A protesting guard demanding changes to the unpopular saving system he was omitted from when the new KRG saving system was announced in late March. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - Guards of judges and ministers staged a protest in front of Erbil's Appellate Court, blocking its gates, not allowing employees or civilians to enter as they demanded the Kurdistan Regional Government include them in the new salary saving system.
The KRG's Council of Ministers passed a new austerity system on March 28 that caps salary deductions at 30 percent for high-earners and 10 percent for low-earners. Anyone receiving less than $336 per month will receive their full payment.
The decision of the government to ease the unpopular austerity measure followed the heels of payments from Baghdad and protests by health and education employees across the Kurdistan Region.
"We have come here for our rights," said one angry protester, whose salary was slashed by 65 percent since the KRG introduced the austerity measures and saving system in late 2016. "We are all poor people. We have families. If I was not a poor person, I would not choose to become a guard."
“Why should the government respond to us only through protests, why do they not improve our situation voluntarily?” he added.
Due to the protest, numbering at least 100 people, the court's regular work has stopped, leading to the breakout of quarrels and problems between the protesting guards and civilians who needed to access the court to work out important issues.
Another protester dressed in a military outfit said they would not leave their spot or allow people to enter the court hall, "unless they respond to us."
According to Rudaw's Syamand Karim, the protesters said they want a concrete answer from the government and promise to reduce their saving system from 60 percent to 30 to 20 percent.
"We just receive 400,000 IQD. Who could live on this amount each month," another protester decried.
The KRG's decision to ease the saving system, however, did not include the Interior Ministry's Guard Unit.
This group includes guards of officials including ministers, judges, and other high-ranking officials. The Guard Unit's salaries have been, as part of the unpopular system, cut by 60 percent or more.
Concerning the matter in question, the KDP bloc in the Kurdistan Parliament announced that Karim Sinjari, the KRG interior minister, had made sure the ministry's Guard Unit will undergo the new saving system.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) described the recent anger sparked among the special guards as "just."
The KRG introduced the unpopular salary saving system in 2016 following a crippling financial crisis due to the war with ISIS, Iraqi government cutting its share of the budget, an influx of 1.8 million IDPs and Syrian refugees, and a decrease in global oil prices.