Iraqi Kurds take to the streets for lack of funds

Kurdish protesters run away from tear gaz during a rally against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq. (Reuters)
Updated 19 December 2017

Iraqi Kurds take to the streets for lack of funds

BAGHDAD: Thousands of Iraqi Kurds took to the streets in the Kurdish region on Monday to protest the lack of funds and basic services. The demonstrators also demanded the resignation of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), eye witnesses and officials told Arab News.

Riots broke out when protesters set fire to a number of government buildings and party headquarters in Sulaimaniyah, including the offices of the two ruling parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). Police opened fire, using tear gas to disperse demonstrators. Scores were injured in multiple demonstrations in Irbil and Sulaimaniyah, local officials told Arab News.

TV footage, circulated by several Kurdish channels, showed demonstrators carrying small white banners with one word written in red "Go"; others carried red cards. Other footage showed dozens of jubilant protesters gathered in front of a KDP headquarters engulfed in flames.

Kurdish security services are on high alert as the demonstrations are expected to spread to other areas within the region, officials said.

"People are protesting delays in payment of their salaries which have not been paid for months; protesters are also angry about the absence of basic services in the region," Ghayath Al-Suraji, a senior PUK leader in Kurdistan, told Arab News.

"The (Kurdish) region has been facing a serious financial crisis due to the disagreement between Baghdad and Kurdistan," Al-Suraji said.

Regional sources told Arab News that government officials had only received 25 percent of their salaries for the past two years. In addition, basic daily services, specifically electricity and fuel supplies, have been reduced. These punitive measures were imposed by Baghdad in response to the controversial referendum on independence by the KRG in late September and have worsened the situation, officials said.

Baghdad has banned international flights to and from regional airports and has coordinated with Iran and Turkey to close border crossings into and out of Kurdistan. The revenues from the internal airports and the smuggling of oil seized by the KRG after 2014 were the backbone of the region's economy.

"The KRG has not paid even a penny to government employees in the region for three months," a senior Kurdish official told Arab News.

"The punitive measures (taken by Baghdad) have divided the oil exports of the region in half and the shutdown of the border crossings has deprived the region of the fuel which is vital for life in this mountainous area," the official said. "We were exporting crude oil to Turkey and Iran via the main pipeline network, but now we are exporting it through tankers which means decreased quantities and increased expenses."

Egypt court removes judge who got Mubarak’s sons detained

Updated 20 September 2018

Egypt court removes judge who got Mubarak’s sons detained

CAIRO: An Egyptian court has accepted a defense motion to remove a judge who ordered the detention of former President Hosni Mubarak’s two sons in connection with their ongoing trial on insider trading charges.
The legal basis for Thursday’s verdict wasn’t immediately known. It came less than a week after judge Ahmed Aboul-Fetouh ordered the two younger Mubaraks detained — wealthy businessman Alaa and Mubarak’s one-time heir apparent Gamal — before he adjourned their hearings until Oct. 20.
Also unknown is whether legal proceedings would now begin to secure their release.
Separately, the two and their father were detained in 2011 and later sentenced to three years each for embezzling funds meant for maintenance of presidential palaces.
The sons were released in 2015 for time served. Mubarak was freed last year.