Kurdish opposition party claims over 40 members arrested for anti-government protests


A Kurdish opposition party on Saturday said that over 40 of its members were arrested as dozens of protestors stormed Sulaimani’s city center and other cities of the Kurdistan Region following calls from the party’s leader for anti-government protest.

Protestors, mainly supporters of the New Generation political party, stormed Sulaimani’s central Mawlawi street and several other cities following calls earlier in the week by party leader Shaswar Abdulwahid for anti-government protests across the Kurdistan Region.

"Saturday will be the day to regain your rights and shake the power,” Abdulwahid said on Thursday.

The protests were soon shut off by security forces with the use of tear gas, with the New Generation party claiming over 40 of its members were arrested.

In a photo published by media close to the party, the party said that seven of its parliament members had been arrested, as well as 35 other members of the party.

Sulaimani security directorate late Thursday denied the arrests, claiming that "no MPs or journalists have been arrested." 

The New Generation Movement further claimed that hundreds of other protestors and journalists had been arrested by security forces in the process, with their whereabouts still unknown.

Metro Center for Journalists Rights and Advocacy, a local media watchdog, on Saturday said that eleven journalists had been arrested by security forces across the Kurdistan Region in the past 24 hours.

"As Metro Center, we call for the immediate release of all the arrested, and we announce that security forces have raided the houses and offices of a number of journalists to arrest them,” Director of the media watchdog Rahman Gharib said.

This is not the first time, Abdulwahid has called for anti-government protests in the Kurdistan Region, and often times the protests turned violent following clashes with security forces.

Thousands of students took to the streets across the Kurdistan Region in November demanding restoration of a living allowance. The students were confronted with a large amount of security forces, and were dispersed with teargas and water cannons.

In March 2021, grade 12 students gathered in front of the education directorate calling for education reforms. Security forces fired live ammunition into the air to disperse the demonstrators.

In December 2020, teachers and other civil servants protested to demand the full payment of their salaries that had been slashed under austerity measures. They had not been paid in full or on time for most of the year.

Large protests took place in numerous towns in Halabja and Sulaimani provinces. Eight civilians and two Peshmerga were killed.

In June 2021, Amnesty International published a public statement on what they called the "ongoing crackdown of protests by way of arbitrary arrests and harassment” in the Kurdistan Region.  

The statement concluded that, "the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) authorities have an obligation to uphold basic human rights of freedom of expression, assembly and press freedom,” and called on authorities in the Kurdistan Region to "put an end to their ongoing crackdown of protests by way of arbitrary arrests and harassment.”


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