RUDAW – January 3, 2014 – SULÊMANÎ, Kurdistan region ‘Iraq’,— Demonstrations spilled into a second day in the Kurdish town of Said Sadiq on Friday, after one protester was killed and several dozen were injured in clashes with Kurdish security forces the previous day.
A Rudaw reporter on the scene said that the demonstrators are demanding the release of 27 people who were detained on Thursday, when protesters faced off against security forces, attacking government buildings, burning tires and exchanging volleys of stones with the police. Peshmerga units have been rushed in to control the situation and anti-riot police are reportedly using tear gas as they chase protesters into back alleys. Friday’s protests started after the dead protester, 24-year-old Bryar Hassan, was buried at the town’s main cemetery. Mourners took to the streets following the funeral.
A Rudaw correspondent on the scene said that several MPs from the Change Movement (Gorran), the Islamic League and the Islamic Union have joined the protesters. Residents of Said Sadiq, 38 kilometers east of Sulemani, took to the streets on Thursday, demanding public services and protesting a decision by the Iraqi government to give Halabja the status of a province. Security forces then reportedly fired into the air to disperse the crowds, resulting in the death of Hassan, who was among the protesters. Police reportedly arrested a number of protesters and were forced to call in reinforcements. According to the latest official figures from health officials, at least 60 people were wounded or hurt on Thursday, including 30 anti-riot forces and police. Most of the protesters were hurt during an exchange of stones with police forces. Protesters burnt tires and blocked the main road passing through the town on Thursday, halting traffic for several hours.
Arkan Hassan, the mayor of Said Sadiq who is accused of “indifference” and neglecting the town’s needs, said: “My aim is to serve the people of the town.”
Hassan said that he would resign if it is established that he is the cause of Said Sadiq’s lack of public services. “I am ready to resign and work anywhere the government wants,” he said.
Some protesters who spoke to Rudaw accused Hassan of not taking care of the town and diverting the town’s projects to Halabja. “He is not from here and everyday he comes to work from Halabja with his bodyguards,” said a young protester. “He does not know about our sufferings and problems.”
During Thursday’s protests, demonstrators held banners that read, “We don’t want to be a part of Halabja province,” and “Where is our university and pediatric hospital?” Omar Inayat, an MP from Halabja, told NRT TV that it would be in the interests of Said Sadiq if Halabja became a province. “The people of Said Sadiq can get many important positions in the new administration,” he said. The local administration in Sulaimani has reportedly formed an investigation committee to meet with the residents of Said Sadiq and learn about their demands. Said Sadiq was one of the towns which was raised to the ground in 1988 and remained a no-man’s land until the Kurdish uprising of 1991, when the people returned and started reconstruction.