The protests were an embarrassment for the sitting ruling class of KRG President Massoud Barzani.
The response has been violence aimed at the protesters.
There's also the issue of Barzani who agreed some time ago to a two year extension but then, this year, refused to honor that agreement and step aside so someone else could become president.
Some political forces opposed to Barzani have used the protests and have also fueled tensions and fed violence.
The political parties are at war and the Kurdistan Region is suffering as a result.
Some of the above gets noted in the western media.
Alaa Latif (Niqash) reports:
In the middle of August, Ahmed Mohammed, became one of the many Iraqis seeking a safer place to live in Europe. He arrived in Germany less than a month after he left Iraq. But Mohammed is a little different from the other refugees on the road. Because the 34-year-old Iraqi Kurdish man was actually a soldier in the semi-autonomous northern region he comes from, a member of the Iraqi Kurdish military known as the Peshmerga. He had served for eight years before he left.
“When we were fighting the extremists, we were doing so without food or sleep and we had to buy bullets with our own money,” he explains. “It was the craziest time I have ever had. We were defending the nation and we were getting nothing in return.”
On his Facebook timeline, it still says that Mohammed is a member of the Peshmerga – the Iraqi Kurdish military, whose name translates to “those who face death” in English, and who are a source of great pride for those of Kurdish ethnicity in Iraq. But his last post, written as he arrived in Nuremberg, says: “He was sold for a small amount of money. His nation did this to him, not his love”. Another post says that Mohammed wouldn't want his friends in Iraqi Kurdistan and in the military to follow him along the people smuggling routes to Germany but that he doesn't regret leaving his homeland. “I want to live like a human being,” the ex-Peshmerga wrote.
Mohammed is not the only member of the Peshmerga to express his concerns. Facebook has plenty of videos by other members of the Iraqi Kurdish military, where they show their empty pockets and talk about stopping the fight against the extremist group known as the Islamic State, who sparked a security crisis in Iraq last June. The Peshmerga are demonstrating how empty their pockets are because of the liquidity crisis currently facing Iraqi Kurdistan, which has its own borders, judiciary and parliament. Ordinary Iraqi Kurdish military men get around IQD700,000 (around US$600) per month, barely enough to feed and house a family in Iraqi Kurdistan.
And nobody knows how many of the Iraqi Kurdish military are leaving the country, along with what might best be described as a tidal wave of youthful Iraqis who are leaving the country because they've lost all hope that the government can solve any of the political, financial or military crises that beset their homeland.
The KRG was the peaceful part of Iraq, portrayed as such repeatedly by the press.
And now the Kurdish political parties are allowing that to disintegrate.
The Peshmerga has been the elite fighting force of the KRG and the strongest military force in Iraq and now financial issues are causing desertions.
Was it always going to be only a matter of time before the KRG fell apart and slid into the chaos consuming the rest of Iraq?
But equally true, if the White House had focused on addressing the root causes of the problems in Iraq, the KRG and the rest of Iraq might be better off now.
Former prime minister and forever thug Nouri al-Maliki persecuted and targeted the Sunnis.
This has not been addressed by Haider al-Abadi despite his being in office for over a year now.
Equally true, Nouri was at war with the Kurds.
Haider has continued this war and continued the practice of making public promises to the Kurds and then refusing to follow up on them.
As prime minister, Haider al-Abadi has been, at best, Nouri-lite. At worst? The same, the exact same.
One thing the western press has insisted is that the protests speak to a new day in Iraq.
Why, when Nouri was the prime minister, protesters were beaten, arrested, kidnapped, tortured . . .
Here's the thing on that -- unless you're NPR or the Washington Post, you're interest in violence against Iraqi protesters is sudden.
Because in real time, you didn't say a word.
Or worse -- yes, there is worse -- you defended or minimized the violence.
If you're wondering what outlet could stoop so low, the answer is: the New York Times.
But now that Nouri's gone, they all want to talk about the violence they were silent about in real time.
Here's the second thing, the violence-free Iraq of today with regards to protesters?
It's a press creation that really doesn't exist.
Human Rights Watch notes today:
Iraqi security forces have repeatedly beaten and violently dispersed protesters during anti-corruption demonstrations since August 2015 without any apparent justification. In some instances, unidentified men in civilian clothes abducted and beat demonstrators. Prosecutors have failed to respond to judicial complaints lodged by victims of these attacks.
“Men claiming to be intelligence officers are attacking and abducting peaceful demonstrators and prosecutors don’t investigate,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “Prime Minister Abadi’s endorsement of the protesters’ anti-corruption demands seems not to have reached the security forces.”
On September 18, three groups of men in civilian clothes grabbed, beat, and carried off three activists after they left a demonstration in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, all three activists told Human Rights Watch. The incidents, at about 7:30 p.m., took place between Saadoun and Abu Nuwwas Streets and in plain sight of uniformed Iraqi soldiers operating two nearby checkpoints.
The men first abducted Ali Hashim, a 37-year-old local activist. A second group beat and then dragged away Imad Taha, 50, who ran toward Hashim’s cries for help. And the third stopped and seized Dhirgham Muhsin, 28, as he went toward where he heard Taha being beaten. All three were forced into a Ford pick-up, blindfolded, and handcuffed from behind, then driven to a building a few minutes away, all three told Human Rights Watch.
Once there, they were searched and taken to separate rooms. Hashim said that a man who did not identify himself interrogated him while he was blindfolded and bound him, demanding to know whether he and his fellow protesters were members of the extremist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and about an alleged plot to infiltrate Baghdad’s International Zone.
The interrogator and two accomplices then repeatedly kicked Hashim and beat him on the back with plastic cables, he said, as they ordered him to tell them who was financing the demonstrations. The interrogator separately questioned Taha and Muhsin on the same topics while kicking and beating them.
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