Iraqi Kurd demo fatalities rise to 10

AFP – A 28-year-old Kurdish protester died of gunshot wounds on Saturday, becoming the tenth person killed in more than two months of rallies in Iraq’s northern autonomous region, a doctor said.

“Hardi Farukh, who was wounded by a bullet to the head during demonstrations on April 18 in Sulaimaniyah, died this morning,” said Hawar Naqshabandi, the director of the emergency hospital in Iraqi Kurdistan’s second-biggest city of Sulaimaniyah.

Farukh, who was engaged to be married and worked in a publishing house, was the tenth person to die in protests that have raged in the region since mid-February, Naqshabandi added.

The oldest fatality in clashes with security forces was 60-year-old Mohammed Rasheed, who suffered bullet wounds to the chest on February 25 in the town of Qalar in Sulaimaniyah province, while the youngest was 12-year-old Garmeyan Ahmed, shot in the head on the same day in the province’s town of Chamchamal.

The demonstrations in Sulaimaniyah were initially against graft, nepotism and a two-party stranglehold over Kurdish politics, and came soon after uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt deposed rulers there.

But in recent weeks, protesters have called for a dissolution of the Kurdish regional government, which has spurred authorities to slap a complete ban on rallies.

The new rules have been widely flouted since they were issued this past week, however, including on Saturday when hundreds of students staged a sit-in at Sulaimaniyah university.

International rights watchdogs have sharply criticised the Kurdish government’s response to the protests.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has called on the authorities to “end their widening crackdown on peaceful protests,” while Reporters Without Borders in Paris said it was “deeply shocked by a spate of arbitrary arrests.”

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