7 March 2011
IRAQ: Fires, broken bodies, arrests, and chaos at chaos at
Freedom Square in Suleimaniya
On 5 March 2011, thirty-five-year-old Ayoub joined with
approximately 200 young people for an all-night vigil at Freedom Square in
Suleimaniya. At midnight, he lay down
in his tent to rest. Ayoub had
been on a hunger strike for the past twelve days and planned to continue until
the government answered the demands of the people who had been demonstrating for
eighteen straight days.
At 2:30 a.m., the morning of 6 March, Ayoub heard people
yelling “Wake up, wake up” For a moment, he thought, “Parliament has come with
good news.” Within seconds, he
knew there was trouble. “When I
woke up, I didn’t want to believe the Kurdish authorities would do this,” Ayoub
Men dressed entirely in black with ski masks over their
faces, carrying guns, batons and electric cables began rounding people up and
taking them away. Other
eyewitnesses said they could have been from the Anti-Terrorism Unit. Men in plainclothes also carrying guns,
batons, and electric cables, began to beat people. Ayoub tried three times to get away and each time, his
assailants beat and stunned him with the electric cable. He showed CPTers the marks on his hands and
said he was bruised and bloodied all over his body.
The men in plainclothes began to set tents on fire. One tent was occupied when it went up in
flames. The victim remains in the hospital,
according to another eyewitness. Ayoub’s
tent was burned to the ground along with all of his papers and a few cherished
When Ayoub was able to finally get up and run away, a man in
a teashop took him inside and kept him safe for the night. Ayoub returned to Freedom Square at 9
a.m. The burned tents were gone
and the square was clean. In addition
to the destruction of the tents, the demonstrators’ sound system and the stage
set up for the speakers who come daily to the demonstrations were destroyed.
Other eyewitnesses reported that members of the Asaish
(Security Police) were present during the attacks but did nothing to intervene.
Ayoub, a contractor who does road and masonry work has made
many complaints in the past to government authorities about the corruption he
has seen. “I have reported
directly to our Prime Minister, Dr. Barham Salih that poor quality materials
are used, causing a big problem,” he told CPTers. Ayoub believes that the government cannot reform because of
the corrupting influence of political parties. Ayoub has also written to the Minister of Higher Education
and the Parliament with a list of concerns he has about the violation of human
rights on the people of Iraqi Kurdistan.
He has yet to receive any answers.
“I am on a hunger strike now and if the people don’t receive
answers to their demands soon, I will do something else,” Ayoub said. He did not share what that something
As of yet, the international media has given little
attention to the crisis in the Kurdish north of Iraq and sinister deeds
continue to happen in the dark.
More photos are available here