Responding to eyewitness accounts of journalists and demonstrators being subjected to physical and verbal attacks by security forces in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq where there have been widespread anti-austerity protests since Sunday, Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International, said:
“Eyewitnesses we’ve interviewed, including a teacher and a journalist, have described scenes of chaos in Erbil and Dohuk as Kurdish security forces and armed individuals in civilian clothes used violence to disperse peaceful protests.
“Peaceful demonstrators have been beaten up and insulted. Journalists using cameras or mobile phones to document the protests have been attacked. This is totally unacceptable and a blatant attempt to clamp down on dissent.
“The Kurdish authorities must immediately put an end to the beating, harassment and intimidation of demonstrators and journalists. They have a duty to ensure that everyone can exercise their right to peaceful protest without interference.”
On Sunday 25 March protests broke out across the Kurdistan region of Iraq against austerity measures and delays in payment of and cuts to the salaries of state employees. Since then, teachers, health workers, and other public sector workers, as well as activists have taken to the streets every day to demand action from the government.
Local media has reported local authorities in Erbil attributing the violence to individuals affiliated to political parties.