Iraq News - Local News - Baghdadpost

Protests flare in Iraq’s Kurdish north, adding new front in national crisis

Kurdish authorities in Iraq are struggling to quash wildcat protests as frustration at delayed public-sector payments and decades of mismanagement have boiled over into street violence.

The protests highlight the magnitude of the economic and political dysfunction shaping the lives of ordinary Iraqis, now spilling into the relative calm of the Kurdish-controlled areas in the north.

As demonstrators decry the growing wealth gap between people and politicians, Kurdish leaders have cast the protests as a conspiracy, blocking the Internet and arresting journalists who are covering the events.

In the city of Sulaymaniyah, security forces fired tear gas on hundreds of protesters demanding the release of government salaries and pensions. The funds, controlled by authorities in Baghdad, have been delayed as a result of economic crisis and political disputes with the ­semiautonomous Kurdish leadership.

In the surrounding towns and villages, soldiers played cat-and-mouse with demonstrators, many of them in their teens.

“Salaries mean money, of course, but they also mean power,” said Hossein Othman, a former public servant in Saidsadiq, about 20 miles southeast of Sulaymaniyah. “When they don’t pay us, when they withhold our rights, it depletes our sense of self. It just hits you so hard. It’s about dignity.”

Iraq’s Kurdish region is ruled by two main parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, and both have been blamed for years of systematic corruption, neglect and political favoritism. This past week, protesters have burned buildings belonging to both.