Everyone is born with inherent rights. Protecting and promoting Universal Human Rights is essential to building and maintaining peace around the world. The newly autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan is currently unsafe for many activists, human rights defenders, journalists, and members of civil society. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is charged with the safety of all its inhabitants and the responsibility of safeguarding Universal Human Rights within its borders. We wish to lift the veil of secrecy around recent killings, beatings and ongoing attacks on journalists, activists, and members of civil society as well as highlight the seemingly systematic campaign of harassment against those exercising free speech in Iraqi Kurdistan. We also call upon the Kurdistan Regional Government to actively protect those threatened and pursue parties wishing to harm people exercising their inherent rights within in the region.
The Kurdish Region of Iraq has enjoyed freedom and self-rule governance since the United States invasion of Iraq despite the immense toll the invasion took on people in other areas. However, the Kurdish region is also facing the worst financial crisis in its history. In 2014 the budget was cut by the Iraqi Government and the Kurdish Regional Government told its employees that they were unable to pay their salaries. This decision lead to many protests by the governmental workers, especially teachers, demanding that their full salaries be paid and calling for an end to corruption in the public sector. Organizers and teachers peacefully protested for 110 days but beginning in December 2016, the security forces in Sulaimani started using violent means to try to break the teacherâs strike. Many activists and human rights defenders were arrested, beaten, threatened, or had their property damaged or burnt. Finally, in mid January, 2017, the teachers ended their strike under immense pressure from the security forces. They were assured by the Prime Minister and his deputy no changes would come from the demonstrations. Since the protests ended, the organizers, civil society activists and journalists have faced threats and direct violence. Their families have been terrorized and social media is being used to humiliate them. Along with threats to activists, journalists and religious leaders have also been killed in the region. The government is responsible for its citizensâ security and should respect human rights by creating a space where civil society can act freely to foster and develop a democratic culture in the region without threats, violence and loss of life.