PUK Co-President Jangi urges immediate release of detained protesters in Sulaimani

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Co-President Lahur Sheikh Jangi (File)

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SULAIMANI — Co-President of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Lahur Sheikh Jangi on Thursday (December 3) expressed support for the rightful and fair demands of residents of Sulaimani city and urged the security forces to release detained  protesters as soon as possible.

On Thursday, residents and public sector workers protested in Sulaimani's main bazaar for a second consecutive day against deteriorating economic conditions, salary cuts and delays, and a lack of public services. The security forces used tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse the demonstrators.

“Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has promised to find a legal way to pay part of the money they received through the loan law to public sector workers in the Kurdistan Region,” Jangi said in a statement.

The Council of Representatives approved the Fiscal Deficit Financing bill on November 12, which authorized the government to borrow 12 trillion Iraqi dinars ($10 billion) in internal and external loans in order to finance salary payments to public servants and other expenditures for the last three months of 2020.

“If you decide to gather and demonstrate, do it calmly and within its framework, so that your activities do not harm other businesses and the slow state of the bazaar,” Jangi continued.

He urged the security forces, who are affiliated with his party, “not to cause harm to their reputation and to know that the protesters, pensioners, teachers, employees, and vendors are our sisters, brothers, and relatives” and “to immediately release all those arrested for participating in the protests for their rights.”

The security forces detained a number of protesters during the demonstrations and deployed tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon, which injured a number of other demonstrators.

Two NRT reporting teams, including reporters and camera operators, were temporarily detained while covering the protest and their reporting equipment was seized by members of the Asayish. The equipment has not been returned yet.

Since the beginning of the year, residents in the Kurdistan Region have been hard-hit by an economic recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing disputes between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government over budget issues.

In April, the federal government 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 is required to under the 2019 federal budget law. The cut-off placed a heavy burden on the cash-strapped KRG, which was then unable to pay its civil servants on time and full.

The two sides reached a temporary agreement in early August where Baghdad would send 320 billion Iraqi dinars per month in return for bringing customs procedures at the Region’s international border crossings under federal control.

On Wednesday, the KRG said that it would pay the delayed October salary to civil servants with a twenty-one percent cut and would need to borrow $205 million to do so.

The KRG last paid public sector salaries on October 15, which it cut by eighteen percent cut. Salaries paid in July and August were slashed by twenty-one percent.

(NRT Digital Media)