Day 9 of Demonstration: The peace fence formed human chains three lines deep
Filled with approximately 15,000 people, Freedom Square in Suleimaniya, Iraqi Kurdistan was a shining example of a nonviolent revolution. At 10:00 a.m., the square was already starting to fill. Before the noon prayer began, there were about 10,000 people listening to the opening speeches. More came when the noon prayer began which took place in the square. People came with plastic cloth, cardboard, and prayer rugs. The Mullah offered a special prayer to all the people who have been participating in these days of protest recognizing that these are the voices of the ordinary people and not the parties.
The rest of the day consisted of many speeches, quite a few of them from women. "There can not be a revolution without the women,” a young university student said.
A group from Qaludze marched in with their banner apologizing for getting there so late. Checkpoints made it very difficult for everyone traveling today. The [people from Qaludze] were greeted with welcoming cheers. A group of doctors and medical students marched in with flowers, banners, and placards. "No more killing," and "We want democracy" were two slogans that stood out. The speeches were interspersed with music. One particular song with the line, "I will never sell this city out to the gold sellers,” was played repeatedly.
While the Suleimaniya demonstration continued, three high level government officials met in Suleimaniya. They seemed to agree that change is necessary and there was some talk of new elections in the immediate future.
The peace fence (Geroupee Spi) had a large presence at today's demonstration. There were a few tense moments when a crowd of people began giving the soldiers—who were… blocking off key streets—a hard time. The peace fence intervened and someone from the stage began to chant, "These Peshmerga are our brothers." The peace fence also heard that a group of provocateurs from Erbil were planning to come to destroy the demonstration. One of the security officers spoke with one of the Erbil troublemakers saying, "The people here will kill you if you come." Apparently, this was enough to change their minds.
The demonstration ended at 5:30 p.m., but not without one more round of tensions. Six young drunk men put on a good show of trying to break through the peace fence line to attack the soldiers. They rallied a small group to break through the line with them. One was carrying a knife. The peace fence formed human chains three lines deep to keep them back. Bottles of water started flying followed by numerous shoes. There are probably many barefoot men walking around the city of Suleimaniya tonight. The soldiers kept their calm, never once raising their rifles and the peace fence contained the situation and eventually talked the young men out [of doing what they were planning]. The peace fence ended the day by cleaning up the square.
Not every city was so lucky to end without violence. Government buildings in Mosul, Tikrit, and Kirkuk were burned down. As of now, we have not heard confirmations on death or injuries.
Demonstrations will continue daily in Suleimaniya. The youth will not rest until change occurs. Although the streets of Suleimaniya are a little less tense and not as filled with soldiers and heavily armed vehicles [as they were earlier], there is still a sense of urgency in the air for change to come quickly. The peace fence will continue its presence at the ongoing demonstrations and will hold a safe space for people to raise their voices for this needed change.