Protest held in Hewlêr earlier today, photo published with permission.
Muslim youth in Southern Kurdistan staged a protest against what they perceived to be a blasphemous article published in a local magazine about Islam. Hundreds of youth took to the streets in the city of Hewlêr, some of them burnt down shops that sold alcohol, while others tried to storm governmental institutions. Security forces were on standby, and despite some clashes there were no casualties. Last year protests were held against governmental corruption which led to a brutal crackdown by security forces, and resulted in the killing of protesters.
Kurds have quickly responded to what is claimed to be a blasphemous article in the name of religion while they have ignored the suffering of their brethren residing in neighbouring regions. Hundreds of Kurdish political activists have been arrested, and many executed in the past for daring to speak against the Iranian regime. Despite the inhumane treatment of Kurds in Iran, and continuous violations of Kurdish rights, the large majority of Kurdish people in Southern Kurdistan have remained silent.
Iran is not the only country where violations of Kurdish rights takes place. Turkey is notorious for arresting Kurdish politicians, writers, journalists, activists, students and even children who have participated in protests. Recently, one of the institutions where Kurdish children were detained came under scrutiny after allegations of sexual abuse and rape, unfortunately this did not lead to protests by Kurdish people, in fact it was only reported in a few Kurdish news outlets.
It is unfortunate that Southern Kurdistan is currently living in a bubble, particularly youth who subscribe to the Islamic religion. Criticism and mockery of Islam is only two clicks away on the internet, and they must learn to come to terms with criticism of Islam. There can be rational responses to it, but that is only possible when the platform of discourse is dictated by reason, and not emotion.
In the digital world, nothing and no one is immune from criticism or mockery. While it is possible to intimidate critics of Islam by staging small protests, it simply does not stop them from criticising Islam or any other religion. We can't control what people publish on the internet, but we can control our responses to it. Muslim youth might feel intimidated by hateful criticism of Islam because challenging religious ideas might be new to them, but they must realise that responses to criticism have to be on the same medium. If someone publishes an article which criticises Islam, the response to it should be an article that rebukes the criticism, and not burning down alcohol shops, or storming governmental institutions.
Criticism of religion should be welcomed because it allows Islamists to revise their religious ideas, and beliefs. It gives them room to open peaceful and respectful dialogue between liberals and Islamists without any intimidation. And this is why the Kurdish regional government should not give in to the demands of Islamists, and must ensure that free speech is allowed for all Kurdish people.
The greatest insult to Islam is our silent complicity while Kurds are being killed in neighbouring regions for demanding their rights, and not an article on a local paper which has an extremely small audience.