Thousands took to the streets of the Iraqi Kurdish capital Arbil on Tuesday as a rally to demand swift punishment for a magazine editor who ran a story decried as “against Islam” turned violent.
Demonstrators gathered in front of the Kurdish parliament building in Arbil to protest the article published in the latest issue of Al-Hamsa (The Whisper), a monthly magazine published in Kurdish and Arabic in the regional capital.
The article relays a conversation between the author of the piece and God, and was deemed offensive to Islam by regional religious leaders, with Kurdish prime minister Nechirvan Barzani meeting with Islamic groups on Monday, the same day the publication’s editor Hayman Ari was arrested.
On Tuesday, protesters gathered opposite Arbil’s parliament compound and began throwing rocks and water bottles at security forces and clashing with riot police, an AFP journalist at the scene reported.
Groups of demonstrators attempted to scale the concrete walls surrounding the compound, while others attacked nearby stores selling alcohol and other buildings.
“The government are allowing others to abuse Islam and abuse the Koran, and we do not accept this,” said Karwan Salim, 19.
Ahmed Ali, 52, added angrily: “We are Muslims, we do not accept such humiliations published by magazines and newspapers. We do not accept any sentence against him (Ari) — he must be handed over to us so we can execute him ourselves.”
Provincial governor Nawzad Hadi said several protesters had been arrested and multiple police had been injured during the demonstration and ensuing violence, but he did not give details.