Kurdish health officials lower protest death count from 5 to 2
The KRG Ministry of Health and local officials have lowered the death casualty for Tuesday violent protests in the city of Raniya to two, down from five.
Taha Mohammed, spokesperson for the health department in Raniya, had told Rudaw on Tuesday that five people were killed and 80 more injured after the anti-government protests in Raniya, the capital city of Raparin Administration, northwest of Sulaimani.
He told Rudaw on Wednesday evening that they had “mistakenly calculated” the death casualties as their hospitals were overcrowded by dozens of injured protesters.
On Tuesday evening, the public hospital in the city recorded five deaths “three of whom died of normal conditions” unrelated to the protests. He added that only two died from the clashes on Tuesday.
Dr. Khals Qadir, the spokesperson for Kurdistan’s Ministry of Health, also told Rudaw on Wednesday that they have recorded only two cases of death from Tuesday’s protests.
Mohammed, from the Raniya health department, added that the number of injured has risen to 87 following fresh protests in Raniya on Wednesday.
Sulaimani governor did not play any role in decision to suspend NRT, KRG statement
The decision to suspend the work of NRT, one of Kurdistan’s largest news organizations, for a week was taken exclusively by the Minister of Culture, the ministry said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.
The clarification came after the ministry had stated on Tuesday that the minister and Sulaimani Governor Haval Abubakir spoke before the NRT suspension.
Abubakir denied on Tuesday that he had recommended the closure of NRT with its headquarters in Sulaimani.
The ministry reiterated its position that they decided to suspend NRT Kurdish and Arabic to “stop chaos” and to force the media to commit to the “ethics of journalism.”
NRT condemned the government decision describing it as “dangerous threat” against press freedom, saying that their staff was humiliated and that one of their managers briefly was detained.
The government took the decision to suspend the channel following deadly protests on Tuesday.
Office of Kurdish Islamic party set ablaze in Qaladze
Protesters in Qaladze, part of the Raparin Administration whose capital is Raniya, set ablaze the office of the Kurdistan Islamic Union on Wednesday evening.
Five people were killed and another 80 were injured in Raniya on Tuesday, according to local health officials.
Kurdistan security council warns against domestic, regional interference in KRG protests
The Kurdistan Region Security Council stated on Wednesday that there are “democratic and regional” actors who want to manipulate the demands of the anti-government protesters, adding that the violent events that affected the provinces of Sulaimani and Halabja could not be described as “[peaceful] protests.”
It stated that the events in the last two days are “outside of the bounds of protest,” while urging the people of the Kurdistan Region to “not allow their demands be mixed with suspicious political agenda originating from domestic and regional [sources].”
The KRSC said that such protestors should have directed their dissatisfaction against the Iraqi government that carried out a military incursion against the KRG-controlled places in the disputed or Kurdistani areas since October 16, accompanied by ongoing budget cuts since early-2014, and the punitive measures such as the flight ban on the international flights to and from the Kurdistan Region.
The “military threat” posed by Baghdad against the Kurdistan Region is “ongoing, according to the security officials, while the government of Baghdad gambles to “destabilize the internal situation of the [Kurdistan] Region.”
It called on the people to take into consideration the “sensitive” situation within the Kurdish Region.
The security agency that is tasked with collecting both domestic and foreign intelligence stated Monday and Wednesday that they are “alarmed” by a military buildup by the Iraqi forces in Makhmur, about 60 km southwest of Erbil.
It concluded by instructing the Kurdish security forces to counter any “harmful act” and to protect lives and properties.
The relations between Erbil and Baghdad have reached their lowest levels since the 2003 establishment of the new Iraq following the Iraqi opposed-Kurdish vote on independence on September 25.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Tuesday blamed the Kurdish vote and corruption for the deadly protests that targeted the offices of the main Kurdish parties.
Anti-government protesters set Gorran office on fire in Raniya
Some protesters have set the Gorran (Change Movement) party office in the city of Raniya on Wednesday afternoon after the anti-government demonstrations have again taken to streets following deadly clashes on Tuesday, a Rudaw reporter at the scene reported.
The protesters are now on their way to the office of the Islamic Group (Komal).
Five people were killed and 80 more injured on Tuesday in the city located in Sulaimani province.
The local authorities have said that a night curfew may stay, if necessary, with the security forces on alert to keep peace and security.
The security forces did not clash with the protests today, according to the Rudaw reporter.
UNAMI decries violent demonstrations in the Kurdistan Region
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq issued a statement on Wednesday saying it is "deeply concerned" about the violence and reported casualties during demonstrations in the Kurdistan Region the last two days.
"The people have the right to partake in peaceful demonstrations, and the authorities in KRI have the responsibility of protecting their citizens, including peaceful protestors," stated UNAMI.
It also urged for Kurdistan Region security forces "to exercise maximum restraint" and for the demonstrators to "avoid any act of violence."
UNAMI also calls upon authorities "to respect and protect the media" stating the closure of NRT TV was "because of the content of its reporting on the demonstrations."
"The Mission urges the media to abide by the law, while emphasizing the critical role of free and impartial media in any democratic society," the statement concluded.
Flags lowered to half-mast in Halabja to mourn death of protesters
The local government of Halabja has decided to lower all flags at half-staff to respect the five protesters who were killed in the deadly anti-government protest in Raniya on Tuesday, Governor Ali Othman said at a press conference.
The announcement came after a meeting between the local government, all Kurdish parties and civil society organizations, including religious leaders in Halabja on Wednesday.
Halabja, known for the infamous chemical attack on March 16, 1988, is named the peace capital of the Kurdistan Region by the Kurdish parliament.
“We held a meeting so that at the Peace Capital we can express our sympathy and condolences to the unfortunate incident that happened yesterday resulting in the martyrdom of protesters,” Othman said.
