March 22, 2011
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Barzani promises reform and protesters remain sceptical - By Shwan Zulal

Newroz celebration was very different in Slemani this year,  the crowed had a different sense of national pride which has not been seen in years. During the reign of PUK and KDP over the past two decades,  many people lost enthusiasm for showing patriotism in fear of being associated with the corrupt regime.  Nevertheless  this year the sense of optimism and hope prevailed and many tens of thousands flocked to Maidani Azadi and the streets of Slemani as well as other town and villages in the area. National pride and the sense of unity was on the show throughout the country and the crowds sent a very clear message to the politicians that they do not want divisions and past bloodshed.

In Dhok there were celebrations too but the mood was subdued and later in the day there have been report of demonstration against KDP in the city. It was also reported by Kurdish press that four protesters were injured when the security forces opened fire on the protesters. Erbil remains silent and Maidnai Azadi protesters are still hoping for a protest in the capital which would make life much more uncomfortable for KDP. Although unconfirmed reports suggested that there were a small protest in front of parliament in Erbil  today and was quickly dispersed by the security forces.

Barzani acknowledged the protesters demands in a statement before Newroz celebrations and said, the demands of protesters in Slemani are genuine, moreover; he reiterated his support for a broad based government in order to take Kurdistan through to the next stage. In another statement today president Barzani has put out some details and promised a cabinet reshuffle and an immediate action by the government  to speed up reform, including government procurement, contracts, and market monopoly by larger companies.
Meanwhile opposition parties and the public remain incredulous to the intention of the president and whether the solution he is offering would cure the current problems in Kurdistan.  In another development today, Maidani Azadi committee(protesters committee in Slemani) has received a letter from Kurdistan Region Parliament trying to engage the committee and start discussions. The committee has not yet replied to the letter and they reiterated that their demands are not negotiable, reports Hawlati.

In the president's statement  there were clue as to what the US have been doing behind the scenes. Barzani spoke about parties being in talk with outside forces and said that this should not happen and dialogue with other nations should only take place through KRG mechanisms. There have been many speculations that Goran movement have been in talks with the Whitehouse and been asking them to put pressure on KRG after security forces opened fire on protesters last month. The president's remarks could mean that the speculations were true and the US and other western nations have been putting pressure on the Kurdish government to exercise restraint and not to be heavy handed with the opposition.  

After more than a month of protest, it is becoming clear to the protesters that the longer the protest goes on, more concessions could be coming from PUK and KDP. Maidani Azadi committee has therefore announced today that the protest will go on until all their demands are met. However the protesters have to perform a balancing act from now on as the protests cannot go on forever and there comes a point they have to sit down and negotiate with the government without being too inflexible.


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