IRAQ LETTER: “Today was not a good day in Suleimaniya.”

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CPTnet
27 February 2011
IRAQ LETTER: “Today was not a good day in Suleimaniya.”

26 February 2011

Dear all,

Today was not a good day in Suleimaniya.  The team joined the White Group this
afternoon after returning from Halubja.  Today was the day for engineers, doctors, and other
professionals to raise their voices for change.  

The demonstration was going along fine when suddenly an
explosion occurred from behind the stage.  Black smoke filled the air.  For a moment, everyone seemed to be stunned and frozen.  Then the crowd panicked and started
running in different directions.  Someone announced that the explosion was just an electrical
explosion from a generator.  The
White Group raised their hands in an attempt to calm everyone down and gestured
to the soldiers standing behind the White Group that everything was okay.  Within five minutes, hundreds from the
crowd broke through the White Group line and ran directly up to the soldiers
screaming at them and blaming them for what happened.  Shortly after, demonstrators told the
White Group that a percussion bomb went off behind the stage.  Accusations that the sound bomb was set
the night before by people who want to destroy the demonstrations and
Suleimaniya began to circulate.

The group of demonstrators who ran towards the soldiers
behind our line was beginning to return towards the center.  To the credit of these soldiers, they
never raised their guns and with the exception of a few flying shoes, we did
not see the demonstrators do anything more than scream at the soldiers.

For a few moments, there was hope that this might just calm
down without any further incident but then the shooting began.  The place quickly turned chaotic and
many people, including the CPT-Iraq team, ran into the bazaar.  The shooting continued for a few
moments and then the merchants in the bazaar asked everyone to leave because
they wanted to close their shops for fear that the bazaar would be destroyed.  We stood in the street for a few minutes
trying to get our bearings when another crowd of people stormed down the
street.  In order to not be
trampled, we moved back against the wall and let the crowd run by.  We later learned that they were running
in fear that the soldiers would start shooting and many roads were closed at
this point so there were no really clear exits.

The team at this moment is home and safe, and local news
reports one dead and eleven wounded.  Violence in other cities is also being reported on local
news.  Other reports are coming in
by phone and weblog, e.g., “my friend is calling me; he is excited and
shouting.  Karzan, you have to see
this.  Lots of protesters carrying
rocks went toward the Peshmerga force and fight almost broke out again.  But now they are making peace.  Some members of the Peshmerga force are
putting down their weapons and kissing the protesters.  We are brothers and we won’t shoot at
you.  Some (Peshmerga) are crying.”

Peace,

The CPT-Iraq
Team

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