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KURDISH Peshmerga forces threatened to turn against the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in northern Iraq today as anti-government protests continued across the autonomous region in an uprising against corruption.
The warning was issued by Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) affiliated Peshmerga in the town of Chamchamal in Slemani province, who said they would refuse orders to open fire on protesters in what could be a turning point in the widening protests.
At least two people have been shot dead in the town since protests started last week, sparked by a failure to pay the wages of public-sector workers including teachers and nurses, who have been on strike since October.
One protester who spoke to the Morning Star on condition of anonymity said: “This is not about oil. We have had enough of corruption. We want democracy. But we cannot have this as long as we have the Barzani family.
“Why are international governments supporting them? They are killing our children. The flag of Kurdistan is covered in our children’s blood.”
He was speaking after a press conference in which Prime Minister Masrour Barzani sought to blame Syrians and other foreigners for the protests.
The previous day the regional government claimed that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was behind the demonstrations.
But a member of the Communist Party of Kurdistan – Iraq (CPK-I) explained that the protests were “the legitimate voice of the people,” who were rising up against a political system that has seen the region run by two tribal families – the Barzani-dominated KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which is led by the Talabani family.
Parties including the CPK-I have requested permission to hold a demonstration in the regional capital Erbil, which is the seat of parliament and the Barzani family’s stronghold.
Protests are usually met with a violent response in KDP-controlled areas, with hundreds of journalists and government critics believed to be languishing behind bars.
Many, including prominent journalist Sherwan Sherwani, who was abducted from his family home in September, claim to have been tortured in prison, with some saying that they have been made to sign forced confessions.
On Tuesday morning security forces raided the home of teacher Badal Barwary, who has been held in prison since August after organising demonstrations in protest at the delayed payment of salaries for government employees.
His son Ary Barwary said today: “My dad has been imprisoned for three months and we don’t know his location. We are asking for protection from the international community and NGOs.”
Iraqi President Barham Sali joined the United Nations in urging the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) to protect civilians.
A delegation from the KRG, including deputy prime minister Qubad Talabani, will meet with officials in Baghdad tomorrow.
The KRG announced a ban on all unauthorised protests and gatherings as the Morning Star went to print.
Those who defy the ban will be arrested, a KRG statement said.
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