IRAQ ANALYSIS: The least reported unarmed revolution in the Middle East

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CPTnet
14 April 2011
IRAQ ANALYSIS: The least reported unarmed revolution in the
Middle East

by Michele
Naar-Obed

[Note: this piece has been edited for CPTnet.  The original is available at https://www.commondreams.org/author/michele-naar-obed.]

 Since 17 February 2011, military forces have fired
indiscriminately into crowds of unarmed demonstrators.  There have been hundreds of arrests,
torture and disappearances of protest organizers, and empty promises made by
government leaders.  Amnesty
International has intervened and word came from a reliable source that a phone
call from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was able to pull government military
troops off the streets and away from unarmed demonstrators.

This scenario is not in Libya, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, or
Tunisia.  These events have been
taking place in Kurdish north of Iraq, where people been just as active in
their nonviolent uprising against a corrupt and repressive government, although
their efforts have receive almost no coverage from major international media.

Daily, thousands of demonstrators flood the city center—now
dubbed “Freedom Square”—of Suleimaniya, Iraq.  There have been eight civilian deaths in Suleimaniya city
and scores of injuries resulting from armed government forces opening fire with
live ammunition into the crowds.  Government
security forces killed five unidentified people alleged to be terrorists outside
of Suleimaniya.  During the imposed
curfew, government forces and armed militia positioned themselves throughout
the city of Suleimaniya and surrounding Freedom Square.  An independent television station was
burned to the ground.  Suleimaniya
students studying in Erbil universities were sent back to Suleimaniyah and
government authorities set up roadblocks around the city of Erbil to prevent
Suleimaniya cars from entering.  There
have been assassination attempts against religious leaders advocating for this
nonviolent revolution.  The
Kurdistan Regional Government’s Parliament has held emergency sessions to
negotiate the demands of the people, but no agreements have arisen from these
sessions.

The Kurdish people of northern Iraq have been under foreign
control and dictators for centuries and have been living in a semi-autonomous,
self-governed region in Iraq since 1991.  They believe that they were only able to get this far because
of the establishment of the UN no-fly zone in 1991 after Saddam Hussein killed
hundreds of thousands of Kurds and destroyed most of their villages in his
vicious Anfal campaign of the late 1980’s.

Who came to the forefront as leaders of the new Kurdish
society in 1991?  Two strong
fighters from the Talabani and Barzani tribes were key in leading the Peshmerga
(Kurdish soldiers) in the fight against the Ba’ath Party regime.  Jalal Talabani set up his party (PUK);
and Masoud Barzani set up his (KDP), and for a while, they shared power within
the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). 
For twenty years, they have corrupted all aspects of the government with
tribal party rule. 

The Kurdish people of northern Iraq have found their voice
and they are screaming for change.  Some of the people screaming the loudest are the artists,
poets, religious leaders, women, the youth, the doctors, the engineers, the scholars,
and the many that have lived abroad under democratic governments.

There is real possibility that this change can come about
without an armed people’s revolution.  The international community should pay attention now, and think
about how it can support these activists in their nonviolent struggle to end
the oppression carried out by the ruling parties—parties backed by the western
countries’ foreign policies.  If we
pay attention now, maybe our children and our grandchildren will not have to
face the decision whether to use military force to drive out yet another
entrenched dictator.

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