By Fazel Hawramy for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
The Kurdistan region of Iraq is fast descending into chaos, with protests continuing for the third day in some parts of Sulaimaniyah province and security forces using live ammunition to disperse them. Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has threatened to intervene militarily.
Thousands of angry protesters including students, teachers and government employees across the province called for the resignation of the entire Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the main two ruling parties for not being able to run the semi-autonomous region effectively.
“Some of the protesters fought the security forces,” a local journalist from the town of Raniya told Al-Monitor Dec. 19 on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “Six people were killed, but the protesters are in charge of the city tonight.”
The KRG has been unable to pay the salaries of its civil servants for over two months following the ill-fated referendum for independence in September that brought on crippling punitive measures from Baghdad, Iran and Turkey.
In Sulaimaniyah city, for the second day, the police, the peshmerga and the security force known as Asayish internal police battled protesters with tear gas and water cannons in the main bazaar. Around a dozen people were wounded, and Al-Monitor observed a man being punched in the face by a member of the Asayish.
In a worrying development Dec. 19 that could have serious consequences for the region’s stability, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls Sulaimaniyah province, appeared to call on vigilantes to maintain order and “support the democratic and patriotic path of their party” against “troublemakers.” The party shared a warning with the press. “It is not acceptable for some … media outlets to provoke protesters to cause trouble in the name of freedom of press. … These channels and their backers … are responsible for the blood of those who become victims.”