’s disturbances in the town of Zakho, Duhok province, where at the instigation of some Islamic clerics a group of young people went on the rampage and in an unlawful act set fire to a number of shops and hotels selling alcoholic beverages. Barzani stated that these acts of violence seemed to be premeditated.

Following these events, the headquarters of one of the opposition Islamic parties in Zakho and Dohuk were set on fire by local mobs.

“I condemn both these unlawful acts. I call on the people of the Kurdistan Region to preserve our traditions of ethnic and religious co-existence. I have ordered the formation of a committee to look into these disturbances and bring to justice those responsible,” Barzani said in his statement.

“Unfortunately, on Friday some Mullahs and a group of youth committed unlawful acts and caused instability in Zakho,” Barzani’s statement read.

“They attacked some tourist locations especially those of Christians      

Massoud Barzani, Kurdistan region president. Photo Reuters

and Yazidis and it seems the attacks had been pre-planned,”

Following fiery Friday sermons by some Muslim clerics, rioters stormed liquor stores, a massage parlor and several hotels in the border city of Zakho.

After the attack on the businesses that are mainly run by the province’s Christian community, groups of people raided the political offices and media organizations of the Kurdistan Islamic Union in Zakho, Duhok and Simel. The buildings were ransacked and burnt.

According to the police, around 30 people, the majority of them policemen sustained injuries in the riots. But no casualties were reported.

In a statement on Saturday, President Barzani said the attacks on the Islamic Union headquarters were unfortunate.

“Unfortunately, a group of people attacked the headquarters of the Kurdistan Islamic Union, which was an unjust act” Barzani’s statement read.

Barzani said that no one is allowed to cause instability in the Kurdistan region and that a special committee will investigate Friday’s incidents and bring the perpetrators to justice.

“Protecting harmony among Kurdish communities is not only the responsibility of Kurdistan government,” he said in his statement. “It’s everyone’s responsibility and we will not allow anyone to threaten this harmony,”

Ahmed Doski, Duhok Police Chief said at least 6 offices of the opposition Kurdistan Islamic Union KIU were attacked by rioters on Friday.

In an official statement the Islamic Union condemned the attacks.

“We have witnessed attacks on our 13th and 3rd branches as well as our Spede TV and radio stations in Simel by supporters of a party that is in charge of the area,” read the statement. “The attacks were irresponsible and far from all moral basis.”

It is said that angry mobs stormed the offices of the Islamic Union in retaliation to the clerical sermons who instigated people against the sale of alcohol, massage parlors and gambling.

But the Islamic Union denied any connections to the violent incidents in Zakho.

A statement by the party read, “The Islamic Union does not have any preachers in that city (Zakho) to justify the violence,”

In a press conference on Saturday, Salahaddin Bahaddin, secretary-general of the Islamic Union held the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) responsible for the attacks on the offices of his party.

“Yesterday’s events in the Badinan region didn’t have anything to do with Islamic Union,” Bahaddin said. “Those events are scenarios to kill any chance of reform and peace. Therefore we hold the KDP, Kurdistan’s presidency and the government responsible for those attacks on our offices and we will take matter to court.”

Kurdistan Region’s ministry of the interior condemned the attacks.

“We condemn all violent acts and all sides must keep calm,” the statement read. “We will not allow the rule of law to be breeched by anyone for any reason.”

On Saturday members of the Islamic Union staged peaceful demonstrations in Erbil and Sulaimani demanding that the attackers are brought to justice.

Press freedom organization in Kurdistan has warned that violations against journalists in Kurdistan has "gone beyond all limits" as unrest swept across Duhok province on Friday and Saturday.

"In 48 hours, 6 media offices have been torched, 6 journalists have been put in jail and 16 more journalists have been subjected to attacks," Metro center said in a statement. The statement criticizes authorities in Kurdistan Region for not protecting press freedom during political unrest.

While this story has been covered by all the opposition TV stations, it has been ignored by the TV stations of the two ruling parties of Barzani's KDP and Talabani's PUK.

The Association of Kurdish Muslim scholars sent a letter to KRG a copy of which was received by on Saturday, "We had sought prior permission to hold the demonstration from concerned authorities. We had earlier stated and submitted our demands to Kurdistan Regional Parliament and his Excellency President Massoud Barzani" the statement said. "We have overtly called on KRG to put a ban on sale of alcoholic beverages and its illegal consumption in our religious institutions. Our universities have been turned into fornication houses."

In a series of similar incidents in 2005, the office of the Islamic Union in Duhok was stormed by protesters. The building was set on fire and several staff members were killed.

Sources: | | | | Agencies

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