By Muhammad Salah
Since the ISIS war started, or since the Kurdish leaders in Northern Iraq diced to engage in the war, the name of the Peshmarga (Kurdish fighters) has become a well known around the world. Kurdish people are brave, Kurdish people are heroes.
Before ISIS entered Iraq, the Kurdish government was in a conflict with the Iraqi Central Government. The main issue was about oil as well as the Peshmarga's salary. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) wanted to sell oil and to be able to have an independent economy. Because of this, the Iraqi Central Government no longer wanted to send salaries for the Peshmarga with the Kurdish leaders not wanting to put the Peshmarga under Iraqi control.
Also, in the last two years the Kurdish government employees have not regularly received their salaries. I am among the 130,000 teachers who did not received a salary for September, October, November, and December of 2015. The Kurdish authorities are creative, since January of 2016 the employs are now getting a percentage of their salary. These percentages range anywhere from as low as twenty-five percent. This also affects people receiving retirement benefits. Their salaries were left the same, without any percentage cuts, but they have not received any payments for the last nine months.
Another way that the government is creative is that they have not cut the salaries for the Peshmarga and security forces or people working for internal intelligence departments. This has created divisions and tensions among the people. The authorities say, “We will need to use austerity measures and cut your salary. When the war ends with ISIS and the oil prices increase then we will give you back your money.” People do not believe this anymore because we see the high life of the Kurdish leaders has stayed the same as it was before the war. There has been no guarantee that people will not lose their money. Last year, for two months teachers in Sulaimani were on strike. The authorities did not care.
The new year of opening school was suppose to start on September 17th 2016. Teachers started to organize themselves to protest on that day and to start a strike from the beginning of the year. The Ministry of Education decided to postpone the day of opening to the Sep.27th. Then on Sept. 26th the Ministry of Education published an announcement stating that the school will open on Oct, 1st. The teachers were committed to do the demonstration anyway. At 9 am on September 27th, teachers started to gather in front of the Directory of Education Building. Not only teachers and government employs showed up. Ordinary people from within the society joined them as well. At 10 am the protesters decided to continue the march towards the Sulaimani Governor's office.
The estimation is that about 5000 protesters were involved in the march. They chanted slogans to tell the government " It's enough" and " stop lying ". The main demand of the teachers is for the government to pay them 100% of their wages and give their salaries each month and to ask to stop the privatization of the public sector.
To sum it up, the answer of the government is to provide 5,000,000,0000 Dinars to the Ministry of Education. According to the calculations, each teacher will get around 50,000 Dinars or $40 USD. Teachers looked at this as a joke and they have refused the government’s solution. In Sulaimani, Halabja, Garmian, and Rania teachers are on a strike. In Hawler and Duhok teachers are now teaching.