Day 4 of Post Demonstrations

by Michele Naar-Obed

Today marks the fourth day since Azadi Square in Suleimaniya Iraq was violently overthrown by military forces following 62 days of primarily nonviolent protests against KRG government corruption by the ruling parties PUK and KDP. On April 18, the stage from which daily speeches at the demonstration were made was burnt to the ground.

Since Tuesday, April 19, 2011 the city of Suleimaniya has been occupied by well over 10,000 armed soldiers. Azadi Square and the surrounding streets and alleys are filled with soldiers and rings of soldiers are spread out throughout much of the city. The bazaar close to Azadi Square is open to citizens but people must keep walking and if anyone appears to group together and approach the square, they are immediately subject to beating by clubs and arrest.

During the day of April 21, thousands more soldiers were called in and a ring of military bases and some tanks formed around the outskirts of Suleimaniya city. Jalal Talabani, president of Iraq and head of the PUK appealed to Nouri Al-Maliki, Iraq's prime minister for 3000 more Iraqi troops to be sent to the Suleimaniya province according to a recent report in the Washington Post.

There have been hundreds of arrests in Suleimaniya city these past four days and most people have been released quickly but only after having been beaten and threatened by the security police. Many women have been arrested in this sweep.

According to a reliable source, the teachers of Suleimaniya city submitted a demand for the forces to leave the city within 48 hours or they would strike beginning midnight Saturday, April 23.

The religious leaders are calling for all political parties and lists to resolve this situation immediately.

The United States continues to hold to its policy to support nonviolent demonstrations and denounces the use of violence against unarmed demonstrators by the KRG forces. However this statement makes a mockery of these basic human rights considering the current situation in the region. The human rights officer at the US Consulate located in Hawler has been kept apprised of the situation on a daily basis by either phone or email since April 17.

There is little to no word about the situation in the capital city Hawler since their demonstration took place on April 18. The cities of Halubja, Rania, Qaludze, Kelar and ChamChamal are also under military occupation.

The recent Human Rights Watch report on demonstrations throughout Iraq: