Dozens of former political prisoners protest against salary cut in reform bill

Dozens of protests protest in Koya against cut of their salaries in a reform bill by the Kurdistan Regional Government Council of Ministers, December 14, 2019. NRT/Khalid Mohammed

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SULAIMANI — Dozens of former political prisoners protested in Koya city against cuts to their salaries as part of a reform bill approved by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Council of Ministers.

The KRG provides pensions to many people who were victims of the former Ba'ath regime, including those who were incarcerated for political activities.

NRT Digital Media reporter Khalid Mohammed talked with a group of former political prisoners who gathered outside the office of a Kurdish lawmaker in Koya on Saturday (December 14).

Although they expressed general support for the reform process, the protesters said that, instead of making overall cuts to their benefits, the KRG should cut the salaries of those who have been fraudulently registered as political prisoners.

“There were people who have hunted foxes, but have now registered as political prisoners,” one protester said.

The protesters added that they would bring their protests to the KRG Council of Ministers if the government did not meet their demands.

“We will never accept it. We will take tents to put up in front of the Council of Ministers like Tahrir Square. We will make it our home with all the political prisoners,” another protester said.

The KRG Council of Ministers unanimously approved the bill on reform of pensions, salaries, allowances, grants and privileges on Thursday and sent it to the Kurdistan Parliament, which will finish the first reading of the bill on Monday.

For many years, transparency organizations, lawmakers, and international organizations have accused senior KRG officials of corruption, especially with regard to expropriation of the Region's oil income. The government has long promised action to combat graft, but has never made much headway.

There have been few, if any, high-level corruption prosecutions resulting in substantive penalties recently that would back up KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani's assertions of progress against systemic abuse.

(NRT Digital Media)