POPULAR unrest has continued in Iraqi Kurdistan for a third day, with protesters calling on the government to resign.
Thousands took part in a demonstration in Sulaymaniyah’s Rania district yesterday morning after the killing of six people who were demanding the resignation of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
They took to the streets dressed mainly in black chanting: “Martyrs are immortal” as tensions escalated across the region, with large protests taking place in a number of cities.
They vented their anger at President Masoud Barzani’s KRG government over years of austerity and its failure to pay public-sector workers’ salaries for months.
Anti-government demonstrations sprang up across Iraqi Kurdistan on Monday and have been attacked by peshmerga forces, reportedly causing a number of deaths.
On Monday, protesters torched buildings belonging to the ruling Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and its coalition partner the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi promised to act if citizens were assaulted in Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.
Members of parliament including the opposition New Generation Movement leader Shaswar Abdulwahid have been arrested as part of the government crackdown.
Mr Abdulwahid was taken into custody at Sulaymaniyah airport on Tuesday evening after arriving back from a trip to London. He is accused of inciting protests.
In a separate operation, security forces raided the NRT television station’s offices in the city’s Gundi Almani district, holding staff captive for an hour before closing it down.
NRT broadcasts have been suspended on the grounds that they showed coverage of the popular uprising.
Following the unrest, the Democratic Popular Front released a statement calling on the KRG to resign.
It said: “We support the popular protests that erupted as a result of people’s legitimate demands. People resorted to mass protests after the government turned a deaf ear to their demands.
“We as the Democratic Popular Front support these fair demands of the people, who are taking to the streets for a free and peaceful life, and we struggle in order for these rights to be attained.
“A violent suppression of protest demonstrations is unacceptable. We call on the government to develop a solution to these demands. Violence is perpetrated by the government forces, not the people.”
Tensions have increased since September’s Kurdish independence referendum, the legality of which is disputed by Baghdad.
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