A sign in Kurdish says no guns are allowed in an Erbil park. (photo: الموسوعة الحرة)
Recently the Independent Commission for Human Rights in Iraqi Kurdistan collated all the murders and suicides in Iraqi Kurdistan over a year. The number they ended up with: 377, which meant that there was more than one death a day for the period between June 1, 2016 and June 30, 2017.
It used to be that a murder or a suicide was big news in the semi-autonomous northern region; people would gossip about it for days. But now it has become more commonplace.
Thanks to the war on the IS group, the selling and buying of weapons has become a lot easier.
“We wanted to get a clearer idea of the everyday security situation in Iraqi Kurdistan,” says Mohammed Sabir Gomashiny, a spokesperson for the Commission. “We have observed a continuous increase in the number of murder and suicide incidents, compared to the two previous years. It poses a threat to social stability.”
The last six months saw a major increase in incidents and the last two months of those, showed even higher rates. This was concerning, Gomashiny said, adding that he thought that there were several reasons for this. Firstly, the financial crisis in Iraqi Kurdistan was putting far more psychological pressure on locals. And secondly, the fight against the extremist Islamic State group had resulted in an increasingly militarized society in general.
It has become a lot easier to buy and sell weapons in Iraqi Kurdistan, and it was a lot easier to get hold of weapons from out of the Iraqi military, since the security crisis sparked by the extremist IS group began.
“Thanks to the war on the IS group, the selling and buying of weapons has become a lot easier,” Sarkout Ahmad, a spokesperson for the Sulaymaniyah police confirms. “A lot of people who don’t belong to the security forces introduce themselves as volunteers in the fight against the IS group. There’s no law in force to stop them from doing this.”
It’s virtually impossible for the local police to try and control, Ahmad notes. His colleagues in Erbil, Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, agree.
“Not a day passes when we don’t arrest somebody carrying a gun,” Abdul Khaliq Talat, Erbil's police chief, told NIQASH. “Every day we find people roaming the streets with their weapons; so many people now have guns and say they are for fighting the IS group. It is almost impossible to control them all.”
One of the places that has become infamous for murder, suicide and kidnapping is the Chamchamal area, south of the city of Sulaymaniyah. The fact that so many incidents were happening here was discussed at the local council, even though no conclusive plan could be made.
Dana Jaza, the head of the council’s committee of the interior told NIQASH that the political and economic situations were increasing the number of deaths in Chamchamal. “Political problems are part of the problem,” Jaza said, “as well as the spread of weapons, now being sold publicly.”
The police and the secret service in the region don’t have the capability to control all of the weapons; it is acknowledged that a lot of the equipment and manpower has been devoted to fighting the IS group and there is not as much policing and security work going on inside Iraqi Kurdistan. “But that isn’t enough justification,” Jaza points out, adding that everybody is worried that the murder rate is going to continue going up.