SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq — Around 4,000 demonstrators crowded Tahrir Square in the centre of the Iraqi city of Sulaimaniyah on Tuesday, the latest protest against the dominance of two major parties in the region.
Iraqi officials have attempted to head off nationwide rallies in recent days by cutting the pay of ministers and lawmakers, hiking funds dedicated to food for the needy, and delaying the implementation of new import tariffs that would raise prices on goods.
Protests in Sulaimaniyah, the second-biggest city in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region, have left three young protesters dead and more than 100 wounded since Thursday as demonstrators have railed against corruption and the lording over the region by two main parties.
Demonstrators in the city on Tuesday carried banners reading, “Don’t Forget Hosni Mubarak,” referring to the downfall of the Egyptian president who was overthrown in large part by massive protests on Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
“We will continue our demonstrations until officials implement real change,” said Kardo Karim, 35.
In a bid to prevent any further violence from taking place, several of the demonstrators wore white shirts inscribed with the words, “Wall of Peace”, and stood between the bulk of the protesters and security forces.
Two protesters were killed on Thursday and another died on Sunday in Sulaimaniyah when security forces fired their weapons into the air in a bid to disperse rallies.
On both occasions, demonstrators had been marching towards the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Sulaimaniyah.
The KDP, led by regional president Massud Barzani, and the PUK, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, have lorded over Kurdistan for decades.
Along with the protests in Sulaimaniyah, demonstrations have also been staged in and around the cities of Baghdad, Kut, Nasiriyah, Diwaniyah, Ramadi and Basra, with the Kut rally leaving one person dead and dozens injured.
In response, the authorities have proposed slashing politicians’ pay by about half and dedicating more government money towards food for the needy, and officials have pledged to delay the implementation of an import tariffs law.