A new Raperîn in Southern Kurdistan
Today the people on the streets of 13 provinces in Southern Kurdistan were speaking one word we are no stranger to: Raperîn.
Raperîn means “insurgency”/“rebellion” in Sorani. On March 5, 1991, as PUK and KDP administrators and peshmergas waited in Eastern Kurdistan and the border line, the people of Ranya rose up against the Saddam regime. At the same time, the insurgency spread to Rania’s Çarkurne town and Kaledize subdistrict. Within the week, this insurgency spread to Zaxo, Duhok, Hewler, Sulaymaniyah, Halabja, Kelar, Kifri and all throughout Southern Kurdistan.
The Saddam regime was pushed out of cities and towns, starting from Rania, Çarkurne and Khaledize. This insurgency and uprising started by the people of Rania was called “Raperîn”. Even now, Rania is called Raperîn more often than its own name. On March 5, 1991, no force was in the lead for the Raperîn that started in Rania and spread throughout Southern Kurdistan. The people rose up themselves, and took their insurgency to completion.
After the Saddam regime was pushed out of cities, districts, towns, sub-districts and villages, KDP and PUK members returned from Eastern Kurdistan and took control of the administration. And for 26 years straight, they have been ruling over Southern Kurdistan.
A SINGLE SLOGAN: “GOVERNMENT RESIGN”
Yesterday, the people of Southern Kurdistan rose up again. For last two days the people have taken to the streets in 13 provinces of Southern Kurdistan with the slogan “Government Resign”. In Sulaymaniyah, Rewanduz, Seyit Sadık, Chamchamal, Taqtaq, Koye, Piremegrun, Kelar, Kifri, Halabja, Rania, Kaledize and many other villages and towns, the people on the streets have continued their protests, occasionally clashing with asayish forces, the police and peshmergas even if they didn’t want to. In many places, party buildings, official institutions and road check points were set on fire. There were no serious violent incidents until the morning hours of the second day of protests. In the afternoon on the second day, news that protesters were shot at began to come in one after the other. Warning shots had been fired on the first day of the protests in Seyid Sadık, Chamchamal and Rewanduz, but it wasn’t directly on the people and the protesters. Whereas on the second day, gunfire was geared towards protesters and the people in Rania, Koye, Sulaymaniyah, Kelar, and Kifri.
As a result of the gunfire, people lost their lives in Rania and Koye, 6 in Rania and 1 in Koye. In Sulaymaniyah, Chamchamal, Piremegrun and other places with the insurgency, hundreds of people were wounded.
DEMONSTRATIONS TURNED RADICAL AFTER GUNFIRE
When the intervention was harsh, the demonstrations turned more and more radical. The fury of the people peaked. It seems that the people governing Southern Kurdistan have not understood the sensibilities, fury and fervor of this people. The people in power now should have known better than anybody else that there is no family in the South that hasn’t paid a price. But it is now apparent that they don’t really understand all that well.
Those who didn’t take to the streets after the attack, people who approached the situation from a point of not wanting any lives lost also went out on the streets this time. That is why the second day’s protests were more radical and massive than the first.
FORMER PESHMERGA UNCLE MUSTAFA’S REACTION
I took an old taxi that worried me it could break down any minute to go to the protests. I asked the driver what he thought of the incidents and where he thought they could go to. He was angry and said, “Ew huqmete gendel heta biçe ve berdewam ke", which is: “These demonstrations will continue until this dirty government resigns.”
After these angry words, the taxi driver started to talk about himself. He said his name was Mustafa, he had been a peshmerga until 2010 for a total of 16 years, but quit when he saw the dirt and corruption. He said he hadn’t received his wages for 4 whole months, so he couldn’t pay for any of his small children’s needs. He was driving that old taxi to put food on the table. “Do you now understand why I’m so angry?” he asked, and added that there are people worse off than himself. The taxi driver former peshmerga Uncle Mustafa said that is where the people’s fury stems from, and that the people of Southern Kurdistan will be patient until the very end, but after they reach the tipping point they will not give up the fight even if they lose their heads and will continue until they win, that this has been seen numerous times in the history of the South.
THE VOICE OF THE STREETS
Uncle Mustafa’s old taxi managed to get us near the protest grounds, despite our fears that it would break down. I got off and walked to the area where protesters from all ages gathered. The protest grounds was the area with the large marketplace called the Mevlevi Avenue in Sulaymaniyah. Asayish and police forces had put up barricades against the gathered crowd. The protesters and the police continued to shout harassment at each other. Shortly after, the police and asayish forces told the crowd to disperse. And the crowd said they wouldn’t stop protesting until the government resigned and that they would not disperse. Then the asayish and the police started to shoot tear gas at people and charge at them with taser batons, at which point chaos ensued. Sounds of gunfire were heard. One protester shouted, “This is the voice of the streets. This voice won’t be silent until it wins, until it makes the government resign.” With this, the crowd started to march towards the police and the asayish with rocks and sticks. It was chaos suddenly. We couldn’t see anything because of the tear gas. But the crowd didn’t give up, they didn’t stop marching despite bullets fired at their feet and tear gas shot at them.
PROTESTER CALLED ON THE POLICE, ASAYISH AND PESHMERGA
In the scuffle, another protester around 50 years old spoke to a television microphone called on the police, asayish and the peshmerga. The protester said: “You are like us, you can’t get your wages either, your power and water are also cut off. Those in the government are not just stealing our share, they are stealing yours too. Why do you attack us? You should stand with us, not attack us.” None heeded this call.
WILL THE GOVERNMENT FALL WITH A NEW RAPERIN?
Today the people on the streets of 13 provinces in Southern Kurdistan were speaking one word we are no stranger to: Raperîn. But that is not just a word anymore, it is a rebellion that ended up pushing a dictator like Saddam Hussein out of their lands. It was called an insurgency and a rebellion. That inadvertently brings to mind, are the people of the South who took down Saddam with Raperîn now taking down the 26-year-long government party they brought to power with another Raperîn? Looking at the protest, fury and resolve of the people, it seems like they won’t stop until the government resigns. The government’s resignation would mean that the people are taking down with a Raperîn those they brought to power with a Raperîn. I didn’t see the insurgency, the Raperîn in 1991 myself, but I did listen to stories by the Southern people. The developments of the last 2 days, the people taking to the streets and holding the squares with the slogan “government resign” with great resolve remind me of the 1991 insurgency, bringing before my eyes the similarities between the two.
In violent incidents in two days, while not entirely confirmed, 11 Southern patriots lost their lives, while more than 200 people have been wounded. I hope there won’t be any further bloodshed and the Southern government fulfills the demand and resigns. If they don’t, what has been happening up to now show that the protests will increase.”