Some people participated in anti-government protests on Monday and Tuesday in Halabja. The protests were largely peaceful, but several civil activists who organized the protests said that the security forces (Asayish) carried out raids to arrest them.
The governor said that the meeting today decided to put an end to arrests, or raids against the protest organizers.
He said the meeting was at the request of non-governmental organizations and the religious leaders in Halabja.
At the meeting it was decided to halt all activities of political parties, and declared Thursday to be a public holiday to “mourn" the death the protesters.
Video: Aftermath of violent protests in Koya city, southeast of Erbil, on December 19, 2017. As many as 17 party and government buildings in Koya were set ablaze by protesters in and around Koya on Tuesday.
Night curfew in Raniya may remain after deadly anti-government protests
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region – A night time curfew that was announced on Tuesday night after a bloody day in the city of Raniya north of Sulaimani may stay in place on Wednesday if necessary, the head of the Raparin administration whose capital is Raniya told Rudaw on Tuesday.
Hamid Abdullah said that they have also put the security forces on alert to maintain peace and security in Raniya.
The local government announced a public holiday for Wednesday and Thursday. Friday and Saturday are the weekend for the public sector in the Kurdistan Region.
The local government in Chamchamal and Kifri in Sulaimani province also announced night time curfew on Tuesday. Chamchamal announced Wednesday a public holiday.
Five people were killed, and 80 more injured when protests in Raniya became violent on Tuesday.
Four offices of political parties were set on fire: two offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan as well the offices of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Kurdistan Islamic Union, Abdullah said. These parties are part of the five-member coalition government, the KRG.
Iraqi President Fuad Masum, a Kurd from the PUK with its strongholds in the provinces of Sulaimani and Halabja, called for calm and urged the protestors to express their rightful demands in a civil manner.
The protesters are demonstrating against lack of basic services such as electricity, widespread corruption, and the full payment of state salaries. The KRG has said the continued budget cuts Baghdad since early 2014, and the loss of the oil fields in Kirkuk to the Iraqi forces in October, have forced the government to make salary cuts or have failed to pay the 1.2 million people on its payroll on time.
KDP hears rightful demands, condemns 'armed protest'
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party has condemned what it called an "armed protest" that it said mainly targeted their offices in several cities including in Raniya where five people were killed and 80 others injured on the second day of anti-government protests.
While the KDP stated that it believes that the people have the right to protest and voice their concerns to make their voices heard, they reject violent protests and attacks on office of political parties or that of the government.
The KDP statement comes following two days of anti-government violent protests
since Monday who protest against services failure such as electricity, wide-spread corruption, and months of delayed salary of state employees.
It called on the people of Kurdistan to act "responsibly" against what it called an "uncivilized campaign that threatens Kurdistan and its democratic rule."
The party singled out some of the protesters for pushing the crowd towards violence.
"The acts and remarks of such people have stripped the civil nature of the protests, instead turned it into an armed protest. It is also clear that the rioters have the KDP offices on the top of their objectives to target," the KDP's Tuesday night statement read.
It called on the security forces to carry out their duty by protecting the lives of people who are in party or government buildings.
The KDP and the government listen to those people who have a "legitimate voice," who demand an improvement to people's lives with civility, the KDP added.
The KDP is the Kurdistan Region’s largest Kurdish party in terms of the number of seats in the Kurdish parliament that controls, among others, the position of the prime ministry, and the Security Council.
Protests since Monday have hit several Kurdish cities in the provinces of Sulaimani and Halabja, including in Koya, Sulaimani and Raniya. The protesters have set ablaze the offices of Kurdistan's five largest parties and some government buildings.
The KRG's Ministry of Culture on Tuesday closed down NRT media outlets, one of the largest Kurdish media network based in Sulaimani on allegations of inciting violence. It said the decision came after discussions with Sulaimani governor Haval Abubakir. The governor denied he ordered the NRT closure.
NRT stated Tuesday night that about 100 armed men of the Sulaimani security forces (Asayesh) ordered the network to close its main headquarters "without a warrant.” It said their staff was humiliated, network head Awat Ali was briefly arrested, and Shashwar Abdulwahid, whom the network described as the "former owner" of the news organization, was "kidnapped."
Abdulwahid headed the campaign against the Kurdish vote on independence held in September, and is have since formed the New Generation party. The businessman-turned-politician called on the people to protest against the government.
NRT said the security forces did not have any legal ground to close the network, and was "a dangerous threat against the freedom of journalism both in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq."
The network called on public to pressure the authorities to reopen the network, while it accused the government of not believing in the rule of law, press freedom, and the peaceful transfer of power. It also said that they also hold the KRG "accountable," for the network closure, and the killing of protesters.
The Kurdisn Network that also has services in other languages such as English and Arabic was attacked by unknown armed men in 2011 who set its headquarters on fire in 2011, just days after people started to stage anti-government protests.
The channel published a photo on its Facebook page after midnight that compared the Tuesdy night closure with the 2011 attack.
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani on Tuesday night told Rudaw that he understands the frustrations of protesters who have taken to the streets over the past two days.
"These are challenging times for our region. Your frustrations are understandable, and I hear them," he said, adding that he supports the "peaceful expression of views" as a legitimate democratic right.
"But violence is never acceptable. I call on all of you to conduct your protests peacefully."
The Kurdistan Region has been suffering from an ongoing financial crisis since early 2014 due to budget cuts by the Iraqi government, a drop in oil prices and the war against ISIS. The KRG's revenues have hit a new low when it lost control of the oil fields in Kirkuk in mid-October, slashing its revenues by almost half.
The KRG last week revealed plans to make further cuts to state salaries after the loss in Kirkuk and the continued budget cuts from Baghdad.