GenevaThe Kurdish authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan are responsible for attacks by political parties’ headquarters’ guards against peaceful demonstrations in several governorates since it is their responsibility to maintain security and order in the region, the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor said in a statement on Thursday.

   Some protesters set the headquarters of a number of parties in the region to fire, a violent action that does not justify in any way the killings, or suppressing peaceful demonstrations.   

From 7-9 December, seven protesters were killed, including two children (13 and 15 years old), and others were injured or arrested at the hands of the guards of the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdistan National Party, and the Gorran Movement. Demanding their unpaid salaries and the overthrow of the regional government, the demonstrators came under direct fire during their gathering near the headquarters of the three parties in different areas of the Sulaymaniyah governorate.

Euro-Med Monitor obtained the names of victims: Adham Yahya (Chamchamal area), Ako Salman (Kifri district), Sarbast Othman (Darbandikhan region), Harim Ali (Sayed Sadiq district), Hiwa Fouad (Taki area), Kawa Muhammad (Sayed Sadiq area), and Muhammad Omar (Arbat area).

In his testimony to Euro-Med Monitor, Muhammad Sami (Pseudonym), who is an eyewitness to the killing of young man Adham Yahya from the Chamchamal area in the Sulaymaniyah governorate, said: “During our gathering in front of the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in the Chamchamal area in the Sulaymaniyah governorate on Monday, December 7 at about 5:00 in the afternoon, we were surprised when the guards fired bullets heavily at us. As a result, Adham Yahya was shot in the head. We tried very hard to help him, but we could not leave the place and go to the hospital due to the intensity of the fire. He bled for several minutes and after that he passed away”.It has been recorded that some protesters set the headquarters of a number of parties in the region to fire, a violent action that does not justify in any way the killings, or suppressing peaceful demonstrations.Due to the continuing protests in Sulaymaniyah and Halabja, the authorities cordoned off the region and declared a 24-hour curfew on 8 December. 

The authorities have been carrying out attacks on the renewed demonstrations in Sulaymaniyah since the beginning of this month. On December 3, the security forces attacked the demonstrators using live and rubber bullets and tear gas and arrested 23 activists and 12 teachers, who were released shortly after. 

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Supreme Security Committee in the region, headed by the Prime Minister of Iraqi Kurdistan, Masrour Barzani, prohibited all unauthorized demonstrations and gave the security forces the green light to end the demonstrations and deal with them in accordance with law.

Allowing citizens to peacefully and freely express their opinions is a right the Iraqi law and relevant international conventions guarantee. Article 11 of the Freedom of Expression, Gathering and Peaceful Demonstration Law, stipulates that “the security authorities shall be responsible for providing protection to the demonstrators, if the gathering or demonstration was authorized in accordance with the law, and it is prohibited to use force to disperse the gathering or demonstrators unless this leads to destabilizing security or hurting people, and damaging property, or money”. Similarly, Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stipulates that “The right of peaceful assembly shall be recognized. No restrictions may be placed on the exercise of this right other than those imposed in conformity with the law…”

The authorities of the Iraqi Kurdistan region should:

  • Open an urgent investigation into the crimes of attacking protesters;
  • Hold all perpetrators accountable regardless of any considerations;
  • Take the necessary measures to ensure the protection of peaceful demonstrators;
  • Ensure the protesters’ right of demonstration and peaceful assembly, which is guaranteed by domestic and international laws.