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‘Political coup’ in Iraq Kurdistan as Barzani clings to power

SULAIMANIYAH (Iraq) – Several Iraqi Kurdish politicians were barred from reaching their offices on Monday, in what the opposition called a “political coup” by the autonomous region’s president.

The crisis came after days of violent protests against acting president Massud Barzani, whose mandate expired in August. His camp has accused the opposition Gorran party of inciting unrest.

Yusuf Mohammed, the speaker of the regional parliament and a Gorran party member, was stopped on the road to regional capital Arbil by security forces loyal to Barzani.

Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) controls the west and north of the region while opposition parties, including Gorran, have most of their support base in the south.

“Everything that happened today and yesterday is a dangerous development for the political process in Kurdistan,” Mohammed told reporters in Sulaimaniyah, the main city in the south.

Five Gorran MPs were with him when KDP security forces blocked them on the road to Arbil. They had been warned by KDP members on Sunday not to show up for work the next day.

“The forces that stopped us from entering Arbil would have been enough to liberate Shingal,” he said, using the Kurdish name for the city of Sinjar, the main hub of Iraq’s Yazidi minority which has been controlled by the Islamic State group since 2014.

Hoshyar Abdallah, a Gorran member of the federal Iraqi parliament in Baghdad, accused the KDP of being “irresponsible” and Barzani of clinging to power.

“It’s like a coup against the rule of law and democracy,” he said. “It’s an egregious political act… We urge Kurdish political parties to come together to solve this.”

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which fought a bitter civil war against the KDP in the 1990s, also condemned the measures against Gorran.

“What the KDP did is like a political coup, it is not acceptable,” said PUK lawmaker Ala Talabani. “I hope there will be a peaceful solution.”

Four people have been killed over the past few days when what began as demonstrations demanding that the salaries of civil servants be paid turned into violent protests against Barzani.

Several local KDP offices in southern Kurdish towns were torched.

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