Geneva – The Kurdish authorities’ use of violence against student protests that took place in several provinces of the region
and resulted in the injury and arrest of dozens of protesters is condemnable, Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor
said Wednesday in a statement.
Large-scale student protests swept through Sulaymaniyah city in the Kurdistan region of Iraq on Monday, demanding the
payment of financial grants that have been suspended for years. The protests also demanded the improvement of the
conditions of government university housing, which lacks the basic necessities of a decent life.
The protests spread to other cities, including Erbil, Dohuk, and Halabja, as the protesters' demands extended to the
dismissing of Sulaymaniyah’s governor, investigating the suppression of previous peaceful demonstrations, and making
reforms in the region, especially as thousands of citizens risk their lives seeking asylum in Europe due to poverty and
Kurdish asylum seekers constitute the largest proportion of asylum seekers and migrants stranded at the
Eyewitnesses told Euro-Med Monitor that the authorities used a violent security policy to suppress demonstrations in
Sulaymaniyah, as the security forces, in cooperation with individuals in civilian clothing, assaulted demonstrators with
fists and batons and by dragging them in the streets.
The forces also fired live bullets in the air, spread snipers on the roof of the Sulaymaniyah Governorate Headquarters
to intimidate the demonstrators, and fired dozens of tear gas canisters at the protesters causing dozens of
demonstrators to suffocate.
One of the serious incidents that Euro-Med Monitor documented was when the security forces locked up about 20 girls in
one of the university dormitories of the University of Sulaymaniyah and fired tear gas inside the hall, causing many of
them to suffocate before the students escaped the hall.
During the ongoing demonstrations, the security forces arrested about 20 people, and in some cases, used individuals in
civilian clothing to join the demonstrations and arrest the protesters.
On Tuesday evening, gunmen affiliated with the regional authorities in Erbil kidnapped three protesters: Ahmed Ali, Amer
Raad, and Hidi Jawri.
Murad Kordestani, director of the Future Policy Center and one of the participants in the demonstrations, told Euro-Med
Monitor: "We went out in demonstrations that started from the University of Sulaymaniyah towards the governorate
building. Then we headed to Al-Salem Street, and there, the security forces began to attack us with beatings and tear
gas canisters. Some protesters were arrested, while several others sustained bruises and suffered suffocation.”
Omar Al-Ajlouni, legal researcher at Euro-Med Monitor, said, “the security forces’ repression of demonstrators in
Kurdistan is a grave attack on freedom of opinion and expression, and the freedom of peaceful assembly, which are
guaranteed by the Iraqi constitution in Article 38, which stipulates that ‘The State shall guarantee in a way that does
not violate public order and morality: First, freedom of expression using all means. Second, freedom of press, printing,
advertisement, media, and publication. Third, freedom of assembly and peaceful demonstration, and this shall be
regulated by law."
"It would have been better for the authorities to address the causes of the protests, listen to the demands of the
demonstrators, and seek to achieve social justice instead of using repression and force," Al-Ajlouni added.The Kurdish authorities should:stop repressing protests and immediately and unconditionally release all those arrested in connection with the
demonstrations;hold all those responsible for the use of violence against demonstrators accountable to ensure that such illegal
practices are not repeated;respect the right of individuals to exercise their constitutional rights to express opinion and peaceful assembly;stop pursuing and arresting activists and journalists based on malicious charges;implement political and economic reforms to improve conditions in the region at various levels.