Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Burham Salih, Deputy Secretary-General of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), has come out to condemn the killing of unnamed civilians in Hawijah.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, he said: “We in the leadership of the PUK are closely monitoring the developments of this dangerous incident that began in Hawijah and was transferred to other areas, and we are very concerned about the army getting involved in domestic confrontations and conflicts.”
“This is something that is against the principles of the Iraqi constitution which the majority of the Iraqi people voted in favor of, and we do not find any justification for the use of excessive violence in dealing with peaceful protests by citizens who are exercising their constitutional rights,” he added.
Clashes in several Iraqi towns and cities were sparked by an army raid on an anti-government protest camp in Hawijah, close to Kirkuk. Reports indicated that at least 50 people were killed.
Chairman of the Iraqi Parliamentary Human Rights Commission, MP Salim Al-Jabouri, revealed that this committee believes that “senior Iraqi military officers” were involved in the Hawijah army raid. He claimed that these officers had “issued kill orders” to soldiers.
Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Al-Jabouri emphasized that “the commission remains in Hawijah and it has contacted all parties and obtained conclusive evidence regarding the shameful and painful events that occurred there.”
“The issue does not stop at an army raid, but it goes beyond this to include executions and murder; while some of the wounded were specifically targeted. This represents a crime against humanity,” he added.
UN envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, has called for restraint by all sides amid the on-going violence in Iraq following the incident at Hawijah. Kobler warned that Iraq is “at a crossroads” and urged leaders “not to let anger win over peace.”
The Hawijah protesters had been calling for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s resignation. Speaking on Saturday, Maliki warned against the “plague of sectarianism” besetting Iraq, adding that this had originated outside the country, in an apparent reference to Syria.
“Sectarianism is evil, and the wind of sectarianism does not need a license to cross from a country to another, because if it begins in a place it will move to another place,” Maliki said.
“Strife is knocking on the doors of everyone, and no-one will survive if it enters, because there is a wind behind it, and money, and plans,” he added.
Maliki had previously warned that Iraq is in danger of returning to a state of “sectarian civil war.”
The UN envoy to Iraq, Martin Kobler, reiterated such warnings on Friday, saying: “I call on the conscience of all religious and political leaders not to let anger win over peace, and to use their wisdom, because the country is at a crossroads.”
For his part, deputy Kirkuk governor Rakan Said emphasized that “what happened [at Hawijah] was a massacre, and the situation is catastrophic and dangerous, and we should work on easing the tension.”
On Saturday, at least five anti-Al-Qaeda Sunni militiamen and three security forces personnel were killed in two separate attacks. Police said the first attack saw gunmen open fire on an Awakening Council checkpoint. The second attack saw three army intelligence officers being stopped by gunmen near an anti-government protest camp in Ramadi. A gunfight erupted during which the three Iraqi security personnel were killed.