Monday, February 28, 2011

Parliament hears demonstrators




Kurdistan Region Parliament speaker Kamal Kirkuk speaks to reporters after a Parliament meeting, February 23./ GLOBE PHOTO / Safin Hamed


The Kurdish Globe



Committee formed to address demands raised by the latest demonstrations


A 17-point decree comes from a marathon even-hour debate session held in Parliament.

Kurdistan Parliament demands calm and promises to conduct fundamental reformations as a result of week-long anti-government demonstrations in Suleimaniya and other Kurdistan Region towns.

Parliament delegated a committee involving members from every political bloc to directly listen to demands raised by demonstrators. On Friday, the delegation, headed by Dr. Sabah Barzinji, from the Islamic Group party, visited Suleimaniya and talked to demonstrators hoping to create between people and the government a communication that up to now has been missing.

Anti-government demonstrations have been taking place in Suleimaniya and other towns since February 17 when people were killed and injured as a result of clashes between a group of demonstrators and guards at Kurdistan Democratic Party headquarters in the city.

So far, seven people, six young protestors and one policeman are reported dead as well as over a hundred injuries on both sides. Several KDP offices in Kurdistan towns have been subjected to attacks with stones. The new Suleimaniya-based Naliya TV and radio station was burned, and an office including local the TV station of the opposition Gorran movement was closed after being burned in Erbil.

The events took place weeks after the Gorran movement (holding 25 of Kurdistan Parliament's 111 seats) asked in a seven-item statement on January 29 for government and Parliament in the region to be dissolved and replaced by a transitional technocrat government until holding prior elections with a deadline of three month. The statement was deemed "doubtful" by governing parties and firmly refused.

Parliament issued a 17-point decree meeting solutions for the ongoing demonstrations during a special seven-hour meeting of debates late Wednesday. As a first practical step and immediately on Thursday morning, Parliament formed a committee head by Sabah Barzinji and with members from all blocs in order to go to Suleimaniya and hear demonstrators, demands face to face.

"We came here to Suleimaniya to see that Parliament decrees are implemented and hear demonstrators" demands for political reforms,"

announced the head of the Parliament delegation after a day of visiting families of victims, the demonstrators in Sara Square and Nalia TV station. He said they showed support for the people's demand.

It has become a daily event as thousands of demonstrators gather at Sara--some now call it Azadi (freedom) square--to chant anti-government slogans. The demonstrating started by asking for basic services and eradicating corruption in the Kurdistan governing system, and gradually developed to a clear demand for authorities to "fall down."

A group of artists, journalists, engineers and teachers have made a "peace line" between police and demonstrators since last Sunday. "The people of this city are our brothers; we want to stop the violence," said Majed Mader. "Demonstrators are angry because people got killed." Standing next to him, Reben Ahmed said: "We are afraid, but we will stay."

Government ready for changes

After Parliament issued the decrees, Kurdistan Regional Government Prime Minister Barham Salih declared a statement to show his government commitment to conduct wide-scale reformations. "We welcome Parliament's seven-item decree-we will seriously contribute to achieving the contents of Parliament's decree," announced Salih on his wesite. He explained that his government recognized demonstration as the basic right of people, but at the same time, "We will take procedures against the outlaws-we will legally investigate the events."

The Prime Minister also explained that they have already started reformations in the government during the last year. "But people expect more. Therefore, we confirm that we have intensified our efforts at confronting corruption," said Salih, explaining that this will be achieved by activating the general prosecutor, supporting the audit department and working toward separating political party influences from government establishments.

He also called for the current situation to become a chance for reformation, while he warned that the entire Kurdistan Region experience might fall at risk if the situations are exploited the other way around.


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