Call for protests in Kurdistan Region against poor public services by New Generation Movement head Abdulwahid

On Saturday
New Generation Movement President Shaswar Abdulwahid calls for protests in a video released on February 18, 2020. (NRT Digital Media)

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SULAIMANI — In a video statement on Tuesday (February 18), New Generation Movement President Shaswar Abdulwahid called on the people to stage demonstrations across the Kurdistan Region’s provinces on Saturday against unemployment and the poor state of public services.

He specifically called out the government’s failure to repay public sector workers the parts of their salaries that were withheld during the financial crisis that began in 2014.

“These demonstrations are not for my personal interest or affiliated with a specific political party, but are the result of the poor conditions in which the citizens of the Kurdistan Region live.”

He stressed that “his participation in these demonstrations is meant to deliver a message to the authority that the Kurdistan Region that people are resentful about the poor quality of services and a rejection of the injustice imposed on the citizens.”

“Take to the streets, even for one hour, to deliver your voice to the ruling authority,” he added.

The call comes in the context of massive and sustained demonstrations in Baghdad and across the southern provinces, which began with similar calls for the federal government to address unemployment and poor services.

More than 500 people have died and 17,000 wounded during the protests, which succeeded in forcing the resignation of Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi. Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi has been tapped as his replacement and is expected to announce a new proposed cabinet in the coming days.

There are regular protests about those issues in the Kurdistan Region, driven mainly by unemployed university graduates and unconnected with any political party, but have not caught fire in the same way as the protests in the south.

Abdulwahid’s call comes shortly after the ninth anniversary of the 17 Shubat anti-corruption protests in Sulaimani.

The New Generation Movement is currently undergoing some internal upheaval, having expelled half of its caucus in the Kurdistan Parliament in a disagreement over the recently-passed pension and salary reform bill, leaving it with four MPs. It also retains one lawmaker in the Council of Representatives in Baghdad after three others left in an internal party dispute last spring.

(NRT Digital Media)