The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) on Tuesday condemned violence against protesters as the death toll rose in demonstrations across Sulaimani, Halabja, and the Garmiyan administration.
UNAMI “condemns the acts of violence which accompanied public protests in Sulaymaniyah Governorate over recent days, resulting in a number of deaths and injuries and the destruction of property,” read an official statement.
“The right to peaceful protest must be protected and it is imperative that demonstrations remain peaceful,” it added.
At least eight protesters and one Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Peshmerga fighter have been reported killed since demonstrations began last Wednesday.
Protests began in Sulaimani city, started by civil servants – who convened at Saraa square, the epicenter of the city’s antigovernment protests in 2011 – who have gone unpaid for much of this year amid budget disputes between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil and the federal government in Baghdad.
Police forces have suppressed crowds using tear gas, water cannons, and live ammunition. Demonstrations have ended in Sulaimani city but spread to other towns and villages in the province, as well as in Halabja province and the Garmiyan administration.
Protesters set on fire Sharazur’s Education Directorate, the traffic police station as well as the mayor’s house, Ramazan Namiq, a member of Sulaimani’s provincial council told Rudaw on Tuesday.
“Media outlets should be allowed to freely report the news without intimidation or pressure,” UNAMI further stated.
Security forces in the city of Sulaimani closed opposition NRT TV channel in the early hours of Monday morning amid ongoing violent protests across the province.
Iraqi President Barham Salih has also called upon security forces to avoid the use of violence against protesters.
“Violence is not a solution in facing people’s legitimate requests,” he wrote in a Tuesday statement.