Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kurdish parliament condemns violence and orders reforms

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Erbil, Feb. 24 (AKnews) – In an extraordinary session to discuss the recent demonstrations and unrest in Sulaimaniyah city that turned into violent clashes leaving many casualties, the parliament of Kurdistan Region has condemned the use of violent force against the protesters as well as attacks on partisan or government offices.Xopeshandani Slemani

After long hours of discussion between the parliamentary factions on Wednesday evening which lasted until 1 am Thursday, the parliament of Kurdistan Region came up with a 17 points conclusion. It called for grassroots reforms and improved living conditions for the people, social justice, and a broadening of freedoms.

The Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister, the Peshmarga Minister and the Interior Minister will be summoned to attend parliament for interrogation over the incidents in Sulaimaniyah.

During the discussion, all MPs agreed that the use of force against demonstrators or party and government buildings were to be condemned.

In the Sulaimaniyah protests which lasted 5 days, at least 3 people were killed and more than 100 protesters were injured when the peaceful rally turned violent with demonstrators pelting the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) headquarters in the city with stones.

The KDP headquarters security personnel in turn fired at the demonstrators in "self-defense". There were also reports that some of the protesters were armed and forced their way to the headquarters.

Demonstrators were protesting against corruption, poor living conditions, unemployment and social injustice.

The agreed conclusion also states that all the detained protesters who participated in the demonstrations be released immediately except for those who committed "crimes" and who should be handed over to the court. And from now on, protesters can not be, by any means, arrested for taking part in demonstrations without a court order.

Some 70 people were arrested in the Sulaimaniyah protests. The Police said earlier that they had released them.

The government would also compensate financially and morally the demonstrators, parties, offices and forces hurt by the violent clashes in the demonstrations.

The conclusion also provides for the appointment of a member of the Appellate Court to head the investigation committee formed to look into the causes of the violent clashes and also to disclose the findings to the public. Also the security and police forces accused of not carrying out their duties professionally during the protests are to be subject to accountability.

Some of the local newspapers and media outlets close to the KDP had earlier accused Iran of standing behind the unrest in Sulaimaniyah, and a leader in the party did not rule out the investigation looking into Iran's role in the demonstrations.

A local weekly newspaper in Kurdistan, Rwber, which claims independence wrote in its Feb. 22 issue that Iran's Quds army was behind the unrest in Sulaimaniyah city "in revenge" for the January stoning of Iran's consulate in Erbil by demonstrators in protest against the execution of Kurdish activists in Iran.

On January 29, angry demonstrators in Erbil city pelted the Iranian consulate over the execution of Kurdish activists in Iran. According to figures, in 2011 alone, Iran has executed more than 20 Kurdish activists, and some 16 others are currently awaiting execution by hanging.

The Peyamner news outlet, close to the KDP, reported that the leader of the Gorran, Nawshirwan Mustafa, had meetings with Iranian officials near the, suggesting an Iranian hand behind the protesters' recent attack on the KDP headquarters.

Moreover, the parliament emphasized again the need for permission from the authorities before protesters can stage a demonstration. The current demonstrations law requires prior permission from the authorities for any demonstration.

The five day demonstrations in Sulaimaniyah were not permitted by the authorities, except for the first day where one teenager was killed and more than 57 were injured. In the following days, enraged demonstrators did not care about obtaining permits.

The law had already sparked a row in December last year when parliament passed it, and the opposition forces still call for reforms to it. They want to change the obtaining of permission for demonstrations to simply "informing" the authorities of planned demos instead.

The authorities said the law was to ensure national security and to give the authorities the time to assign police and security forces to provide security for the demonstrations.

The opposition says the law restricts the right of the freedom to demonstrate because it gives the authorities the power to deny permission to public protests.

Another point agreed on by parliament was not mobilizing troops from one city to another to contain the demonstrations except in the case of a national security threat from an external party.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)'s Ministry of Peshmarga had sent Zeravani forces, Kurdish defense forces, to the suburbs of Sulaimaniyah city from Erbil in a move to control the demos in case they developed into a threat on government offices.

The parliament also stressed on freedom of the press by condemning the attacks on a private TV station, Nalia Radio and TV, NRT, and the Gorran TV station, with urging for the immediate accountability of the assailants.

NRT started airing on Feb. 17 but after only 3 days was stormed by some 50 gunmen early at dawn who destroyed the equipment in the premises with bullets before setting everything on fire. The General Manager of the TV channel Twana Othman says they are receiving ongoing threats from anonymous sources of repeated attacks.

The NRT said on Feb. 22 that it planned to resume broadcasting but was threatened with repeated attacks, therefore suspended indefinitely their transmissions.

Raber Younis Aziz (AKnews)

Thursday, February 24th 2011 10:54 AM