Sulaimaniyah: Street protests continue for fourth day
Sulaimaniyah, Feb. 20 (AKnews) – Demonstrations in Sulaimaniyah city continued for the fourth day on Sunday after thousands of protesters took to the streets despite efforts to defuse tensions.
In the protests on Sunday over alleged corruption and injustice in the region, a rally estimated at thousands of people flooded the streets of Sulaimaniyah paralyzing normal life in the city. Security forces were widely seen in the streets trying to prevent the demonstration from developing into a violent one.
AKnews reporter Dilshad Saifaddin reported from the scene of the demonstrations that the rally was split into two groups, one group heading towards the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) headquarters in the city where a teenager was killed by guards on Thursday after the demonstrators pelted it with stones. While the other group held onto the Sara Square in the center of the city.
Security forces reportedly fired into the air to disperse those demonstrators trying to access the KDP headquarters. The protestors, following the Thursday clashes between the demonstrators and the KDP security personnel, have tried repeatedly to access the KDP headquarters.
Most of the shops and markets have been closed, and there were reports that a group of demonstrators attacked journalists covering the protests, and broke their equipment.
The headquarters of the newly established Kurdish TV channel Nalia were torched on Sunday morning just three days after its launch. The channel's management has blamed government forces for the pre-dawn attack. The TV channel reported during its 08:30 news bulletin on Sunday that it had been threatened over the phone to stop broadcasting.
The demo has also prompted the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate (KJS) to postpone indefinitely a conference set to take place on Feb. 22 through 24.
"Today, it was decided by the KJS board that the conference be postponed because the situation in this area is instable, and once the situation goes back to normal, the conference will be held," KJS secretary Hamid Mohammed told AKnews.
There were calls from several parties to help cool down the anger of the demonstrators to prevent further development of the situation.
Faruq Rafiq, a prominent intellectual who was leading the protest following the Thursday clashes, called on the protesters to end the demonstrations and go home. He also urged the crowd not to attack the KDP headquarters again.
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)'s deputy Kosrat Rasul Ali said there will be a meeting between the KDP, PUK, and other opposition groups as soon as possible to find ways to solve the problems through dialogue.
"I urge you to end this situation from a feeling of national responsibility" he said.
In a move to defuse the tensions, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)'s Minster of Peshmarga Sheikh Jaafar said in a press conference in Sulaimaniyah city that a reserve force that had been stationed near Sulaimaniyah city for emergency has started to pull back after protesters railed against the mobilization of the forces. The pullback of the force was part of 9-point communiqué handed on Saturday to the authorities by the protesters.
The force had been sent by the ministry from Erbil to Sulaimaniyah city in case the violent clashes in Sulaimaniyah on Thursday developed into a vandalous attack on government offices.
"The security forces have been actively attempting to control the situation in the city, therefore I have ordered the force to pull back as of today."
Also, Sulaimaniyah police said on Sunday that all the arrested protestors were released today.
On Saturday, 14 people were wounded in clashes between police forces and the demonstrators and some 15 others were arrested by the security forces.
Dilshad Saifaddin, Ardalan Mohammed, and Omar Sadiq contributed to this story, Written by Raber Y. Aziz Ka/AKnews