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Scores of MPs and journalists arrested in Iraqi Kurdistan ahead of protests against corruption

SCORES of parliamentarians and journalists have been detained by security forces in Iraqi Kurdistan as protests took place in a number of the region’s major cities. 

The demonstrations, called by the New Generation Movement (NGM), had demanded the payment of salaries to public-sector workers, the holding of regional elections and a cut in the price of oil and gas. 

The opposition party’s offices in Slemani were surrounded by about 30 military vehicles ahead of the protest. 

Rebwar Abdulrahman, the spokesman for the New Generation bloc in the Iraqi parliament, and NGM MPs Badria Ibrahim, Arian Taugozi, Omed Mohammed, Mofaq Hussein and Vian Abdul Aziz were arrested. 

In addition, Mzhda Mahmood, an NGM parliamentarian in the Kurdistan Region’s parliament, was detained in Ranya during the protest. 

NGM president Shaswar Abdulwahid announced last Thursday that protests against corruption and the mounting crises in the Kurdistan Region would take place at the weekend.  

“Saturday will be the day to regain your rights and shake the power,” he said. 

But security forces swooped ahead of the demonstrations, with the NGM saying that more than 40 of its members and supporters had been hauled in, along with a number of reporters from the NRT television station. 

The Slemani security directorate disputed the NGM statement, claiming that “no MPs or journalists have been arrested.”

However, the Metro Centre for Journalists Right and Advocacy said that 11 journalists had been detained by security forces across the Kurdistan Region in the past 24 hours.

“As Metro Centre, we call for the immediate release of all the arrested and we announce that security forces have raided the houses and offices of a number of journalists to arrest them,” director Rahman Gharib said.

Previous protests have been met with a brutal clampdown and the alleged use of torture. At least eight people were shot dead during protests in December 2020 over the late payment of salaries.

Last December, the Morning Star reported from the ground during student protests during which allegations of torture were made. 

Sources said that the international community continues to support the “corrupt Barzani regime while our people are dying,” urging the British consulate to break its silence. 

“They cannot continue to ignore us,” the source said. “Turkey is bombing us and they say nothing. Kurds are being shot and they say nothing. Do our lives not matter to them?”

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