ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) - Thousands of protesters in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region called on Monday for the immediate resignation of the entire regional government, saying it had failed to provide democracy and justice.
The Kurdish zone, dominated for decades by two political parties, has seen continuous protests for more than a month against corruption and a lack of freedom, inspired by uprisings throughout the Middle East.
Protesters have camped out since February in the main square of Sulaimaniya — the second-largest city in the Kurdish region — to press for change.
“Because of social injustice, the waste of the region’s resources and the lack of law enforcement, we have decided to no longer accept living under a system of governance which is unjust and undemocratic,” the protesters said in a statement.
The statement, which was issued by the Interim Council of Liberation Square, a body organizing and representing the Sulaimaniya protesters, called on the Kurdish president, prime minister and cabinet to resign and demanded parliament be dissolved.
Vahal Ali, a spokesperson for Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani, dismissed the demands.
“We have not come to power through a coup d’etat,” Ali said. “The president was elected. Ballot boxes are the only way to achieve any changes.”
“When it comes to other issues such as fighting corruption, fighting nepotism, they are being addressed as we speak,” he said.
Barzani announced plans last month to shake up the regional government and enact reforms, but demonstrators have said these fall short of their demands.
Throughout Iraq, citizens emboldened by protests elsewhere in the Middle East have been protesting for weeks against corruption and a lack of basic services, although rallies outside of the Kurdish area have subsided somewhat since at least 10 people died in a day of violent protests in February.
At least nine people have died in the demonstrations in Iraqi Kurdistan, including two members of the “peshmerga”, the two ruling parties’ former guerrilla armies which are now the region’s official security forces.
Reporting by Namo Abdulla; Editing by Caroline Drees and Susan Fenton