SAR’s Academic Freedom Monitoring Project investigates and reports attacks on higher education with the aim of raising awareness, generating advocacy, and increasing protection for scholars, students, and academic communities. Learn more.

Date of Incident: November 23, 2021

Attack Types: Killings, Violence, Disappearances

Institution(s):University of Sulaimani

Region & Country:Western Asia | Iraq

New or Ongoing:New Incident

On November 23, 2021, security forces reportedly used force against students participating in a protest calling for the reinstatement of student allowances.

On November 21, students began a series of protests demanding that the Kurdistan
Regional Government (KRG) reinstate student allowances that had been canceled in 2014, due to funding shortfalls caused by low oil prices and a need for funds to fight ISIL. The allowances allotted 60,000 to 100,000 dinars (about $40 to $70 USD) to each student on a monthly basis. The students argued that with ISIL mostly defeated and the price of oil recovering, allowances should be resumed. Police used force against students during a protest on November 22 (see report).

On November 23, thousands of students reportedly gathered on the Kirkuk-Sulaimani road, blocking a main road from the University of Sulaimani campus to the center of the city of Sulaimani. Once students arrived at the headquarters of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the ruling party of Sulaimani, security forces confronted them and fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and water cannons, to disperse them. A number of students reportedly threw rocks and tear gas canisters back at the security forces and the PUK headquarters building.

Scholars at Risk is concerned about the use of force by police in response to the nonviolent exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly — conduct that is protected by international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iraq is a party. State authorities have an obligation to ensure the security of higher education communities and to refrain from violent or disproportionate actions in response to student protests. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such actions undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.