24 February 2011
IRAQ: White Group says to U.S., “The situation in Suleimaniyah is deteriorating”
Suleimaniyah 24th of February 2011
To: The State Department of the United States of America, American Embassy and Consulates in Iraq
From: The White Group (Geroupee Spi), Suleimaniyah
Dear Ladies and Sirs,
As representatives of the newly founded “White Group” we urgently address you. Since last Thursday, the 17th of February, the situation in Suleimaniyah city and Governorate is severely deteriorating. After demonstrators protested against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in a peaceful demonstration, some rallied towards the main branch of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. Militias of this party answered stone throwing with live ammunition, killing four, and injuring more than 150 people, in addition to detaining unknown number of demonstrators.
Since then, the situation is heating up. Thousands of heavily armed militiamen were sent into the city; young protesters are enraged. Every day thousands, if not tens of thousands, gather in Suleimaniyah and other cities of the governorate for demonstrations. Normal life came to a standstill.
We are trying to calm the situation, standing daily in white clothes between the heavily armed militias and the demonstrators. We could have prevented further violence, but we are not sure for how long we are able to continue.
We are severely shocked that until now we didn’t hear any official U.S. statement. Since one week now this situation is unfolding. Any condemnation or even expression or concern from the U.S. would have helped a lot. People here are just demanding their basic rights. We all thought that the U.S. seriously believes in democracy in Iraq. Now we see you watching how militias not accountable to the government, but [to political] parties, use excessive force against demonstrators. As you can see in these pictures heavily armed soldiers are stationed everywhere in our city.
Therefore we strongly urge you to take action. We believe your voice is still heard in Iraq and especially Iraqi-Kurdistan, where U.S. troops were greeted as liberators in 2003, inspiring us to work hard for improving the situation of people here. Please make clear to the responsible politicians and parties that the U.S. will not accept further violence and killings against civilians.
Your silence was recognized too. Especially the young demonstrators we talk to on a daily base got the impression the U.S. is not with the people but the parties here. The future of Iraq and Kurdistan lie in the hands of this young generation. The future of bilateral ties with the U.S. too.
So it’s high time to take action. We don’t know how long we will be able to keep the situation calm. We need your help now. If it will be too late after Friday, the day of demonstrations all over Iraq and Kurdistan, we all will regret that no steps were taken to prevent harm and more destruction.
We are again very afraid that if nothing happens, our city and governorate will soon see a bloodbath.
Wit best Regards
The Members of the White Group (Geroupee Spi)
The White Group is composed of various civil society organizations, civil society activists, journalists, and artists.
Here are the most urgent demands of the demonstrators. We think they are all moderate and correspond with the principles of democracy and rule of law:
1. Suing all of those involved in murdering the demonstrators in Suleimaniyah and publicly announcing the court rulings related to this matter.
2. Withdrawing all of the forces brought to Suleimaniyah and keeping only those forces affiliated with the Ministry of Interior in the city.
3. The authorities should promise that force will not be used to face the demands of the demonstrators and that it listen to those demands through creating channels of dialogue and conversion.
4. Urgently issuing a decision by the Parliament of Kurdistan to prohibit the use of military forces in internal affairs and conflicts.
5. The President of the region and the Prime Minister should immediately issue an apology to the victims and the people of Kurdistan.
6. Freeing all of those who have been detained as a consequence of the demonstration on February 17th and the demonstrations followed.
CPT’s MISSION: What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war? Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) seeks to enlist the whole church in organized, nonviolent alternatives to war and places teams of trained peacemakers in regions of lethal conflict.
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