Protests have escalated not only in Libya but also in Iraqi Kurdistan, having entered their eighth day, with deaths reported in Kalar and Chamchamal. The protests started when an official from regional leader Masud Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) fired into a crowd in Sulaimani, killing a 14-year-old boy. Fadhil Mirani, the man who the independent news agency Lvin said ordered the shooting, is a Kurd who reportedly has either permanent residence in the United States or citizenship; a prominent American general several years ago reportedly endorsed his application as a personal favor.
Kurdish youth are protesting the regional leadership's corruption and nepotism. While the Kurdish government has promised yet again to take action against corruption, the parliament has instead only passed laws to restrict the media and demonstrations. This creates an untenable situation as Barzani cracks down on illegal demonstrations but refuses permission for legal protests. Religious figures in Sulaimani today issued a fatwa declaring the illegality of police forces' firing on demonstrators.
While international attention remains on Libya, the fires in Iraqi Kurdistan will not soon ebb for two reasons: First, the Kurdish government has repeatedly promised but failed to investigate outrages. There has been no resolution to the investigation of the 2005 murder of an opposition candidate by a KDP mob, nor has there been any punishment for the kidnap and murder of a journalist by the security force run by Masrour Barzani, Masud's son. Second, with deaths in at least four cities so far, people demand revenge.
Once again, as in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya, the Obama administration's silence has consequences. If the White House will not stand up for the most pro-American people in the Islamic world, then Kurds might rightly ask if they would not be better off looking elsewhere for support, to Iran for example.
Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at AEI.