Protests rock Iraqi Kurdistan for second day

Kurdish protesters attend a rally against the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) in Sulaimaniyah, Iraq, on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Updated 19 December 2017

Protests rock Iraqi Kurdistan for second day

SULAIMANIYAH: Protesters in Iraqi Kurdistan torched a mayor’s office and stormed a ruling party building on Tuesday as anger raged for a second day over the disastrous fallout from an independence vote.
The September referendum delivered a resounding “yes” for independence but drew sweeping reprisals from Baghdad, which dealt a heavy blow to the autonomous region’s already flagging economy.
In its second largest city Sulaimaniyah, security forces fired in the air to disperse demonstrators marching on the central Saray Square, an AFP correspondent reported.
Roadblocks sprang up across the city on major roads and around the offices of the main political parties.
Sulaimaniyah is a bastion of opposition to former regional President Massoud Barzani, who organized the independence vote, but all five of the region’s main political parties saw their offices attacked on Monday.
Protests were also held in the Sulaimaniyah province towns of Rania and Kifri, and in Halabja and Koysinjaq in neighboring Irbil province.
In Koysinjaq, demonstrators set fire to the mayor’s office, while in Kifri hundreds stormed the offices of Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party after pelting the building with stones, witnesses said.
“You’re incapable — incapable of defending the disputed areas and incapable of ruling the Kurdistan region,” one demonstrator shouted.
The disputed areas are a large swathe of historically Kurdish-majority territory outside the autonomous region that Kurdish leaders have long wanted to incorporate in it.
The Kurds took control of many of them during the fightback against Daesh from 2014.
But after the independence referendum, federal forces retook nearly all of them, including the large city of Kirkuk and its nearby oilfields, which accounted for a major part of the autonomous government’s revenues.
After his gamble on the referendum backfired spectacularly, Barzani announced he was stepping down in late October.
Legislative and presidential elections in the region due on Nov. 1 were postponed because of the turmoil.
Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, the ex-president’s nephew, has pledged to hold the polls over the next three months.
Issam Al-Fayli, professor of political science at Baghdad’s Mustansiriya University, said the explosion of anger was directed against the political status quo that has dominated Iraqi Kurdistan for years.
“These demonstrations are targeting all politicians because the people believe that they make them live without justice,” he told AFP.
“This is the first time that there are demonstrations against all Kurdish figures across the board and I believe that we are headed for a radical change as there is currently no politician capable of leading.”
Residents in the regional capital Irbil told AFP that salaries have been slashed since September and that the price of kerosene for heating has reached new highs.
There are only four hours of electricity each day and many people are unable to cover the costs of running generators, they said.
The federal government appears to be giving short shrift to the worsening economic crunch facing the Kurds, with Baghdad looking to cut the share of the national budget allocated to the region from 17 to 12.6 percent.
“What is happening in Kurdistan is due to the poor policies of the autonomous government and the political parties,” said government spokesman Saad Al-Hadithi.
Hadithi insisted the root cause of the economic problems was the Kurdish authorities exporting oil without Baghdad’s consent and “with no transparency or oversight.”
But analyst Fayli warned that the federal government needs to step in to help fix the crisis or risk watching the discontent spiral out of control.
“If the autonomous government collapses, then that will create a political void that will hit stability in the country,” he said.

With Hodeidah airport liberated, Saudi Arabia-led coalition accuses Houthis of targeting civilians

Updated 7 min 15 sec ago

With Hodeidah airport liberated, Saudi Arabia-led coalition accuses Houthis of targeting civilians

  • UAE commander confirms Hodeidah airport in Yemen is liberated
  • Houthis have been accused of breaking international law by targeting civilians

DUBAI: A Saudi-led Arab Coalition commander has confirmed the liberation of Yemen’s Hodeida airport in a video posted by UAE state news agency WAM.

“The airport was completely cleared, Thank God, and is under control,” the coalition commander for the Red Sea coast, Abdul Salaam Al-Shehi said speaking in Arabic in the video posted on Twitter.



Government forces broke through the airport perimeter fence on Tuesday sparking heavy fighting in which at least 33 militia and 19 soldiers were killed – according to AFP.

The offensive was launched last Wednesday to clear Hodeida of Houthi fighters who have held it since 2014, raising UN concerns for vital aid shipments and food imports through the city’s docks.

The airport is disused but housed a major militia base just inland from the coast road into the city from the south.

It lies eight kilometers from the city’s port, through which three-quarters of Yemen’s imports pass, providing a lifeline for some 22 million people dependent on aid.

UN envoy Martin Griffiths held four days of talks in the rebel-held capital Sanaa in a bid to avert an all-out battle for the city but flew out on Tuesday without announcing any breakthrough.

Meanwhile Coalition forces have accused the Iran-back Houthis of directly targeting civilians in the Tehama region, north-west of Hodeidah, in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, WAM reported.

Now the Coalition has called on the international community to put pressure on the Houthis to stop their violent and illegal acts against the Yemeni people.

These latest reports came as further evidence was presented by both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, that Iran is supplying the Houthi militia in Yemen with various forms of artillery, including drones, rockets, small arms and ammunition.

(With AFP)