The threat to dismiss teachers and exert pressure on them enters a new phase in Sulaymaniyah Governorate, after at least 20 demonstration organizers were arrested for seven hours by Security (Asayish) forces, while the Ministry of Education began a series of new measures to dismiss strikers from work.
The new pressures escalated on Saturday, January 20, had two main goals: the first was to return teachers in Sulaymaniyah to the classroom, and the second was to prevent the organization of a large demonstration on Sunday, January 21, in response to the government’s threats.
Nearly 60,000 male and female teachers have gone on strike since the start of the school year in mid-September, and three thousand schools have not opened their doors, depriving 600,000 male and female students from studying in public schools.
The teachers' main demand for ending the strike is that their salaries be paid on time without delay, as they did not receive salaries for the last quarter of 2023, without receiving a convincing response from the Erbil-based Kurdistan Regional Government KRG or the Federal Government in Baghdad.
On Saturday, January 20, while preparations were being made to schedule a large demonstration in various areas of Sulaymaniyah Governorate, at least 20 organizers of the demonstrations were arrested by Sulaymaniyah Asayish and detained for seven hours.
Othman Gulpi, one of the detainees by the Asayish, told KirkukNow, “They told us: up to here and enough... We will not allow demonstrations from now on. You must end the protests, because you did not obtain approval to organize the demonstration. You will bear the responsibility yourself. That was their message.”
Up to here and enough... We will not allow demonstrations from now on. You must end the protests
He pointed out that the Asayish’s treatment of them was normal. He said, “We did not see anything offensive, only the period of detention was long, reaching six or seven hours.”
"We said that we will organize the demonstration tomorrow. We will supervise it and demand our living and your living but in a civil manner," he added.
According to the Law on Organizing Demonstrations issued by the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament, a prior request must be submitted to hold the demonstration and obtain government approval, but Gulpi said, “We have been organizing demonstrations for years and we did not ask for approval and we did not commit any violations.”
The demonstrations of teachers that took place during the past four months in the city of Sulaymaniyah and its affiliated districts and sub-districts did not witness tension or clashes compared to the demonstrations in which other groups and classes of the governorate participated, as they resulted in injuries and deaths.
Salam Abdul Khaleq, media director of the region’s Asayish, announced on Saturday night, January 20, that the organizers of the demonstrations were arrested according to judicial warrants based on the request of the KRG Ministry of Education, in accordance with the provisions of Article 240 of the Iraqi Penal Code regarding violating instructions, “because these teachers were mentioned by name from the Ministry of Education since they did not adhere to school hours, which affected their colleagues and led to the paralysis of the academic process.”
“(Asayish) told us that they had a judicial warrant, but they did not show us any warrant and we did not see anything like that,” Gulpi said.
The demands of the teachers must be listened to and implemented
Barham Mustafa, a member of the secretariat of the Kurdistan Teachers Union, told KirkukNow, “We are protesting the arrest of these teachers by the Asayish. The demands of the teachers must be listened to and implemented, and not to use threatening language against them.”
Following the pressure exerted by the security forces, the Ministry of Education decided to take new measures against Sulaymaniyah teachers, which include “dismissal from the job,” if they continue boycott of classes.
The Ministry informed education directors of recording the absences of teachers starting on Sunday, January 21, and explained that any teacher or permanent staff teacher who is absent from work until the ninth of next February will be dismissed, and as for lecturers, they will be dismissed if they are absent for seven days.
Despite all the pressure, a large demonstration was held on Sunday in Sulaymaniyah and its affiliated districts and sub-districts, and according to the regional Ministry of Education, only 700 schools opened their doors to students, meaning that the strike is continuing in more than 2,200 schools.
“The threat to teachers continues. I call on the Ministry of Education to resort to the language of understanding instead of threats. They must realize that teachers are a vibrant group and cannot be silenced,” Mustafa said.