Security forces in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq attacked peaceful protesters who were expressing their discontent over salaries cuts, which is an unacceptable violation of citizens' rights, a prominent human rights watchdog said on Wednesday.
"Peaceful demonstrators have been beaten up and insulted. Journalists using cameras or mobile phones to document the protests have been attacked. This is totally unacceptable and a blatant attempt to clamp down on dissent," Amnesty International Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf said.
The watchdog urged the Kurdish authorities to end the harassment of demonstrators and to ensure that everyone can exercise their right to peaceful protest.
A local press freedom group said that at least seven journalists were assaulted and at least two detained when they were reporting the protests.
Last week, public sector workers of the Iraqi Kurdistan took to the streets protesting against salaries delays and cuts, which are a part of austerity measures introduced by the local authorities in the region.
The Kurdistan Democratic Party has been struggling to pay salaries to the public sector employees since 2014, when the Iraqi central government limited funding following a dispute over the region’s share in oil export.
To address the budget deficit, the region introduced austerity measures, cutting public sector salaries.