Hundreds of angry protesters have faced off with security forces in Iraq’s northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region, demanding the resignation of politicians accused of graft and corruption.
Violent protests raged for a fourth day in several parts of Iraqi Kurdistan Thursday amid widespread anger over unpaid salaries and corruption.
Police reinforcements deployed Wednesday night including in the center of Iraqi Kurdistan’s second city Sulaymaniyah. Police were also deployed en mass in the town of Ranya, where Kurdish security forces fatally shot five protesters Tuesday.
Around 20 party offices and a town hall have been set ablaze across the troubled region since Monday.
This comes as angry protesters ramped up calls for the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to quit.
The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has expressed its deep concern about violence and clashes during the demonstrations, urging all sides to show restraint.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has also warned against attacking protesters in the country’s Kurdish region.
Frustration over unpaid salaries to teachers and other civil servants, in addition to the deterioration of basic services and widespread corruption have been described as the main reasons behind mass protests in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.
The Kurdistan region has been suffering from financial and economic hardships as a result of disagreement with the central government in Baghdad over distribution of crude oil revenues extracted from the northern oilfields.
Tensions have been running high between Baghdad and the KRG after the Kurds held a controversial referendum on the independence of Kurdistan on September 25.
The referendum on secession of the Kurdistan region was held despite strong opposition from Iraqi authorities, the international community, and Iraq’s neighboring countries, especially Turkey and Iran.
Following the vote, Baghdad imposed a ban on direct international flights to the Kurdish region and called for a halt to its independent crude oil sales.
On October 12, an Iraqi government spokesman said Baghdad had set a series of conditions that the KRG needed to meet before any talks on the resolution of the referendum crisis could start.