Protest organizers arrested by security forces in Duhok, ahead of planned demonstration

Badal Barwari, Omed Baroshky remain in custody

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SULAIMANI — The security forces in Duhok arrested two organizers ahead of a planned a protest on Saturday (May 16) by teachers and public sector employees against delayed salary disbursements.

Badal Barwari's son confirmed to NRT that approximately twenty armed men wearing a combination of military uniforms and civilian clothes arrested his father at his home late on Friday night and that he remains in custody.

Barwari is an organizer of a demonstration by a group of public servants calling themselves “Where are the Withheld Salaries?” 

On Saturday, the security forces arrested journalist Omed Baroshky at his home after he posted on Facebook that the protest would go ahead.

“Today at 3 p.m., we will gather in Azadi Park to demand our rights which have been violated over the past 30 years,” he wrote.

Officials in Duhok said that they did not give official approval for the protest to take place.

The preemptive arrests of Barwari and Baroshky, even before the protest took place, suggests that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Region's political parties hope to short-circuit public displays of frustration with the government's inability to respond to a growing economic crisis.

With oil prices at historic lows and cash transfers from Baghdad frozen, the KRG is facing a major budget shortfall. In response, it has delayed salary payments to public servants and social program beneficiaries.

Last month doctors across Sulaimani and Halabja governorates went on a week-long strike after they went two months without pay during the coronavirus outbreak.

Former political prisoners and people with disabilities have also protested over delayed payments.

Many people in the Kurdistan Region rely on the government for their incomes. The government's inability to make payroll raises the specter of increased civil unrest.

(NRT Digital Media)

This story was updated at 3:05 p.m.