ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) expressed concern for Monday’s protest which turned to violence in areas of Sulaimani, stating that violence at this time only serves parties hostile to the Kurdistan Region.
People launched protests in various cities and towns in the Sulaimani and Halabja Provinces and poured into the streets in demonstrations against the delay of salaries and lack of public services in the region. The rallies turned violent, however, as protestors set fire to political parties and government offices in the area.
“The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) views demonstration as a natural right of the people and have always defended this right, and will continue to do so. We are, however, troubled by the uncivilized and violent actions that took place in some towns in Sulaimani, which targeted government and political party offices, resulting in human injuries and damages to private properties,” the KRG said in a statement on Monday.
The KRG affirmed that the right to peaceful demonstrations is a fundamental right but that using them to incite violence, riots, and instability as the Kurdistan Region is already experiencing hard times would “only benefit those who are hostile to Kurdistan.”
Most of the protestors were public school teachers who expressed their anger as their salaries have not yet been paid, protesting austerity measures taken by the KRG. Others called for the implementation of better public services.
The protestors also called for reform and changes within the government to address and combat corruption.
The Kurdistan Region has been suffering through a financial crisis since the beginning of 2014.
KRG officials link the crisis to the dramatic global drop in oil prices, the arrival of 1.8 million refugees and displaced people to the Region, Baghdad cutting Kurdistan’s budget share, and the war against the Islamic State (IS).
The attack and takeover of oil-rich Kirkuk Province and other disputed territories by Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias also adversely affected the KRG’s oil exports, reducing its output by half, according to the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, Nechirvan Barzani.
The government largely depends on oil revenue—which makes up over 90 percent of the Kurdistan Region’s income—to cover expenditures, government employees’ salary, and public services.
Editing by Nadia Riva