#ERBIL - Tensions came to a peak Saturday afternoon, as hundreds of young Kurds weaved in and out of cars, hunting out Arabs in Iraqi Kurdistan’s capital, Erbil.
The young men, marching in anger at the increasing number of Arabs in Iraqi Kurdistan, began their pursuit in Erbil’s Arab Quarter.
Protestors chanted “Arabs are traitors,” and other anti-Arab slogans while they marched, periodically stopping near a known Arab apartment or business and intensifying their chants, some throwing stones at the buildings and windows, until police dispersed the crowd with tazers and batons.
With Islamic State militants making extensive gains to the west of Erbil after Kurdish Peshmerga forces retreated to official Kurdistan Regional Government borders, the Islamic State now virtually controls all of the Nineveh plains, causing tensions to escalate in Erbil. .
Police are now armed, and there is a constant on-patrol Peshmerga presence in the city center. Residents have expressed fears that even if the Islamic State cannot takeover Erbil—which seems highly unlikely considering recent United States involvement—that the usually safe city will become a target of car bombs, a tactic, the Islamic State has used to deadly effect in the cities of Baghdad and Kirkuk where they have been unable to gain control.
Protestors told Middle East Eye that the demonstration, which had a mob atmosphere, was a reaction to the thousands of Arab refugees who had fled into the Kurdish autonomous region recently seeking safety from the sweeping onslaught of Islamic State militants.
“We don’t want the Arabs here because they are all spies,” one protestor told MEE. “They come here to Kurdistan like they are refugees, but we know most of them are working with the Islamic State. If it was the other way, they wouldn’t help us, in the past they have killed us, we don’t want to help them.”
The belief that Iraqi refugees in Erbil were in the Kurdish region as spies for the Islamic State was widespread, with many protestors holding signs in Arabic and Kurdish that read, “You are spies, we are saving you and you are helping Da’ash [Islamic State].”