Iraq death toll rises amid crackdown on protests

Iraq death toll rises amid crackdown on protests
3 min read
09 December, 2020
Security forces in Iraq's northern Kurdish region fired live rounds at protesters, amid days of ongoing demonstrations against late salary payments.
Security forces fired live rounds at protesters [Getty]
At least three more people, including a child, were shot dead in Iraq's northern Kurdish region during a march against the governing elite that saw demonstrators torch party offices.

Security forces fired live rounds at protesters in Sulaimaniyah where demonstrations erupted this week over unpaid salaries.

In Sayed Sadiq, a 13-year-old was shot dead, according to Iraqi Kurdish activists and journalists. While on Monday, a 26-year-old man was also shot in the chest and died.

According to the report, at least five people have died since the protests erupted.

While the rallies have escalated in towns, the main city of Sulaimaniyah has not seen a huge turnout due to tightened security measures.

Authorities imposed a crackdown on social media sites to prevent protesters from mobilising.

A member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan told The New Arab's Arabic-language service Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that a meeting between different parties is scheduled in Erbil to reach a solution on the issue of late salary payments. 

On Monday, Kurdistan's Prime Minister Masrour Barzani held a press conference to address the protests, saying that demonstrations are a fundamental right of the people.

However, the official noted grievances were being exploited  by some and urged protesters to remain patient as the government attempts to overcome hurdles.

Rights defenders have been increasingly concerned about security forces targeting press organisations in the region, specifically local television station NRT.

Before dawn on Monday, local security forces stormed NRT's Sulaimaniyah bureau and halted its live broadcast, the channel's newsroom chief Rebwar Abdulrahman told AFP

He said some of the channel's equipment had been confiscated and other equipment had been broken during the raid.

"Stopping a channel's broadcast is a blatant violation of the region's press law," Abdulrahman said.

Like the rest of Iraq, media outlets in the Kurdish region are nearly all linked to political figures or parties. NRT is owned by a member of the New Generation Movement, a Kurdish opposition party.

Press freedoms in Kurdish Iraq have been enshrined by a regional law for over a decade. 

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was "very concerned" by the recent shutdown, which comes after NRT's offices in the regional capital Erbil and northwest city of Duhok faced similar closures this year. 

"It's a pattern for authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan, be it in Sulaimaniyah or Erbil or Duhok, and an attempt to silence NRT for its coverage of protests that have been ongoing over unpaid salaries for public servants and lack of public services," said CPJ's Ignacio Miguel Delgado. 

Agencies contributed to this report.

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