Day 1& 2 of Demonstration: Change is in the air
Two days ago, CPT got a call from one of our partners who said there was a man at the city center who was fed up with the government and threatened to set himself on fire. Within an hour or so, he was taken off. Some say the Security Police got him and kept him from burning himself. Others say Mustafa talked him out of it.
Yesterday was the day of the big demonstration in Suleimaniya that ended in chaos, injury, and death. First, we heard that the demonstration was not permitted and that it was likely called by the Communist Party. The Communist and the Islamic Union Parties were both present. At the high point of the demonstration, there might have been about 3000 people present. Traffic was not blocked and there was no real presence of police. At some point towards the end of the demonstration, a group of people broke off and headed towards the KDP headquarters, which is maybe a fifteen-minute walk from the city center where the demonstration took place. Shots were fired, people were running, and ambulances arrived. Salim Street, the main street heading out of the city center, was blocked off.
Throughout the evening, we were hearing reports that up to nine people were killed and dozens wounded. At 7:00 p.m., the city was under curfew until 7:00 this morning. During the night, the Gorran headquarters in four cities throughout the KRG were said to be looted and set on fire.
The events…are still pretty muddy. A few facts have surfaced. The demonstration was called by a group called Civilian Defenders Network. This may not be the exact title but this is the closest translation from Kurdish to English that I could get. The demonstration was, in fact, permitted. The group got permission from the Suleimaniya Governor. Here's where the rest gets muddy. Some say a group looking for a fight made their way down to the KDP headquarters. The group might have been a few hundred people. Some say this group broke into the building and started destroying computers and furniture. Others say they started throwing rocks. Some say that the first people to go to the KDP building were actually paid to do this by the KDP. Supposedly, they led the larger group of 200 to 300, provoking the group to throw rocks and storm the building and then took off before the shooting started. Nobody has said who ordered the KDP headquarter guards to start shooting and there has been no insinuation that the protesters had weapons. This morning a Special Forces anti-terrorism unit from Erbil arrived in Suleimaniya. At present, they are at the Furmandy base, which is close to the Suleimaniya airport. They are supposedly here to guard the KDP building. The Gorran people are demanding that they return back to Erbil. The Gorran people are also demanding an emergency Parliament session and they are demanding that the guards who shot into the crowd are brought to the court for a full investigation.
In the end, it seems that one person died. He was fourteen years old. About forty have been wounded. Most of them are teenagers to mid twenties.