UN Decries Violence in Iraqi Kurdistan, Urges Calm

UN Decries Violence in Iraqi Kurdistan, Urges CalmUN Decries Violence in Iraqi Kurdistan, Urges Calm

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said on Wednesday it was “deeply concerned” about violence and clashes during protests in the northern semi-autonomous Kurdish region this week and called for restraint on all sides.

At least three people were killed and more than 80 wounded on Tuesday when Kurdish demonstrators joined a second day of protests against years of austerity and unpaid public sector salaries amid tensions between their region and Baghdad, Reuters reported.

They were killed in clashes with Kurdish security forces, local officials said, and some were injured when the crowd was shot at with rubber bullets and sprayed with tear gas.

Protesters also attacked several offices of the main political parties in Sulaimaniya Province on Monday and Tuesday.

“The people have the right to partake in peaceful demonstrations, and the authorities have the responsibility of protecting their citizens, including peaceful protesters,” UNAMI said in a statement.

“Security forces also are urged to exercise maximum restraint in dealing with the demonstrators. UNAMI also calls on the demonstrators to avoid any act of violence, including the destruction of public and private properties,” it added.

UNAMI also called on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to respect media freedoms after Kurdish Asayish security forces on Tuesday raided the offices of Kurdish private broadcast NRT in Sulaimaniya, and took the channel off the air.

Earlier the Iraqi News reported that the Kurdish authorities had cut off Internet services in Sulaimaniya.

Internet service providers Korek Telecom and Fastlink have received orders from the Kurdish security to shut down the Internet in Sulaimaniya in the wee hours of Wednesday, it said.

***Opposition Groups Quit KRG

Meanwhile, the leading Kurdish opposition movement Gorran has withdrawn its ministers from the KRG and its member Yousif Mohamed has resigned as parliament speaker, party sources told Reuters on Wednesday, Reuters reported.

The Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal), another opposition party with a smaller presence in parliament, also withdrew from the government.

Tension has been high in the region since the central government in Baghdad imposed tough measures when the KRG unilaterally held an independence referendum on Sept. 25 and Kurds voted overwhelmingly to secede.

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