IRAQ: Day of Anger at Freedom Square, Suleimaniya ends in gunfire and injuries

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CPTnet
2 April 2011
IRAQ: Day of Anger at Freedom Square, Suleimaniya ends in
gunfire and injuries

by Michele Naar-Obed

On 1 April 2011, the nonviolent nature of the demonstration at Freedom Square
in Suleimaniya Iraq deteriorated quickly.  Two young male provocateurs later alleged to have ties to the
PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) and KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party)
security forces, led a group of demonstrators to the outskirts of the square
and began throwing rocks at the armed forces who were positioned in large numbers
on street corners.  April 1 was the
forty-third day of ongoing demonstrations and the government has done little to
recognize the demands of the demonstrators or negotiate with them.

Two significant events led to the decision to term Friday’s demonstration as
the “Day of Anger.”  The Kurdish
authorities arrested a prominent Mullah (religious leader) who spoke publicly
in support of the demonstrations and encouraged nonviolent revolution.  They charged him with inciting violence
under the anti-terrorism law and refused to let two pro bono lawyers take on
his case or visit him.

The second event was President Barzani responding to the demonstrators’ demand
to prosecute the security forces who injured and killed unarmed demonstrators
by saying that all demonstrators or supporters of demonstrators must be
prosecuted.

After a spate of rock throwing, the security forces opened fire.  CPTers present at the square heard shots
fired consistently for about half hour.  The shooting became closer to the square and the organizers ended
the demonstration for the day and encouraged people to go home.  About fifty to seventy-five remained at
the square and within an hour’s time, the armed security forces entered the square.  CPTers heard that they tore apart the
speakers platform and destroyed the art exhibits that have been on display
there.  The group of remaining
demonstrators reportedly tried to stop the security forces from destroying
their property, and the forces opened fire.  Many people tried to re-enter the square but the forces fired
upon them as well.  By the end of
the evening, forty-four people were injured including some police hit by the
rocks.

 


The following is a statement written by the Ad-hoc coordinating committee of
the demonstrations:

A Message from the Freedom Square’s Provisional Committee to
the General Public
 Following the announcement of the “Anger Friday” by the demonstrators
in Kurdistan Region, we worked hard to protect the peaceful nature of the
demonstrations and to allow the demonstrators to express their anger and
discontent against the apathy of the political leadership and authorities
through peaceful means.  
However, today, April 1, 2011, at the time that we were engaged in our peaceful
activities, after the Friday prayer, a group of the demonstrators faced acts of
violence by security forces.  Those
security forces used live ammunition and bullets against the demonstrators.  Bullets were also aimed at the people
gathering in the Freedom Square. 

At the time that we stress the fact that we shall continue our civil and
peaceful activities, we emphasize that all demonstrators are equal citizens of
this country and we are strongly against insulting them by labeling them as
thugs, anarchists…etc.  It is the
responsibility of the authorities to protect demonstrators, and we condemn
every illegal conduct by the government as shooting live ammunitions and
bullets and arbitrary arrest of private citizens. 

By its conduct today, the government once and again showed that it lacks the
will to respond to the demands of the people and has no intention to respect
the rule of law.  We, therefore,
announce that these conducts by the authorities will not only increase our
anger but also embolden our resolve to continue the demonstrations until we
fulfill all the rights that we aspire to.  We also assure everybody that we will not stay silent toward
those crimes and will announce our decisive position on them.  
Freedom Square’s Provisional Committee
 1/4/2011


The CPT Iraq team notified Amnesty International on behalf of Mullah Kamaron
and the U.S. Consulate on behalf of the demonstrators.

Additional photos are available here.

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