Friday, July 17, 2009

Suleimaniya in turmoil

President Barzani promises control as electoral campaigns turn violent

By Ako Muhammed

The Kurdistani List of the two Kurdish governing parties accused Goran (Change) List of causing chaos in Suleimaniya, while the Goran List accused a regional minister of assault, as the parliamentary and presidential elections near in Kurdistan Region.

Electoral campaigns in Suleimaniya continue more noticeably than any other part of the Region, as supporters carry colorful banners and slogans in demonstrations and patrol in cars exhibiting their loyalty to competing lists. The unrest is a result of activities most noticeably by the Change List, led by Nawshirwan Mustafa, once a top leader of President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and also the Kurdistani List, which comprises the two governing parties--the PUK, and Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

“As long as I am alive, I will never allow Kurdish blood to be shed by Kurds again,” said Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani on Thursday, promising that the experience of civil war will not happen again in Kurdistan. Addressing the disorder in Suleimaniya, he stated, “We shouldn’t once again make our enemies happy and have them laugh at us.”

Competitions between the two competing lists led to some minor violations in the province. Officials fear that tensions between the two lists may rise further, and are calling for calm. Tensions began July 11 when supporters of Goran gathered in front of a Kurdistan List office in Suleimaniya’s Tui-Malik neighborhood. The crowd threw stones at the office and shouted insults, reported PUK sources; the crowd was beaten, reported Goran sources. The scenario was repeated a few nights later, and top officials were reportedly involved.

“Declarations saying that supporters of the Kurdistani List were part of the disorder of the last few nights at the Tui-Malik Street [in Suleimaniya] are only made-up accusations. We can prove that the Change List caused the disorder,” announced Sozan Shahab, spokeswoman for the Kurdistan List during a press conference on Tuesday in Suleimaniya.

“Gathering teenagers and pushing them to attack Kurdistani List offices by the Goran List is an issue not worth commenting about,” said Shahab, who distributed video CDs at the press conference. The video shows people carrying Goran List posters and driving fast; some of them are shown carrying a knife, pistol, and wooden stick. Injured people are also shown saying that they were hit by Goran supporters. “I hope the electoral campaigns are not thrown into chaos and civil conflict and that they don’t remind us of bitter past memories,” said Shahab, calling for a peaceful campaign to the end.

During the period between June 25 and July 13, nearly 37 people visited Suleimaniya Emergency Hospital as they were wounded in the electoral campaigns, reported Suleimaniya-based weely “Awene” in its Tuesday issue. The paper also reported that on June 11 at night, Gen. Sarkawt Hassan, former chief of Suleimaniya’s security agency, physically attacked a number of police personnel in charge of demonstrations in the city. Also, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister of Peshmarga affairs Jafar Sheikh Mustafa assaulted some other police a night later.

The accusations were declined by the two PUK officials. Gen. Hassan denied the accusations in a statement, and suggested that the people of Tui-Malik judge for themselves who is causing disorder.

“I visited Tui-Malik and saw Goran List supporters insult people….They even came to my car; one of them had a big spanner in hand and loudly said “We are from Goran List,” said Minister Sheikh Mustafa in explaining the story in a statement published on the PUK’s official website. He added that he was about to be hit with spanner and therefore, “I took the spanner from him and I have it now with me.”

The Minister added, “There was civil activity by policemen, but they were unable to control the situation as it was necessary. I ordered the police to do their duty and to scatter the crowd. But I did not a police officer. Maybe I became angry but didn’t beat anybody.” He noted that he was ready to testify if he was summoned by the court to do so.

Shiekh Mustafa’s statement came in reply to Shaho Saeed, spokesman of the Goran List, who accused the Minister and his guards of assaulting his list’s supporters during a peaceful demonstration.

The police officers rejected the Minister’s orders to beat demonstrators, said Saeed, and the Minister then ordered the arrest of one of the officers, who was released after a few hours.

The Goran List and a number of beaten people filed complaints with the KRG president, demanding “an investigation” of the Minister, said Saeed.

The Kurdish Globe

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