The Independent Human Rights Commission in the Kurdistan Region (IHRCKR) said on Wednesday (December 9) that it considers the protests in southern Kurdistan (otherwise known as the Kurdistan Region) an ordinary and legal right by people in order to secure their demands.
The watchdog also said in a statement that it supports every “civil and legal activities aiming to secure the people’s rights and wellbeing and securing the salary, financial entitlements and embedding justice and rule of law.”
“We are calling the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to concentrate their attempts to reach an agreement on the central government [Iraqi Government] to provide salary and financial entitlements of the public sector employees, job opportunities and exterminating corruption and securing a suitable life for the Kurdistan Region’s People,” the Kurdish human rights commission said.
Since December 2, the districts of Sulaimani and Halabja have been gripped with a new round of protests which begun over a week ago on December 2 in Sulaimani city, before spreading to nearby towns, with residents and public servants protesting against deteriorating living conditions, an oil deal with Turkey, and public services, unemployment and salary delays and cuts.
In recent days, the demonstrations have become increasingly violent, with the security forces using live bullets. Protesters have burned numerous party and government offices, including those belonging to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), and the Change Movement (Gorran).
Seven people have been killed, including six protesters and one KDP cadre.
The Kurdistan Region Higher Security Council, in which is a part of the KRG’s interior ministry, has imposed a 48-hour intra-city curfew in Sulaimani and Halabja governorates to contain the protests. KRG forces have attacked the headquarters of channels such as Sterk, NRT and Ariyen TV, and severely decreased internet connectivity to reduce the flow of information.
As part of an economic agreement between the KRG and the central Iraqi government, the KRG is supposed to submit 250,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd) to the federal State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) along with half of the revenues generated at the border crossings it controls. In return, the KRG was set to receive a 12.67 budget share, which amounts to an expected 900 billion dinars ($756 million) per month. This budget would have supposedly been used to pay the salaries of civil servants and other workers in the Kurdistan region.
A similar agreement had been reached before but was voided after the KRG failed to deliver the barrels of oils it agreed to submit.
In April, the federal government of Iraq cut off all budget transfers to the KRG after the latter failed to send any of the 250,000 barrels of oil per day that it was required to under the 2019 Federal Budget Law. After failing to pay civil servants and failing to submit oil, the Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani was forced to admit that he had made an energy deal with Turkey for 50 years, explaining why oil was not being submitted to the Iraq government. The confession came after years of denying any relation with the anti-Kurdish state of Turkey.
The deal between the Kurdish party and Turkey was described by the KRG as “the best choice” the KRG’s eighth cabinet took at the time to resolve its economic crisis. The people of the region, constantly moving under fear of being targeted by Turkish warplanes, refuted the agreement, labeling it “betrayal” to the Kurdish people and the PKK.
Though the details of the oil agreement were not shared, it is assumed that the dirty alliance formed between the anti-Kurd Turkish state and its Kurdish counterpart, was formed on the basis of personal interests to the Barzani dynasty which has plagued the region with corruptness.
Though several officials of the KDP have since claimed that the oil-shortages in the deal with Iraq are independent of the new deal with the Anti-Kurd Erdogan regime, it has become evident with the KRG’s attempts to otherwise source salaries that the Iraq-agreement was breached for Turkish relations.
On November 18, thirty-two Kurdistan Parliament’s lawmakers signed a petition calling on the parliament’s presidency to explain Barzani’s remark about the Turkey-KRG deal being the best choice to have been taken.
KRG paid the last salary on October 15 with an eighteen percent tax cut, while salaries paid in July and August were taxed by twenty-one percent.