Former political prisoners protest in Sulaimani over pension payment delays, cuts

Outside Amna Suraka
Former political prisoners in Sulaimani protest in front of Amna Suraka on September 26, 2020 (NRT Digital Media/Screenshot)

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SULAIMANI — Former political prisoners incarcerated by the former Ba’athist regime protested in Sulaimani on Saturday (September 26) against pension payment delays and cuts by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

Like many victims of the repression of Saddam Hussein’s government, residents of the Kurdistan Region who were imprisoned for political crimes before the regime was deposed in 2003 receive a monthly stipend from KRG.

The gathering in front of Amna Suraka, which is the site of a notorious torture facility in the heart of Sulaimani city, the former prisoners said that they had appealed to the federal government in an effort to resolve the situation.

“After we became disappointed in the [KRG] with our parties, which have made no effort to improve the living condition of political prisoners, we visited Baghdad and conveyed our demands to officials there,” one of the protesters told NRT reporter Karzan Tariq, saying that they met with the Council of Representatives’ Legislative committee and other former political prisoners living in central and southern Iraq.

“This authority is as much in the service of those who oppose us, as it is in our lives and livelihoods,” he added.

In April, Baghdad cut off all budget transfers to Erbil after the latter failed to send any oil to the federal government, as it was required to under the 2019 federal budget law. Amid low oil prices, the move put huge financial pressure on the KRG, which has also been hammered by the negative economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

In response, Erbil has repeatedly delayed and cut payments to public sector workers and social program beneficiaries.

(NRT Digital Media)