Mixed Feelings Emerge in Iraq over Sulaymaniyah Protests

Armed Iraqi factions aligned with Iran have announced their support for protests sweeping the Kurdish region of northern Iraq’s Sulaymaniyah province. This move contradicts their previous objection to demonstrations happening in Baghdad and other parts of the Levantine country.

Demonstrators have taken to the streets against the political leadership, high unemployment rate, and lack of public services.

The demonstrations, triggered over delayed payment of public sector salaries, turned violent when protesters approached the headquarters of political parties that run the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq.

Iraqi President Barham Salih, for his part, has called for an end to “corruption, looting, plundering, and smuggling” following a sixth day of protests in Sulaymaniyah.

“Violence is not a solution to confront the legitimate demands of citizens,” President Salih said in his statement on Tuesday.

“The will and the demands of the peaceful demonstrators must be respected. We demand that the security forces behave in accordance with the law and refrain from using violence,” he urged.

Iraqi lawmaker Aras Habib told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the protests in Sulaymaniyah undoubtedly prove that the concerns and challenges facing the Iraqi citizen are the same regardless of his ethnicity or sect.”

“Solutions to these problems and crises must be unified, objective, and in the context of a comprehensive vision that includes all Iraqis,” Habib noted.

“The time has come to seriously think that we are all in the same boat and that any danger threatens everyone,” he urged.

It is worth noting that the Sulaymaniyah protests have gained attention nationwide. Protest groups in other parts of Iraq are carefully watching developments in the Kurdish province. Political parties and armed factions are also keeping a close eye.

Iraq’s independent Human Rights Commission expressed regret about what is happening in Sulaymaniyah.

“Salaries are a constitutional right, and therefore any delay in their disbursement will negatively affect the lives of citizens and their humanitarian requirements,” commission member Fadel Al-Gharawi said in a statement.

Gharawi called on the federal government and the regional government to hold an emergency meeting to find a solution for delayed salaries.

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