The headquarters of Kurdish parties of Sulaymaniyah were set on fire yesterday during an anti-government protest over a delay in the payment of salaries. Yesterday's events marked a fifth consecutive day of protests condemning deteriorating economic conditions in the northeastern Iraqi city.
Videos circulated on social media showed demonstrators in Sulaymaniyah blocking off roads and burning tyres.
Security forces were deployed to disperse the protests and are expected to remain in the area for some time. It's reported that security forces dispersed protestors by firing bullets and then moved to surround the headquarters of Kurdish political groups the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
Arab media reports also said that the demonstrators had set fire to the headquarters of the Movement for Change in the area.
The protests in Sulaymaniyah have sparked growing concerns of corruption, armed groups and foreign interference in Iraqi elections which are seen as undermining normal political processes.
In parallel with protestors in the Kurdish region there is said to be growing fear amongst Sunnis in Iraq over the rising power of armed groups with unrestricted access to weapons. Unregulated money entering the political process as well as foreign interference over the results of early elections scheduled for June 2021, are the other sources of concern.
Drawing attention to the easy access to weapons, the President of the Salvation and Development Front, Osama Al-Nujaifi, called for the need to protect the elections from what he called "escaped weapons".
He stressed the "necessity and importance of the upcoming elections and ensuring that they are successful and far from cases of fraud and protected from uncontrolled weapons and the influence of political money and international agendas."