Teachers say they will resume protests if their demands not met by September 27

Will employ ‘every kind of civil mechanism to restore dignity’
FILE: Protesters gather in Sulaimani over delayed salary payments on April 22, 2020 (NRT Digital Media/File)

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SULAIMANI — Three activist groups released a joint statement on Monday (September 21) warning that they will resume protests later this month if the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) fails to ensure teachers and public servants are paid in full and on time.

In a statement, the Teachers Protesting Council, the Universities and Institutes Advocacy Board, and the Pressure Council argued the KRG and the ruling parties are intentionally persecuting teachers and public sector workers who object to pay cuts and have acted apathetically in response to the resultant economic harm to the Region’s people.

The KRG continues to face a budget shortfall because of a budget dispute with Baghdad and has decided to impose a twenty-one percent pay cut on most public sector employees.

The authorities “have ignored education and study problems completely and so the education process is on the verge of total collapse,” the statement said.

“No mechanism or method for resuming the education process will be successful and teachers will not abide by them, if their primary demands are not met,” the statement said, demanding full salary payments every 30 days

The groups set September 27 as the date for the new round of protests if the government does not adequately respond to their demands.

The statement also called for the “determination of withheld and unpaid salaries in a way that favors all public sector workers, the resumption of teacher and [public servant] promotions, and the identification of job opportunities for graduates of universities and institutes, especially non-contract teachers.”

They also criticized the KRG’s Ministry of Education for its plans to start the academic year with online lessons for most primary and secondary students.

“We reject online education and we think that kind of education has not been successful in the Kurdistan Region and will not be successful [this year],” the statement said.

“It will harm the education process and learners. At no time and in no way will online education replace in-person education,” it added, accusing the authorities of using virtual education as a tool to undermine their demands for full pay.

The groups also addressed the recent crackdown on activists and teachers who organized protests against salary delays and cuts earlier this year.

“We strongly condemn arresting and chasing teachers and activists in cities of Erbil, Duhok, Ranya, and Zakho…We call for the release of the arrestees,” they said.

In a prominent example, teacher Badal Barwari remains in prison after being arrested more than a month ago. It is his second arrest this year, after spending a month in jail for organizing a protest in Duhok in May.

“We will use the first day of the academic year on September 27 for the onset of the protests and, if our demands are ignored, every kind of civil mechanism to restore dignity to individuals, society, education and teachers’ and employees’ legitimate rights are open in front of us,” the statement added.

(NRT Digital Media)