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 U.S. Consul General to Kurdistan Condemns Zakho Booze Burning

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U.S. Consul General to Kurdistan Condemns Zakho Booze Burning ‎ 5.12.2011 

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December 5, 2011

ERBIL-Hewlęr, Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — The U.S. government condemned the events that happened in Zakho, Duhok Governorate, last Friday, when liquor stores, massage places, hotels and the office of an oppositional party were burned down.

U.S. Consul General to Kurdistan, Alexander Lascaris, urged the Kurdistan Regional Government to restore calmness and order in the area and to start an investigation of the events.

"This is a crime against the coexistence of nations and religious tolerance, the people of Kurdistan should all live together," Lascaris said.           

U.S. Consul General to Kurdistan, Alexander Lascaris. Photo: KRG
He did not mention the arson of the headquarters of the Kurdistan Islamic Union.

After Friday prayers, dozens of rioters burnt down more than 30 liquor stores, four massage centers and three hotels in Zakho, near the Turkish border. Reports say at least 32 people were injured. Rioters were allegedly encouraged by a Muslim preacher, Ismael Osman of Zakho's Rasheed Mosque, who reportedly has ties to the opposition group Kurdistan Islamic Union. Although KIU, which is inspired by the controversial Muslim Brotherhood, denied having any "preachers to be exploited as the instigators of the events", counter-rioters set the KIU headquarters in Zakho on fire.

The riots have widened the gap between ruling and opposition parties in the Kurdistan region. The Kurdistan Regional Government, run by the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, quickly blamed an imam with ties to the oppositional KIU. Salahaddin Mohammed Bahaddin, head of KIU, claimed that the cleric was "a KDP man".

To justify that they had no role in the unrest KDP, led by Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Massoud Barzani, met with the foreign representatives in Erbil today. The KPD politburo and diplomatic representatives of the 24 countries with missions in Kurdistan met in Saad Abdullah Conventions Center. The event was arranged by Kurdistan Office of Foreign Relations.

Hemn Hawrami, a KDP leader, spinned the story for the foreign representatives and for reporters. He said the KPD had no role in the trouble which was created in Zakho, Duhok and Semel and other areas of Duhok Governorate. "Unfortunately the KIU very unjustly have linked KDP in these events," Mr. Hawrami said.

He said the KIU "illogically and apolitically" involved KDP in the event "therefore we precisely elaborated the situation for the entire diplomatic corps in the region."

"We cannot sideline the rule of law in Kurdistan and allow any party to impose its own narrow religious, sectarian or national doctrine on the Kurdish community. Therefore, we will not allow for attacking Kurdistan under any pretext," Hawrami added.

Observers believe that there could be more about Friday's events than just sectarian tensions between conservative Muslims and alcohol-consuming Christians. Iraq and the Kurdistan Region did not play a role in the Arab Spring, both have not seen protests like in neighboring Syria. However, there have been smaller protests in February, calling for reforms and demanding KDP and PUK loosing their grip on power.

Despite the fact that the Kurdistan Region appeared to be "the better Iraq" -- the autonomous region enjoys foreign investment, economic growth and a stable security situation -- many Kurds demand a greater share of the region's wealth. The events in Zakho might be linked to frustrations over public services and the perceived shortcomings of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the KRG.

By Rebin Hassan

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