For two weeks now, citizens in the Sulaymaniyah governorate in Iraqi Kurdistan have been protesting the barren living conditions that they are facing. For months on end they have not (or only partly) been receiving their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).
With a majority of the Kurdish labour force being employed by the government, the current crisis affects a wide range of citizens. The political parties’ self-designed system of clientelism allows them to stay in power by ‘buying’ the loyalty of voters through providing – often superfluous or non-existent – government jobs. While an oil-based government revenue could allow such a ‘welfare state’ to exist in times without global economic recession and pandemic, it is the KRG’s own failures that lie at the core of the current social unrests – not the PKK nor federal political parties. Management of public budget is horrendous and services, especially in remote non-urban areas, are often not upheld to even the basic level.
Even though tribal affiliation and sectarianism also play a role in upholding the ruling parties, these protests show that Iraqi citizens – now in Sulaymaniyah but before in Baghdad and the country’s South – are seeing through the rubble: this is a class struggle between the Haves and the Have not’s. Today however, the ‘antagonist’ groups that are being violently suppressed in reality by the KRG’s security forces are fellow citizens who are fed up with corruption.
PAX supports all protesters who have the right to free assembly, free speech and to protest peacefully. We encourage the government authorities to seek dialogue with the region’s citizens and constructively work on improving their living situation.