IRAQ LETTER: The situation in the capital city of the KRG remains tense



7 April 2011
IRAQ LETTER: The situation in the capital city of the KRG
remains tense

The demonstration that was scheduled today, April 7, in
Erbil, the capital city of the Kurdistan Regional Government, was
postponed.  The organizers of the
demonstration have applied many times for permission to demonstrate but they
have been denied each time.  They
have decided to follow through on the legal process, which is to appeal to the

Due to the extreme repression in the city of Erbil, the demonstrators
felt that it would be too risky to their lives to demonstrate without having
gone through the entire legal procedure.  If they lose their appeal in the courts, they will reassess
their next steps.

Some other news: a bus full of civilian passengers, some of
whom were traveling to the Erbil airport, was turned away at one of the
checkpoints entering into the city on April 3.  Some of the passengers were German citizens.  When the passengers argued that they
needed to catch flights at the airport, the checkpoint soldiers opened fire in
the air.  Nobody was injured but
this is another example of fear and intimidation tactics that the ruling party
uses to insure silence.

 Additionally, four students who are residents of Suleimaniya
but study at the University of Salahadeen in Erbil have received threats
against their lives stemming from their attempt to read a statement in front of
the Parliament building in Erbil back in February 2011.  They, along with thousands of other
Suleimaniya students studying at Salahadeen University were thrown out of the
school and sent back to Suleimaniya in late February.  They were allowed to return to school in
late March.

 One of the four who has received three threats returned to
the university on April 4 but was warned by his friends that unknown people
have been at the university asking about him.  The student then began receiving threatening messages on his
cell phone and on Facebook.  Upon
return to the dorms on the evening of April 7, he saw a group of strange men
waiting at the gate.  He was able
to contact some friends and a Parliament member from Gorran (opposition party)
and he was taken to a safe house where he still remains.  He was able to get word out about his
situation.  Human Rights Watch and
UNAMI Human Rights have been contacted.

 Peace, Michele

Below is the statement from the Erbil organizers:

 An Announcement by the Organizers of the Demonstrations on Thursday
Regarding the Response by the Governor of Erbil

    In multiple attempts,
numerous requests [were] directed to the governorate of Erbil—by influential
members of different sectors of the Kurdish society who respect the rule of law—[for]
a civil gathering.  The main
objective of the gathering would be attempting to solve the current [issues]
plaguing the Kurdish society through peaceful and civil means.  It would also aim at loosening the
uneasiness in Erbil and its residents and [opening] doors of dialogue between
the government and the people, which is in our best national interest.  But unfortunately the [credibility] of
the promises by the president of the region came under serious question when
the authorities disenfranchised us from our rights to demonstrate and free
speech.  Through that decision, not
only were the rights and freedoms of people violated but also the promises of
the president of the region were broken by his own party officials.  The refusal to allow us the right to
practice our freedom of speech and demonstration by the authorities in Erbil
has angered the vast majority of the people in the city.


1.    The speeches by
the president of Kurdistan region should not be listened to anymore because
they are only lip service [to free speech].

2.    It became clear
that this current government is not taking the laws of its own parliament
seriously, particularly the law [allowing] demonstrations.  This had led
to a sense of hopelessness among a wide range of the people of Kurdistan.

3.    There is no
respect for the international standards of human rights, rule of law and
freedom of speech and association by the authorities in Erbil.

4.    It is clear that
the rule of law is only applied to the poor and marginalized.  The
government is using the law as a shield to protect corruption and abuse public

We, as a group of the people of this
city, demanded from the authorities in the city the permission, according to
the law [regarding] demonstrations in Kurdistan, to organize a peaceful
gathering.  Unfortunately, the governor of Erbil responded negatively to
our request.  The excuses presented [for that] refusal are illegal and
illogical; therefore, we answer as follows:

The refusal is based on a legal error;
the reply to our request was directed to one person at the time that the
request letter was signed by 100 persons and three people were selected as the
organizers of the gathering.

  • The Governorate: the organizing committee should not be less than three persons and not
    more than five Answer: the
    organizers of our gathering are three people: Aral Kakil, Brwa Abdulla and
    Karwan Hashim
  • The Governorate: the request should carry the address and signature of the organizing
    committee. Answer: Five people had
    their address, names, and telephone number presented on the request letter.
     Those five people represented the 100 who signed the letter.
  • When people say that there is no
    emergency situation in Erbil and the city is calm, [our response to that
    assertion is that]   previously a group of forty people put forward a
    demand for a demonstration but their request was refused again under the excuse
    that there is an emergency situation in Erbil.  It seems that the
    governorate of Erbil is unaware of the fact that the Ministry of Interior did
    not allow demonstrations based on the premise that there are emergency
    situations in the city.
  • The notion that the Kurdish public
    is divided, particularly because of the relative calm situation in Erbil
    compared to Suleimaniyah, we in Erbil don’t see that at all.  There are
    claims that nobody was detained or exposed to extrajudicial arrest or
    kidnapping in Erbil, but there is evidence documented by video, audio tapes and
    photos that many people are being harassed, threatened, and intimidated through
    various means particularly through threatening phone calls and text messages
    and e-mails.

The excuses of the governor of Erbil
are baseless and we are ready to follow every legal and civil path to protect
our right to demonstrate and to free speech.  We announce to the beloved
people of Erbil that the failure of the governor of Erbil to allow us to
demonstrate has no legal basis.  This [refusal] will only increase our
anger and discontent with this corrupt government.  And we shall continue
our struggle for a more democratic Erbil and Kurdistan.

22-1-2011 [ KRG President] Masud Barzani said, if the authority didn’t allowed
people to protest, “I swear by God that I’m ready to go with people to the
street and demonstrate with them.”  We just ask where is this promise?

Organizers of the Demonstrations on
5 April 2011



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