IRAQ REFLECTION: The State of the People’s Uprising



10 May 2011

the People’s Uprising

by Michele Naar-Obed

The people’s uprising against
corruption and lack of basic rule of law in the Kurdistan Regional Government
(KRG) Iraq, has come to an end for now. For 62 days, the people of Suleimaniya
Province fought a valiant nonviolent campaign in the form of street
demonstrations and strikes which started on February 17, 2011. During these
days, the people held “open mike” rallies in the public squares of a number
of cities where a host of people from different sectors of society had a chance
to express their ideas about how to move forward as a society. They presented a
list of demands and structural changes, developed the “Road map to the
Peaceful Transition of Power in Southern
Kurdistan”, and appealed to the international community for backing and

Following the demonstration of
February 17, the two ruling parties, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) run by
Jalal Talabani and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) run by Massoud Barzani,
called in their personal military
troops to crack down on the demonstrations. 
The demonstrators appealed to the soldiers to lay down their weapons and
join in the people’s campaign. They shared flowers, candies, handshakes and
hugs with the soldiers and from the open mike, greeted them as
” brothers”.

The soldiers eventually left the
squares throughout the Suleimaniya Province and the people continued the hard
work of organizing and defining their voices. They proved themselves to be a
real challenge to the ruling powers who often used violent methods to sabotage
their movement.

In the end, the authorities won this round of
the battle by creating scenarios that allowed for the violent, massive and
repressive military crackdown which wiped out all public demonstrations and
organizing through the use of live ammunition, beatings, kidnaping, arrests,
and psychological terror. The anti-terrorism unit, headed by a member of the
Talabani family and trained and armed by the United States, branded the
demonstrators as terrorists and used every method available to silence its own

Within the two months of
demonstrations, ten people were killed and hundreds wounded by the ruling
party’s armed forces.  Hundreds of arrests
were made and many were beaten and tortured during their detainment. Soldiers
are still present in Suleimaniya City but are slowly returning to their bases.

Now, the struggle is being
fought on the political level, but politics is a dirty game as politicians tend
to fight for their own agenda, marginalizing the people and paying lip service
to their demands.

 The demonstrators are currently
in a time of healing, physically and psychologically. They are evaluating,
strategizing and learning from other nonviolent campaigns. They are in growing
pains but firm in their commitment to grow, not by the weapon, but by the mind
and heart.

All of us who have ever engaged
in nonviolent struggle for change where the common good is more important than
the ideology of the few, whether it be religious, economic or political, should
embrace the people of the Kurdish north of Iraq in the recognition that we are
all part of the same struggle.

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