Sulaymaniyah protests: Iraq's president calls for an end to violence

Three people killed in demonstrations triggered by the delayed salaries

A headquarter of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is seen after it was burnt during anti-government protests on the outskirt of Sulaimaniyah, Iraq December 7, 2020. REUTERS/Ako Rasheed
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Iraq's President Barham Salih called for restraint as three protesters were killed in the northern Kurdish-run region on Tuesday following days of unrest.

The demonstrations, triggered over delayed payment of public sector salaries, turned violent when protesters approached the headquarters of political parties that run the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.

For several days protesters have taken to the streets of the northern Sulaymaniyah city demanding to have their salaries while condemning the authorities that control the region.

"Violence is not a solution to confront the legitimate demands of citizens, and these demands made by peaceful protesters must be respected," Mr Salih said.

Mr Salih, who is originally from Sulaymaniyah, urged security forces to act according to the law and to refrain from using violence while not putting any restraints on the media.

Young people have lost hope in the Kurdistan Regional Government's leadership and want to take matters into their own hands, Sarkwat Shamis, an Iraqi MP, told The National.

"This is a result of outstanding issues, crisis and the corruption of the ruling clans, the Barzanis and Talabanis," he said, in reference to the two ruling Kurdish political parties.

A member of the Iraqi Human Rights Commission said three protesters had been killed since the demonstrations started.

“Three people were killed and at least one child has been transferred to the ICU in a serious situation,” Ali Al Bayati said.

The commission called on the security authorities in Sulaymaniyah to respect human rights and to not restrict freedom of speech.

The Kurdish region is run by two political parties – the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls the Sulaimaniyah area.

The Kurdish-run government in Erbil has been deeply affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic that has affected Iraq's oil revenue.

The Iraqi president called on authorities to meet the demands of the protesters and to solve the salary crisis.

On Monday, the prime minister of the KRG, Masrour Barzani, called for patience in an attempt to defuse the situation.

“This difficult situation is not desired by the KRG,” Mr Barzani said.

“I urge our dear citizens not to be influenced by destructive messages whose aim is only to destroy the stability of the Kurdistan Region," he said.

Mr Barzani said federal authorities were to blame for not providing KRG's total share of Iraq's oil revenue on time.

Baghdad accuses the KRG of failing to turn over the revenue it generates from independent oil sales and customs.