by Max Barry

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Region: Greater Middle East


Red Saturday
The noise of the crowd was deafening as cheers and shouts erupted as the front portions of the protest broke through the police barrier just 200m from the Kurdish Presidential Palace where Biryar Niyat was hiding. The Parliament had been taken days before without much fanfare or resistance, as the main target remained the body of Niyat himself. In their 9-day siege of Erbil the rioters had grown used to the sound of gunfire, and the familiar noise of bullets cutting through the air over the heads of protesters failed to deter them. This crowd had grown angry. Days of being picked off by government snipers had incited them with a deep burning hatred of anyone wearing the blue insignia of the Kurdish Army. Besides that, they were hungry and tired, effectively living of what little goods were driven to them by YPG soldiers breaking through the loose exclusion zone set up in the city. With a roar the crowd tore through the barriers, leaping over sandbags and engaging in hand to hand combat with police and soldiers. Most of the police and a few soldiers had by now either surrendered or actually joined the rioters, and the stones and metal bars of the rioters were supplemented with weapons stolen from the dead, along with the occasional YPG soldier attempting to keep some sort of direction. The entire crowd was now moving in one single direction, despite shots from snipers ripping into men, women and children. The walls surrounding the palace were 11ft high and made of stone, now supplemented by hastily placed barbed wire, and the main gate was enforced by thick wooden doors with steel layers. Ladders stolen from construction sites were being passed overhead like a rockstar at a festival. As the crowd surged to the walls, beating the remaining guards, YPG officers took the ladders and set up assault points. It was a situation of organised chaos directed by the communist soldiers. There was a sudden quiet as the protesters took a moment to realise what might happen in the next 20 minutes, and then a thick cacophony of noise as they gave their support to those in front. Asan Hardi stood with his back to the wall, considering making a speech to the crowd before realising this would only attract the attention of gunmen. With a thumbs up, he gave the order to attack.

First over the wall were some of the most furious rioters - hot-blooded hooligans who were more than happy to take the first round of fire. As they climbed over the wall Hardi could hear the sound of machine gun fire from inside the building. Then came the YPG itself - armed with AK-47s and hand grenades - the 'shock troops' of the attack in comparison to some of the other groups in the protest. Hardi himself came over in this group, and as he jumped over the wall he finally saw the situation in the square. The gardens of the palace had been torn apart as the square became a 'death zone' for the attackers. The communist soldiers shot the remaining government personnel sprinting into the palace for safety, whilst they themselves took heavy fire from above. After the YPG came more angry rioters who set upon the injured soldiers, hacking them to death with rudimentary weapons. Rioters turned their attention to the doors, and with a roar the gates of the palace were opened and the street itself seemed to empty into the square. Light artillery weapons were hauled into the gardens and began to fire. Hardi saw a shell rip into one of the upstairs studies, engulfing the room in flame. Then the weapons were set on the doors, firing until all that was left was ash and silence from within. The crowd streamed into the building, led by Hardi and his YPG troops.

Sergeant Perwer made his way into the kitchen, accompanied by three other soldiers and two men holding what appeared to be clubs fashioned from the metal casing of a broken phone box. He could hear movement from inside so with one swift motion he unpinned and tossed in a grenade, which went off with an almighty crash, before bursting in and firing his automatic weapon. An elderly woman lay dead on the floor, blood dripping from her skull onto the red tiles she lay on. On the other side of the room however, a man lay murmuring. An M14 assault rifle lay out of arms reach, and the clothes on his abdomen had been burnt away. Perwer screamed in Kurdish "Biryar Niyat li k ye?" but all he received back was a gurgling sound. He was put out of his misery by a rifle round by one of Perwer's men. The sound of gunshots was beginning to die down as the palace was secured - but yet no sign of Niyat. Hardi strode into the kitchen, saluting Perwer and gesturing for the two non-YPG men to leave. Hardi ordered the men to search the room for signs of a hidden bolthole and they obliged, tapping on the floors and walls for signs of a hollow cavity. But there was nothing to be found, until one of the men started pulling open drawers in frustration. As he pulled open what appeared to be a larger cupboard in the kitchen island, he found it stuck fast. Perwer began to kick at the wood until eventually it splintered and caved open. Using a torch, the men could see stone steps leading down into darkness. They yelled for Hardi, "were vir gişt!" and climbed down into the hole. It was eerily quiet compared to the noise of the crowd above, and as they climbed down they found themselves in a tunnel, cut into the stone and stretching as far as their torchlight could see. President Niyat had escaped.

Meanwhile, on the balcony of the presidential palace Asan Hardi stood facing the cheering crowd, as the yellow banner of the YPG and the red banner of revolution were raised alongside the flag of Basurwelat. Hardi spoke to the crowd: "Em, xelk, serfiraz in. Ev roj d her her wek roja emiy ya sor were zann, ji ber ku me hza xwe li ser arensa xwe girtiye. Ev destpka Komara Gel a Basurwelat e!"(We, the people, are victorious. This day will forever be known as red saturday, because we have taken power over our own destiny. This is the beginning of the People's Republic of Basurwelat!