IRAQI KURDISTAN: Joy of upcoming elections tainted by violence

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CPTnet
13 September 2013
IRAQI KURDISTAN: Joy of
upcoming elections tainted by violence

 

Walking on Salim Street in Suleimaniya during the first week in September, one
could feel the people’s excitement in anticipation of the 21 September 2013 Iraqi
Kurdistan Parliamentary elections.  Campaign material was everywhere.  Flags strung across the streets bore the political parties’
symbols and colors.  Thousands of
posters covered the walls and electric poles.  Every evening on Salim Street, cars moved slowly down the
street, horns blowing, people cheering, flags waving, children filled with
excitement as they waved out the car windows.

 

Much of the enthusiasm springs from the hopes that the new elections will bring
political change.  However, many
others feel afraid of what this change will bring.  People anticipate that most likely the PUK (Patriotic Union
of Kurdistan) will for the first time lose to the Gorran bloc.  The PUK—led by the Talabani tribe and a
leader no one has seen in public after he suffered a stroke last December–has
held power in this part of Kurdistan since 1991.  Gorran, which means “change” in Kurdish,  is a
progressive political movement unrelated to the traditional tribal structures.  Many people in Iraqi Kurdistan hunger
for change.  However, this change would
bring an end to the world many people know well.  The resulting tension is disrupting the hope for a peaceful
process.

  1234926_1776647809140853_1404094305_n
  A journalist from the TV-channel KNN after being
beaten by PUK-supporters

Violence entered the electoral campaign in early September and has been
escalating since then.  Gorran
supporters, who gathered and danced in front of the three campaign offices,
have been repeatedly attacked with sticks, glass bottles, acid, and even knives
and gun shots.  On two occasions, a
car drove past a crowd of Gorran supporters and the passengers started shooting
randomly towards people.  One of
the cars had a license plate covered with a PUK flag.  In the other incident, police opened a
way for a car that had fire randomly into a crowd to leave the vicinity.  The media report that over thirty people
have been injured so far in violence specifically targeting Gorran supporters.  According to a report by the Metro
Center for Defending Journalists, eighteen journalists have been harassed
during this election campaign.  On
the evening of 10 September, a bullet from a passing car hit a fifty-year-old
woman in the head.  She died in the
hospital the following morning. 

The police have not tried to prevent the attacks or arrest the attackers.  Witnesses identified one assailant as a
person known for killing a young man during anti-government protests in the
spring of 2011.  CPT received a
report claiming that the PUK has been handing out guns to its committed
supporters. 

The fear of more attacks is marring people’s joy and the electoral
celebrations.  However, they
continue to take to the streets at night .  CPT’s partners have asked the team to provide an international
presence at one of the places and to document the situation.

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