Day Six of the Protest in Sulaimani, Kurdistan - By Shenah Abdullah

Tuesday 22-2-2011

Today was very cloudy and dark.  We woke up to another day in our brave city without knowing what might happen.  There were two big new stories today—one, that two members and the head of the anti corruption group at the Kurdish parliament had resigned as a form of protest against the shooting of young boys in the streets if Sulaimani. Dr. Rafiq Sabeer and Dr. Zana and another member all decided to leave their posts.  Also today we learned that Zimnako, the 16 year old young boy who was shot on day one and who is still in a comma, had been sent to Turkey by “First Lady” Hero Ibrahim for treatment. It seems like now each party wants to be the first to go the families of the dead/injured and get their support.

As I mentioned yesterday, most of us feel very upset and frustrated day after day and it shows on our faces and ways of talking to one another.  There is a lot of disagreements as people have been divided between two camps: the minority group who are backing the “Kurdish cause” and the PUK and KDP, and the majority group who want real changes to happen but this time from the very roots of Kurdish power. 

I have not been able to eat well for the past five days and cannot sleep well either.  Perhaps one of the reasons is the fact that I have been away from the streets and the protests for the past two days. I needed some active work to make me happy and get me involved again. The question was, would I be able to leave the house?   I didn’t mention anything until we finished eating lunch. Then after my father had gone out to do some chores, I dragged my sister with me and we sneaked out of the house. We did have my mother’s approval nevertheless.

  Breathing the fresh crisp winter air made me feel alive again. While waiting for the bus to take us to town, I noticed we were across from another KDP headquarter which was surrounded with militia men. They are afraid of course to be attacked by people, so they have taken all the necessary means to feel safe. While on the bus, I watched different corners of town which were full of people and functioning very normally. You would never feel that there actually had been any problems in the city.  Life went on in all its colors, sounds, and movements. We got out of the bus and passed busy and crowded parts of the bazaar. Walking on Mawlayi street, we kept seeing lots of young people coming towards our direction and walking with us towards Bardarki Sara (Maydani Azadi). The closer we got, the louder the sound of clapping and screaming.  We could also see the red, green, yellow and white colors of the Kurdish flag.

Today, the numbers were incredibly high. There were THOUSANDS of people, young, old and children. There were also more females presence than ever before. You could see two big speakers from which loud Kurdish music could be heard. As mentioned before, the protesters were holding big and small Kurdish flags and waving them around.  People were holding signs that read, “No to corruption”, “Flowers not bullets”, “No for killings of protesters”, “Unemployment!”

“Where are our leaders?”, “Why do you shot your own people?” and “We are Sulaimani”.

  Here I was one among thousands of peace loving protesters who were shouting for justice and changes to be made. We all felt alive and united together as a people out to ask for our legitimate rights. There were many people giving speeches among them, Rebin Hardi, Dyari Qaradaxi, teachers, students, workers, parliament members and poets and writes. These protesters had first gathers at the University of Sulaimani earlier in the day and had then headed down to Maydani Azadi. We stayed together singing, chanting, screaming and raising our hands as a symbol of respect for the dead victims, throwing flowers, sweets and confetti’s. We were all asked to each give 50 dinars in order to gather money for the KDP headquarters’ windows which had been broken by the protesters. This was a symbolic act to show the KDP members that windows can be replaced but what about the human lives that have been lost?

Today for the first time there was a new group called (the white group), men and women wearing white banners stationed between the protesters and the troops and functioning as a shield. They wore signs which read, ‘peace’ and ‘flowers not bullets!’

  I was asked to speak to a British journalist who was covering the story for a local British newspaper. She was surprised at the large number of people present—which according to the news sources reached nearly10, 000 people. Tomorrow, they numbers will only grow because people have realized that things are now more peaceful and excitement is in the air. Before I left the protesters a large number of them started screaming and throwing their bottles of waters at someone. Farhad Pirbal, a Kurdish intellectual and writer who had arrived from Hawler(the capital) where the KDP are in control and wanted to speak to the protesters. The protesters refused to let him speak and called him a traitor. Some of these young boys are still angry and will not allow anyone who is closely associated with the KDP get anywhere near them. Pirbal was later pushed all the way out in to the streets far away from the demonstration. Tonight, we heard Pirbal speak to Kurdistan tv(the KDPs main tv station) and accused  youth of  Suli “of violence and that the way things are going in Suli it might get very bloody”. Earlier in the day I was not sure about the protesters’ behavior, but now I applaud them.

It was a fantastic day of participant observation and I came home happier and more energized. Tomorrow, our meetings shall continue and our numbers shall increase. There will be more children and women joining the boys and men of Suli.

Coverage of the media channels have also been encouraging. There were meetings and gatherings at all the colleges and universities in and around Suli. People from different cities and towns in Kurdistan also showed their support for the people of Suli and against corruption. These protests were spread from: Penjuin, Halabja, Koya, Kelar, Kfre, Darbandixan and Saidsadiq.

Meanwhile our leaders are yet to come in the picture! They have yet to appear in front of the Kurdish public or show their faces in the media! Ironically while writing this, my father is watching the Kurdistan channel where they are showing live coverage or Rome, Italy where our Kurdish “President” Masud Barzani is in the process of receiving the Atlantic peace price!!  Yes, you read it correctly, THE ATLANTIC PEACE price for his role as a peace loving individual and a tolerant leader toward his people and Christians living in the Kurdish region. Peace loving leader who has allowed young kids of Sulaimani die in the streets for throwing rocks. If you read this and you happen to live in or around Italy you might want to inform the Italian in charge of this price about what had taken place on Thursday, 17-2!!!

Life is better here and we have proven that we want peace not violence. At the end of the peaceful demonstrations today all the youth worked together and cleaned Maydani Azadi to show that they are not trouble makers nor violent. One protester looked into the Camera and said, “We love our city and shall clean it every day at the end of the demonstrations to show the world that we are here to voice our anger in a peaceful way. We have not come to destroy but to plant new seeds”.

Day six of the protest has ended beautifully!


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