New Generation leader Abdulwahid calls for protests against government; Says opposition should unite

New Generation President Shaswar Abdulwahid (File)

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SULAIMANI — New Generation Movement President Shaswar Abdulwahid on Saturday (May 30) called for protests across the Kurdistan Region this coming week against the government and the ruling parties, urging the opposition to work together to oust those who have ruled the Region for nearly three decades.

In a post on Facebook, Abdulwahid argued that the only thing stopping those dissatisfied with the authorities was the fragmentation of the opposition.

“The power wants to break all people and groups into pieces and to create bad doubts about good people who have good will…It makes protesters enemies of each other. It wants those dissatisfied people to face off against each other, instead of facing the authority,” he said.

“I call on people to be aware of that game and not to forget all the oppression, repression, and injustice perpetrated by the power,” he added.

The Kurdistan Region is currently facing a double financial and public health crisis, which has prompted simmering frustration with the government’s ability to improve the lives of its people.

On the one hand, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) revenue streams have largely dried up because of low oil prices and a budget dispute with the federal government. Unless it comes to a quick agreement with Baghdad, it will likely be unable to make payroll, leaving hundreds of thousands of public sector workers without a paycheck.

On the other, the local effects of the global coronavirus pandemic have left many families low on cash, with many in the private sector essentially missing out on at least a month of wages while businesses in the Region were shut down during a curfew.

While many restrictions have eased, the government has urged residents to follow public health guidelines prohibiting large gatherings of people amid a surge in the number of local coronavirus cases over the past two-and-a-half weeks.

Some opposition groups, however, have claimed that the continued restrictions are designed to prevent protests. Government officials insist that they are essential to prevent people from becoming sick.

Earlier this month, teachers and public sector workers angry at the delayed disbursement of their salaries organized a protest in Duhok.

Even before the protest began, two of its organizers were arrested by the security forces and another approximately 100 people were detained at the rally itself, prompting accusations that the government and the locally-dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) were suppressing free speech.

In the aftermath, KRG Coordinator for International Advocacy Dindar Zebari defended the government’s response, saying that the protesters had violated the public health guidelines and that the organizers had encouraged them to do so.

In his call for protests, Abdulwahid appeared undeterred by the prospect that the security forces would use the same tactics as in Duhok.

“Any individual or group who is dissatisfied with this authority should see the nation’s interest before anything else and raise the voice of dissatisfaction,” Abdulwahid said.

“Protesting is to ask for your own rights, not someone else’s…Protest is for your family and children to have a better life, not for a political party,” he continued.

“People, employees, pensioners, workers, workers in the bazaar, young and old people, and women and girls side by side with men should all be ready for this week: the week of raising our voices and not remaining silent in asking our rights.”

(NRT Digital Media)