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2011 Kurdish protests in Iraq

2011 Kurdish protests in Iraq
Part of the 2011 Iraqi protests
Map of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Date 21 February – 30 April 2011
Location  Iraqi Kurdistan
  • Greater Autonomy
  • Political Reforms
Result Status quo

The 2011 Kurdish protests in Iraq were a series of demonstrations and riots against the Kurdistan Regional Government in northern Iraq. The autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan experienced protests distinct from protests elsewhere in Iraq, which took place concurrent with the Kurdish protests. These Kurdish protests were also related to the Kurdish protests in Turkey and protests in Iran, as well as a general uprising in Syria joined and supported by Syrian Kurds.


  • Background 1
  • Protests 2
    • Sulaymaniyah 2.1
    • Crackdown 2.2
    • Parliament 2.3
  • Reaction 3
  • Regional connections 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6


Inspired by the Arab Spring, the Movement for Change, a major opposition party, called for the resignation of the Cabinet and the disbanding of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The movement was criticized by ruling and opposition parties for causing unnecessary unrest.[2] Qubad Talabani was quoted saying there was no need for the disbanding because "unlike Tunisia & Egypt, there is an open political process with a viable opposition in Kurdistan.".[3] Despite the criticism the Movement for Change pushed for demonstrations.



Protests erupted in the autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan, mainly in the city of Sulaimaniya where a crowd of 3000 protesters gathered against corruption and social injustice. The demonstrations turned violent when a group of protesters tried to storm the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and threw rocks at the building. The security guards responded by shooting into the crowd several times to disperse them during which two people died and 47 were wounded.[4][5] The Movement for Change took responsibility for the demonstrations but said it had nothing to do with the storming of the building and condemned the attack on the headquarters.[6]

In the following weeks the demonstration expanded and reached a height of 7000 protesters. A sit-in demonstration was held and demonstrators occupied the Freedom Square (Saray Azadi in Kurdish) in Sulaymaniyah. About 400 protesters gathered in Sulaimaniya's central square, but at least 50 were hurt when some demonstrators allegedly began to attack police with sticks and stones, leading to a riot.[7][8] Religious leaders and other opposition parties joined the protesters[9] Security forces clashed with protesters several times and both sides took casualties resulting in the dead of ten people[10]


On 19 April security forces stormed the main square of Sulaimaniya to impose order and prevent further demonstrations. Security forces were successful in quelling demonstrations.[11] Security forced were deployed all around the province making for an uneasy peace between authorities and civilians.[12]


The opposition called for a motion of no confidence against the cabinet of prime minister Barham Salih. The motion was rejected with 67 to 28. The opposition said it didn't expect the motion to pass but that it wanted to give a symbolic gesture.[13] Barham Salih responded by saying that the debate "offered opportunity to present achievements, challenges& agenda for expanding reforms. [We] Must listen to voices of people.[14]


  • Massoud Barzani: After a week of protests the Kurdistan Regional President Massoud Barzani responded to the protesters saying everyone has the right to protest as long as it's peaceful.[15]
  • Jalal Talabani: The Iraqi President,whose party relies on the city of Sulaymaniyah for support, said in an interview that the "crowd's demands are inspirational and legitimate".[16]
  • Amnesty International:Amnesty International called for an end to the crackdown saying: "Iraqi authorities must end the use of intimidation and violence against those Iraqis peacefully calling for political and economic reforms".[17]
  • Human Rights Watch: HRW criticized the authorities saying: "In a time when the Middle East is erupting in demands to end repression, the Kurdish authorities are trying to stifle and intimidate critical journalism.[18] "

Regional connections

Kurdish protesters in Iraqi Kurdistan have expressed solidarity with brethren in Syria and Turkey, and the relative autonomy of the region has helped it to function as a sort of sanctuary for Kurdish leaders and refugees. After the independence of South Sudan in East Africa, some Iraqi Kurds suggested that the example of the South Sudanese peacefully and democratically gaining independence from Arab-dominated Sudan should be a model for the Kurdish population in the Middle East.[19]

See also


  1. ^ Salih, Mohammed (17 February 2011). "IRAQ: Protests Spread to Kurdistan". IPS News. Retrieved 21 July 2011. 
  2. ^ "Rudaw in English The Happening: Latest News and Multimedia about Kurdistan, Iraq and the World – Parties Try To Soothe Gorran’s Revolutionary Rage". 13 February 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  3. ^ "Kurdistan is not Tunisia". 29 January 2011. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  4. ^ By Khalid al-Ansary. "Two killed, 47 hurt in Iraq protest violence". Reuters. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  5. ^ "Rudaw in English The Happening: Latest News and Multimedia about Kurdistan, Iraq and the World – Five Dead, Dozens Wounded in Iraqi Kurdistan Protest". Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  6. ^ Tawfeeq, Mohammed (21 February 2011). "Teenager dies, 39 hurt in fresh clashes in Iraq's Kurdistan". CNN. Archived from the original on 24 February 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  7. ^ Tawfeeq, Mohammed (17 April 2011). "At least 50 wounded in Kurdish protest in Iraq". CNN. Archived from the original on 29 April 2011. Retrieved 29 April 2011. 
  8. ^ "Rudaw in English The Happening: Latest News and Multimedia about Kurdistan, Iraq and the World – Most Massive Anti-Govt Protest in Sulaimani". 25 February 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  9. ^ "Day Eight of Protest in Sulaimaniyah, Iraqi Kurdistan, Religious Leaders Join In. By Karzan Kardozi". 24 February 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  10. ^ Arango, Tim (18 May 2011). "Anger Lingers in Iraqi Kurdistan After a Crackdown". New York Times. 
  11. ^ "Kurdistan Peshmarge Minister gives green light to shoot as PUK extreme elements take charge. By Shwan Zulal". Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  12. ^ "Rudaw in English The Happening: Latest News and Multimedia about Kurdistan, Iraq and the World – Heavy Security Causes Anxiety In Sulaimani". 21 April 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  13. ^ Shwan Zulal (10 March 2011). "KURDISH VIEWS: Barham Salih and first motion of no confidence in KRG parliament". Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  14. ^ "Twitter / BarhamSalih: Parliamentary debate offered ..". Twitter. 3 October 2011. Retrieved 7 August 2013. 
  15. ^ "Massoud Barzani's Response to protests in Iraqi Kurdistan". Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  16. ^ "Talabani acknowledges protesters and MP vote on their demands. By Shwan Zulal". Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  17. ^ "Iraqi authorities must halt attacks on protesters | Amnesty International". 12 April 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  18. ^ "Iraqi Kurdistan: Growing Effort to Silence Media | Human Rights Watch". 24 May 2011. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  19. ^ "Kurdish nationalism rises with Arab unrest, Sudan split". Daily Times. 21 July 2011. Retrieved 21 July 2011. 
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