Hundreds of men, armed mainly with batons and metal bars, attacked the building of the Kurdish regional parliament in Erbil on Sunday. They were angry about the resignation of the president of the autonomous region. Iraqi Kurdistan has been under high tension since voters overwhelmingly backed independence from Baghdad in a referendum on September 25.
On Sunday, Massoud Barzani announced that he would no longer serve as regional president starting November 1. His decision followed Kurdish fighters’ near-total loss of disputed territories to the Iraqi army.
His decision was accepted by 70 members of parliament, while 23 voted against it. Shortly after the vote, as MPs discussed how to distribute presidential powers between the government and parliament – as was Barzani’s stated wish – pro-Barzani protesters erupted into the building, as shown in the video below. According to local media, they said they wanted to “punish” the MPs who had accepted the president’s resignation.
Some MPs barricaded themselves in their offices. Outside, protesters turned on journalists from Kurdish TV channel NRT, as shown in this video.
In some videos, shots can be heard fired. As of Monday, however, no injuries had been reported.
In the northern city of Zakhou, near the border with Turkey, the offices of several political parties that stand in opposition to Barzani were burned down by protesters. The Kurdish security council condemned this violence and promised to punish those responsible.
Barzani’s second term as president of the autonomous region expired in 2013, but due to the threat of the then-expanding Islamic State group, it was extended twice. He was the architect of September’s independence referendum. But this referendum marked the start of a troubled period for Iraqi Kurdistan: after the vote, the Iraqi army went on the offensive, retaking disputed territories that the Kurdish army had won in battles against the Islamic State group. Among these disputed territories was the region of Kirkuk, about 100 kilometres south of Erbil, which the Iraqi army took back on October 20.