Iraqi Kurdish ministers resign while violent protests rage

Iraqi Kurdish ministers resign while violent protests rage

The protests follow a September independence referendum that triggered an unprecedented crisis between the regional government and Baghdad, which slammed the poll as unconstitutional. "What happened in the province of Sulaimani is an attempt to undermine security and stability".

Since Monday, around 20 party offices and a town hall have been set ablaze across the autonomous region as protesters ramped up calls for the government to quit.

The Kurdistan Region has been suffering from an ongoing financial crisis since early 2014 due to budget cuts by the Iraqi government, a drop in oil prices and the war against ISIS [Islamic State]. And there were also reports that a number of buildings belonging to other Kurdish parties were also damaged by arson.

Nechirvan Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), acknowledged that the protesters' frustrations are justified, but added that there is no need to resort to violence.

"While I can't say anything categorically, I have been working on disappearances cases in the KRI (Kurdistan Region Iraq) and disputed territories for a while now and I have only come across two cases of Kurds who were disappeared; both times Kurds that grew up in Arab communities and did not speak Kurdish", said Ms Wille.

Three people have been killed and 80 injured as protests over austerity and unpaid salaries intensify.

On Wednesday, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (Unami) released a statement calling for restraint and calm on all sides, as well as urging security forces to exercise maximum restraint and demonstrators to avoid any act of violence. "Therefore, storming shelters and offices and public institutions, public or private properties will, of course, have no effect or result, but destruction and damaging this country's infrastructure". The Kurdistan Regional Government is under increasing pressure amid heightened tensions with Baghdad.

Israel and to a lesser extent Russian Federation are among the very few countries that back the Kurds' independence efforts.

In Sulaimaniyah, Kurdistan's second largest city and an independence movement stronghold, security forces fired into the air in an effort to disperse protesters.

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