Iraqi-Kurdish opposition party calls for protests as anger brews over stalled election

Iraqi-Kurdish opposition party calls for protests as anger brews over stalled election
3 min read
04 August, 2022
Coinciding with the ongoing protests and sit-ins in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, a Kurdish opposition party in the Iraqi Kurdistan region (IKR), has called for demonstrations on Saturday. 
Iraqi-Kurdish security forces have been accused on gunning down protesters [Getty]

An opposition party in the Iraqi Kurdistan region called for demonstrations across northern Iraq on Saturday, to protest the expected postponement of parliamentary elections and massive unemployment. 

Shaswar Abdulwahid, the head of the New Generation Movement (NG), asked people to take the streets against the "tyrant" Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

The NG was founded by Abdulwahid, a former real estate businessman, in 2017 after he led a campaign against the failed Kurdish referendum for independence from Iraq that year and it has become an influntial opposition party in the region.  

"It is enough, this government [KRG] is indifferent towards your rights, it is prolonging a policy of tyranny that the current bad situation in the Kurdistan region cannot be tolerated," Abdulwahid said in a video posted on his official Facebook page.

"We, as an opposition force, think our society should no longer remain silent against all those evils that a corrupt and failed government [KRG] are imposing upon the people." 

The call came as huge protests took place at the Iraqi parliament by supporters of powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

On Wednesday, he called for the dissolution of parliament and early elections in Iraq. 

Parliamentary elections in the Iraqi Kurdistan region scheduled for October are likely to be postponed, Kurdish officials told The New Arab in June.

The last regional parliamentary election, held in September 2018, witnessed a low turnout of 57 percent and was marred by alleged large-scale voter fraud by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Iraqi-Kurdistan's two main political parties who boast their own security forces.

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KDP leader Masoud Barzani met with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on Monday about the election deadlock. 

"All obstacles before the elections must be removed and for the elections to be held as soon as possible," read a statement by the Barzani HQ.

Since early 2012, protests against the Kurdish authorities have been held but brutally quashed by security forces, killing and wounding hundreds. 

According to local law, activists must ask local authorities in every province for a protest permit at least 24 hours before demonstrations take place.  

The NG on Wednesday formed a council to organise the demonstrations and announced a nine-point list of demands to Kurdish authorities.

These include a requirement for the KRG to pay public sector workers and retirees regularly and on time, the creation of job opportunities for nearly half-a-million graduates, lowering fuel prices and taxes, and for parliamentary elections to take place. 

Himdad Shahin, the NG spokesperson, did not respond to questions about whether the group had approached the KRG for protest permits, coordinated with other opposition parties, or if it bears responsibility for any protestors killed, wounded, or arrested by Kurdish authorities.

The New Arab's correspondent in Iraq has recently met with defence lawyers and families of protestors killed by armed elements of Iraqi-Kurdistan's ruling parties in late 2020.

None of the perpetrators who fired live ammunition at protestors have been arrested, despite warrants issued against them, they said.

They also claimed that those allegedly responsible for the killings are affiliated with the KDP and PUK and are blocking the region's "weak" judiciary's efforts to take action over the killings.