Today was day Nineteen of the Protest here in Sulaimany, Iraqi Kurdistan. Last night, a group of masked men set fire to the tents of the Protesters who had stayed overnight at Maidany Azadi, but today, they brought in more tents, they are not giving up and they are angry.
Let us start by talking about last night, for the heart of today’s story comes from yesterday. Last night, many of the Protesters stayed at Maidany Azadi. The number of the Protesters who has stayed overnight were at hundreds. Different groups with different tents, each tent had a number and the name of the group on them. Most of them were Young Men, they had oven with them, making tea, playing poker, walking around, listening to Music, they had Guitars and Drums and other musical instrument, some would play and some would dance, play games, talk, joke, tell stories, know each other. It felt like a carnival. People bring food, drink, blankets to the Protesters. A few shops were open, around 10:00 PM, “Barcelona is playing”, some of the Protester went to a shop and started to watch the game. Barca won, back to Maidany Azadi. It was a cold night, gather around the oven or get into the tent and wrap yourself around a blanket. Some shivering as they kept walking around, the loudspeaker still loud, Speakers and Music playing.
Then it happened; around 2:25 AM, a group of Militias raided the place, all masked, carrying sticks, some Protesters were asleep, “Wake Up”, they are here, chasing protesters, kicking and punching, shouting, cursing, beating them with sticks, destroying their equipment, arresting, some Protesters start to throw rocks, fight, chasing those who were running away toward Orzy and Sabunkarn Street, into the alleys , knock on people’s door, “Open it, Open it”, more chase. Then they light the colorful tents on fire, some Protester with lightburn, the downtown of Sulaimany was on fire, black smoke, one after another, set it on fire. Some Protesters gathered themselves, wait until they leave, then back to the square. Report of many Protesters arrested and no info on them so far, many wounded (broken leg, hand, head, etc). The Temporary Group of Maidany Azadi Spokeperson (Nask Kader) accused the Government and the Asaesh (Security Service) and the “Mafia force of Government” of the attack, the government deny it, they claim they don’t know who did it.
This morning, they started to clean the square. Tired, with sleepy faces and exhausted, they cleaned the place, they could not erase the smell of burned nylon and gas, “Let them smell it, let them smell their Government”. Strangers would join in to clean up, they left some traces of the fire for people to see. Soon, people start to gather again, ‘What happened?”, ‘Who did it?”, “Were you there?”, “Tell me about it”. More anger today, as the crowds began to gather, they become more angry, firing speeches. There were those Speakers who kept on chanting “In Peace, In Peace” “بە ئاشتی، بە ئاشتی”، some in the crowds would boo and jeers. A Young Man, “We say Peace, We give them flowers and they stab us in the back. We got to fight back”, “This crooked Government is only gonna get straight by kicking it”, “What Government? They are like Vampires, they hid by day and suck our bloods at Night”. Large crowds today as any other days. Some are bringing in more tent (more than a dozen new tents), loud applaud and cheers. They had a huge tent set up in front of Sheikh Mahmood picture.
Also, last night in the town of Kalar, around the same time, between 2:00 AM to 2:30 AM, another group of Militias, all masked, organized, they raided the building of Deng Radio (an independent Radio), like they did Naila (NRT) TV a few weeks ago, they shot the place up, smashed the equipment and looted some. Who did it? The Government claim they have no idea, just a group of Militias and nothing more. Announcement on Kurdsat TV and Gali Kurdistan TV (belong to PUK) that the city of Sulaimany and its surrounding towns will be on public holiday tomorrow. Tomorrow is the 20th anniversary of the uprising in the city of Sulaimany, on that day, March 7, 1991, the people drove the forces of Saddam Hussein out of the city and its surrounding towns.
Back to Maidany Azadi, shops were open today, large crowd coming and going. There was a large Security Forces and Militias out on the streets close to Maidany Azadi, but they stayed away from the square. The loudspeakers, laptops and other equipments that were used days before were nowhere to be seen, it seems that the Militias had destroyed and looted them last night. They had a smaller loudspeaker today, they gathered some money, the crowds were generous, they are trying to get new equipments. Soon, the Speaker mentioned that they had gathered around 2 Million Dinar (Around $1700), they are still gathering more. Then, a Young Man went on the stage to speak, some of the Protesters close to him, telling him “Quite, don’t say it”, but he went on, “If anybody was a supporter and loved KDP Party one day, then he was among those who attacked us last night, as guilty as them”, some Protesters shouted, “Don’t say that, In Peace, In Peace”, while some shouted “He is right. He is right, let him Speak”, “What Peace?, when they shoot us”, murmuring and talking among the Protesters. Suddenly, somebody throw an egg at the Young Man who was speaking, it didn’t him, it hit a poor guy who was fixing the stage. Then, argument, some die-hard Youngsters Shouting “We should March, We Should March toward the City Council and protest there”, more argument, other shouting “No, In Peace, In Peace”, after a while, everything back to normal, no marching. Today’s mood was that of anger and sadness but full of determination. More street-vendors in the square and the surrounding area, they had more customers. More gathering of Signatures for the resignation of President Masud Barzani, they claim they have now more than 150,000 signatures so far. Call for peace and calm, hope that the Protest won’t turn violent again.
Report that many Student from outside the Sulaimany are not allowed to get into the city, telling them that there is no College and they should go back home. Protest in Bazain, Koya, Warmawa, and in Dokan there are news that the Security Service are stopping them from Protesting, They are still protesting and determined more than ever to stay at Maidany Azadi, tonight and more nights, as one of them said “We Stay here Every Night, Like: One Thousand and One Nights”
One more thing; the Painter (Derin) who had a small gallery in the square, he claim that he was beaten and all of his painting smashed to pieces (Below is one of his painting, the Picture is from yesterday)