Two-month teachers’ strike underscores severity of Baghdad-Erbil problems

The fall semester still hasn't started for public school students in Kurdistan's Sulaimaniya province due to financial and political dysfunction.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani (center left) meets with Massoud Barzani (center right), the head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), as well as KRG President Nechirvan Barzani (fourth from right) and KRG Prime Minister Masrour Barzani (third from right), in Erbil on Nov. 9, 2023. (Photo credit: Iraqi Prime Minister's Office)

SULAIMANIYA - Nearly a million students in Sulaimaniya province have been out of school for over two months in the longest teachers' strike in the history of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) — a consequence of unresolved oil and financial disputes between Erbil and Baghdad.

Over 58,000 teachers are refusing to work until the government catches up on three months' worth of salaries that have gone unpaid due to a cash shortfall, according to Ahmad Sabir, president of the Kurdistan Teachers' Union.

The severe educational disruption highlights the extent to which Iraqi Kurdistan faces destabilizing financial problems even after receiving loans from Baghdad as part of a temporary agreement to help bridge the KRG's budget gap.

Before this year, the KRG’s longest-ever public school closure was in 2016 and 2017, lasting 52 days, according to Sabir.

"This time, it is longer," he said. "I still cannot tell when the strike will end."

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