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Opposition groups quit Iraq Kurdish government

December 20, 2017 at 3:42 pm

Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdish Regional Government (IKRG) Nechirvan Barzani speaks during a press conference in Germany on 18 December 2017 [David Stanley/Flickr]

Leading Kurdish opposition movement Gorran has withdrawn its ministers from Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and its member Yousif Mohamed has resigned as parliament speaker, party sources told Reuters today.

The Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal), another opposition party with a smaller presence in parliament, also withdrew from the government.

The departures follow two days of violent unrest in the region, as Kurdish demonstrators joined protests against years of austerity and unpaid public sector salaries, amid tensions between their region and Baghdad.

Some protesters have demanded the regional government’s ousting.

Tension has been high in the region since the central government in Baghdad imposed tough measures when the KRG unilaterally held an independence referendum on 25 September and Kurds voted overwhelmingly to secede.

The move, in defiance of Baghdad, also alarmed neighbouring Turkey and Iran who have their own Kurdish minorities.

Iraq: Hundreds protest demanding reform in Kurdish region

At least five people were killed and more than 90 wounded yesterday. They were killed in clashes with Kurdish security forces, local officials said, and some were injured when the crowd was shot at with rubber bullets and sprayed with tear gas.

Protesters also attacked several offices of the main political parties in Sulaymaniyah province on Monday and Tuesday.

After yesterday’s unrest, curfews were imposed in several towns across the province, some have lasted through today.

Local media reported smaller protests in towns across the province, including Ranya and Kifri.

In a statement yesterday, Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, who is on an official visit to Germany, told protesters that although he understood their frustrations, the burning of political party offices is “not helpful”.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said today it was “deeply concerned” about violence and clashes during the protests, and called for restraint on all sides.

“The people have the right to partake in peaceful demonstrations, and the authorities have the responsibility of protecting their citizens, including peaceful protesters,” UNAMI said in a statement.