Despite increase in coronavirus cases, New Generation MP claims new curfew is response to call for protests

Head of New Generation caucus in the Kurdistan Parliament Kazim Faruq (file)

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SULAIMANI — The head of the New Generation caucus in the Kurdistan Parliament Kazim Faruq speculated on Monday (June 1) that the reimplementation of curfew measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus was in fact a response to a call by the Movement two days ago for protests against the government and the ruling parties.

“As a doctor and a member of parliament’s health committee, I doubt the data released by the government,” Faruq said in a post on his Facebook, citing international examples of countries where restrictions are easing despite new cases being recorded to argue that the Kurdistan Region should not go back into a curfew.

He also said that the government should do more to mitigate the economic impact of the curfew.

The Kurdistan Region in general and Sulaimani governorate in particular has seen a major spike in the number of new coronavirus cases since mid-May.

The announcement of 101 new cases on Sunday prompted the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Ministry of Interior to reimplement a curfew until June 6, including a daily lockdown between 6 p.m. and 12 a.m.

KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani defended the decision to reimplement the curfew in a tweet on Monday.

“This is for our safety due to a sharp rise in new cases of coronavirus. It is crucial that we abide by this curfew and follow public health guidelines at all times,” he said.

However, voices from opposition parties and on social media have increasingly questioned the government’s motivation for reimposing the lockdown, given growing anger and worry over deteriorating economic conditions in the Kurdistan Region.

The KRG’s finances are under severe pressure because of low oil prices and a decision by Baghdad in April to cut off budget transfers, raising the prospect that Erbil will be unable to make payroll and distribute salaries to hundreds of thousands of public sector workers.

A protest organized by teachers and civil servants in Duhok on May 13 was quickly broken up and approximately 100 protesters arrested. Many criticized the government and the locally-dominant Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) for employing heavy-handed tactics against public sector employees voicing legitimate grievances.

In the private sector, the previous curfew stretched more than a month across March and April and deprived many of the daily wages that they would have earned working in the bazaars, shops, and restaurants.

Opposition lawmakers have increasingly cited this precarious economic state as evidence for what they see as the incompetence and corruption of the government and the ruling parties.

“The authority should provide people’s livelihoods, create trust, and take scientific measures and practical steps. [It] should not publish lies, scare people, and neglect the livelihoods of people and employees,” Faruq said.

On May 30, the New Generation Movement President Shaswar Abdulwahid called for protests across the Kurdistan Region this coming week. It was not immediately clear whether the Movement would push ahead with its plans, given the dramatic increase in the number of coronavirus cases.

(NRT Digital Media)