SULAIMANIYAH, Iraq: Schools were closed for the third day running Tuesday in the Sulaimaniyah province of Iraq’s Kurdistan region, where the cash-strapped administration has not paid salaries for months.
“More than 2,000 government offices and schools are on strike,” said Honer Tawfiq, spokesman for the Sulaimaniyah province in the autonomous Kurdish region.
Teachers and many civil servants have not been paid for three months as Kurdistan and the rest of Iraq struggles to face the huge budget crunch caused by the cost of battling the Islamic State group and low oil prices.
“This farce has to end. No employee has been paid for three months in the whole of Kurdistan,” said Nermeen Mohammed, who teaches at a school in Sulaimaniyah.
“The minister of natural resources keeps announcing a rise in oil production but the salaries still aren’t coming at the end of the month,” she complained.
Thousands of civil servants were on strike in several sectors, with the exception of security personnel, health workers and employees in other key institutions.
A Kurdish education ministry spokesman said he shared the teachers’ concern but asked them to end their strike.
“We are asking in these difficult times of financial crisis and war against IS not to close schools down,” Fateh Mulawi said.
The strike is happening in southern areas dominated by political parties opposed to the Kurdistan Democratic Party of acting regional president Massud Barzani and his nephew, prime minister Nechirvan Barzani.
There have been no teachers’ strikes yet in the Arbil and Dohuk provinces where the KDP draws most of its support.
The Kurdistan region of Iraq has been locked in a bitter political crisis since the end of August, when Massud Barzani’s mandate expired and no deal was reached for his succession.