February 19, 2011
Kurdistan region 'Iraq', — Around 2,000 university
students were demonstrating on Saturday in Kurdistan
region in Iraq's north, demanding an apology from
regional president Massoud Barzani after protests
earlier in the week left two dead.
The rally in Sulaimaniyah, along with another
protest in the same city and others in Baghdad, were
the latest in a string of nationwide demonstrations
that have drawn thousands out to denounce high level
corruption, unemployment and poor basic services.
"The authorities in the region do not understand
what democracy means," said Frishta Karim, a
21-year-old student of Sulaimaniyah University. "We
firmly reject the use of weapons against
Police at the rally refused to allow the protesters
to exit the university campus, according to an AFP
journalist at the scene.
One banner in Saturday's demonstration called on
Barzani, whose Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) is
the dominant political force in the region, "to
apologise to the people of Sulaimaniyah for his
On Thursday, two young men were killed and 54 others
were wounded when KDP guards fired into the air in
an attempt to stop
reaching KDP's headquarters in Sulaimaniyah, the
autonomous Kurdish region's second city.
Around 1,000 people were also at Sulaimaniyah's main
square on Saturday demanding the release of
individuals arrested in connection with Thursday's
rally, and the prosecution of the head of the city's
KDP office who,www.ekurd.netthe
protesters claimed, gave the order for security to
Barzani has called for a full investigation into the
Immediately after Thursday's protests, looters
attacked the offices of opposition movement
Gorran in Erbil and Dohuk provinces, which along
with Sulaimaniyah make up the Kurdish region.
Gorran denied it was part of the Thursday demonstration, and party
officials have claimed that the looters were KDP
Around 2,000 university students were demonstrating
on Saturday in Kurdistan region in Iraq's north,
demanding an apology from regional president Massoud
Barzani after protests earlier in the week left two
dead. February 19, 2011. Photo: hawlati.co
Iraqi riot police officers carry the body of a
protester in front of the headquarters of Kurdish
President Massoud Barzani's political party in
Sulaimaniyah, Kurdistan region, Iraq, Thursday, Feb.
17, 2011. Kurdish security forces opened fire on a
crowd of protesters surrounding the headquarters of
the party affiliated with the Kurdish president.
An incident in the
national parliament on Saturday highlighted the
differences between the two sides.
Gorran's parliamentary leader Shoresh Hadji claimed in the Council of
Representatives that KDP guards had fired on
peaceful demonstrators, but he was interrupted by
KDP representative Ashwaq al-Jaff, who shouted back:
"That's not true! It was the demonstrators who
attacked the KDP and not the opposite!"
For decades, the KDP
of regional president Massoud Barzani and the
PUK of Iraq's President
Jalal Talabani have lorded over the region.
Massoud Barzani, the KDP chief and current Kurdistan president, and his relatives control a large number of commercial
enterprises in Kurdistan-Iraq, with a gross value of several billion US dollars.
The family is routinely accused of corruption and nepotism by Kurdish media as
well as international observers.
Gorran enjoys wide support in Kurdistan region. It's
emerged in regional elections in 2009 as a rival to
the two main ruling Kurdish parties and won 25 seats
in the parliament.
Gorran is challenging Talabani's PUK and the KDP of
Massoud Barzani and accuses the parties of
corruption. It’s headed by the former senior PUK-leader
Nawshirwan Mustafa, who was Talabani’s deputy until
2007. Since the July 2009 elections in which it
secured almost a third of the seats of 111-member
Parliament of Kurdistan.
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