Iraqi Kurds: For a democratic Kurdistan

Thousands of Iraqi Kurds took to the streets of the northern region’s second city of Sulaimaniyah to protest against a recent law restricting the ability to demonstrate.

The 90-minute peaceful protest – which broke the new law by not being authorised – started in al-Shaab Park (People’s Park) in the city centre and continued to nearby Hurriyeh Square (Freedom Square).

“This law is a retreat from the path of democracy in Kurdistan, and infringes on people’s freedom to express their opinions,” said demonstrator Aram Jamal, the head of the Kurdish Institute of Elections, a privately funded watchdog.

“The law is an obstacle to democracy.”

Around 100 police officers monitored the protest, which was attended by more than 2,000 people in the city 270 kilometres (170 miles) north of Baghdad.

Despite the demonstration being unlawful because it had not received prior approval, no arrests were made because of the number of protesters.

The legislation was earlier passed by the ruling Kurdistania slate, made up of regional president Massud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and was signed into law by Barzani last week.

It was opposed in the regional parliament by Kurdistan’s smaller opposition parties, but as Kurdistania holds around two-thirds of the seats in the Kurdish parliament, the law still passed.

“This law is a violation of human rights,” said Karzan Abid, another demonstrator. “We need more freedom in our lives, we need to be able to protest to bring about political change.”

Sulaimaniyah, Iraq

AFP – December 18, 2010



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