The protests sweeping the Middle East have motivated thousands of Kurds from all walks of life to demonstrate in cities across Iraqi Kurdistan, an autonomous region in northern Iraq. While their demands—an end to widespread corruption and greater civil and political rights—have been more modest than their regime-change-seeking counterparts in neighboring countries, the democratically elected Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has reacted to these protests in much the same way as despots around the region.
Since February 17, clashes with security forces have killed at least eight protesters and bystanders and injured more than 250 demonstrators in Iraqi Kurdistan. Security forces and their proxies also have repressed journalists through threats, arbitrary arrests, beatings and harassment, and by confiscating and destroying their equipment. On April 17, KRG security forces widened their crackdown on protesters and journalists by opening fire on demonstrators and beating some severely.
In March, Human Rights Watch researcher Samer Muscati traveled across Iraqi Kurdistan to monitor the protests and the government’s reaction to them.
Credit: Samer Muscati/Human Rights Watch