Following many promises and little action;

Kifri protesters fold strike tents

Press conference among the strikers in Kifri, August 2023. Kifri Support Organization for Development KSOD

By Laila Ahmed in Diyala

The strikers in a town south of of Sulaymaniyah northern province are waiting for the promises of senior government and party officials to reap the fruits of their 32-day protests and not have to take to the streets again or take a different step.

On August 10, 2023, activists and strikers in Kifri district ended their protests and wrapped up their tents set up for 32 days on the streets.

According to the final statement of the strike in a press conference, some of their demands have been implemented while for the main part has only received promises, “we expect them to fulfill all their promises until November 15, otherwise we will have more and take other ways,” said Aram Faqe Rahim, on the organizers.

A delegation from the Kifri Support Organization for Development (KSOD) visited Bafel Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK, and Qubad Talabani, the deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The statement elaborated that 4 demands were directed to Bafel Talabani and 15 requests have been submitted to Qubad Talabani.

The press conference at the end of the strike stressed that in addition to the demands implemented by the KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, some of their demands have been implemented by Bafel Talabani, and Qubad Talabani and all together promised to fulfill all their other demands.

We expect them to fulfill all their promises by November 15

The demands by people of Kifri are paying attention to higher education and opening university departments, investment and facilitating trade, opening or moving a number of Garmian general directorates to Kifri, resuming stalled service projects, providing medical supplies and equipment, increasing national power supply hours and amount.

It also includes giving the people of the region the post of deputy supervisor of Garmian administration, hiring contract employees, replacing the governor, and several other water, asphalt and renovation projects.

Kifri, home to over 50,000 people, is one of the districts located within the disputed territories, part of Diyala province run by the Iraqi government, while administratively is one of the districts of the Garmian administration.

Garmian local administration which includes several districts and sub-districts between Sulaymaniyah and Diyala province is part of Sulaymaniyah Northern Province, one of the provinces of Kurdistan Region of Iraq KRI under the KRG.

Nuruddin Abdul Rashid, spokesman for the KSOD, said the strike had "achievements," including the prime minister's allocation of budget to repair the stadium, buy sportswear, repair the Bawshaswar dam and turn it into a tourist destination, resuming building pending schools, water wells, supply of ambulances, Anesthesiologist for public hospital and several other demands.”

The government gave these demands as good news to the people of Kifri before August, but failed to end their protests.

"Qubad Talabani, Bafel Talabani, the Minister of Reconstruction, the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, the Minister of Health and Higher Education have promised to implement 100 percent of our demands and we expect them to do so," Abdul Rashid added.

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Some of the citizens on strike in front of the protest tents in Kifri, 2023. Kifri Support Organization KSOD

“I have been waiting for 19 years to take to the streets and demonstrate for my rights, so I went on strike with my sister for a month and participated in the protests in Kifri,” Darsim Aram, a girl took part in Kirfri strike, told KirkukNow.

Darsim has got bachelor degree in veterinary and so far unemployed, so she has built all his hopes on the strikers' tents and is waiting for all the promises to be fulfilled and won’t be disappointed again.

“The demands of the demonstrators were for the benefit of men and women. We agreed on the demands and we liked them, so we went on strike together,” Dersim said. “We support the demonstrators for any further steps.”

The disputed territories extend from Khanaqin, east of Baghdad on the borders with Iran up to Shingal (Sinjar) in Nineveh Province, in the far west on the borders with Syria.

According to Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, the fate of the disputed areas must be decided according to three stages that begin with normalization and then a census, provided that this is followed by a local referendum regarding their ownership, and this constitutional article is based on the implementation of the content of Article 58 of the Law of Administration for the Iraqi State for the Transitional Period, which was issued in March 2004 and consists of three main paragraphs.

Sleeper cells and resistant pockets of the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ISIS are regrouping in the rural areas of the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil. The security gap and rampant corruption led to increase in unemployment and poor public services such as national power supply, drinking water, education and healthcare.

The demonstration took place in the hottest part of the year, with temperatures approaching 50 Celsius degrees.

“At first, for a week, citizens were in fear and despair. Some could not support their protests, especially those who receive salaries and were afraid of being hit, or some were disappointed by the failure of previous demonstrations and personal, but these goals did not succeed,” according to Aram Faqe Rahimm, a protestor.

He also said that they have regained hope since the second week, when they received budget allocations for several demands and promises for other demands. "We agreed to remove the tent and fulfill the promises. We ended the strike with a ceremony."

The striker says the initial disappointment of the strikers was due to the previous protests which have not only been fruitless, but people have also become victims.

Some of the demands of Kafri, especially in the demonstrations in 2020, have been submitted to the local authorities but have not been implemented.

During those 32 days, we did not allow anyone to mislead us

In June 2020, the citizens of Kifri took to the streets for several nights, then ended the protests with the promise of the authorities and after several months the protests resurfaced again. Two youngsters were shot dead.

"If they do not fulfill our promises and demands, our plan is to hold a referendum to remove Kafri from the Garmian administration and become an independent administration or be placed on the province of Sulaimani or Diyala," said Nuruddin Abdul Rashid.

He, who was also one of the supervisors of the strike in Kifri, said the district has been neglected, although they knocked on the doors of the government, ministers and parliament, but to no avail and no one listened.

“Our organization, 11 members, with all classes of people, went on strike together, put the tents and stayed there then lift it together,” he added.

"Previously, protests caused casualties. We changed the method of demonstrations and did not allow anyone to mislead our demands during those 32 days, despite their efforts," Abdul Rashid said.

Kafri district, which dates back to nearly two hundred years ago, is one of the historical towns on the western side of Bawshaswar Peak, an extension of the mountain range that starts from Kirkuk, 120 km southeast of Kirkuk, and is separated from Diyala Province to the south by the Hamrin Mountain Range.

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