Barzani letter to Bush urges ‘pressure on Turkey’

And nothing has changed…

————————————————–

C O N F I D E N T I A L BAGHDAD 002474

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/26/2017

TAGS: PREL IZ TU

Barzani and Bush

SUBJECT: LETTER TO PRESIDENT BUSH FROM KURDISH REGIONAL GOVERNMENT PRESIDENT BARZANI

Classified By: Deputy Political Counselor Charles O. Blaha, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

¶1. (C) The following is the text of a letter that was hand-delivered to Ambassador Crocker for transmittal to the President on June 19, 2007. A copy of the letter was transmitted electronically and the original will be pouched.

 

¶2. (C) BEGIN TEXT:

Dear Mr. President, Allow me this opportunity to wish you good health and success in these challenging times. The current situation in our region is indeed unique and fraught with difficulties, but be rest assured that we will continue with our undeterred efforts to overcome these challenges and fully support the new Iraq on the path towards democracy and federalism. Kurdistan already enjoys such an experience in democracy, stability and relative security. However, it is a well known fact that the status of Kurdistan is confronted with further threats from external interventions.

We in Kurdistan are strong advocates of establishing good and friendly relations with our neighbors. We denounce any form of violence and aggression against Turkey and respect her legitimate concerns. However, Ankara’s more recent policies towards Kurdistan region and its new democratic experience are antagonistic and unjustifiable. In fact the very existence of any form of Kurdish identity and entity is perceived by the Turks as a threat to their national security.

Turkey is seeking to employ various reasons to legitimize here intervention in Kurdistan region, one particular pretext being the existence of PKK. With regard to this matter we have stated explicitly that we are prepared to support a political and peaceful solution.

Furthermore, we have expressed our readiness to dispatch our delegations to Ankara to conduct serious dialogue; the Turkish side were always reluctant to accept our initiatives and refused any form of direct contact. Military option can not be a viable one since such operations have failed in the past and will not succeed in the future.

At the present time, the build-up of Turkish troops on our borders has exasperated the situation and has created anxiety amongst our communities nearby, specially with constant shelling of border settlements by Turkish artillery.

Witnessing the political contest in Turkey and the ever increasing pressure of the military on the civilian administration, the threat of a full scale military incursion becomes more evident.

Today Kurdistan is the only secure, stable region and successful model of post liberation Iraq. Should Turkey pursue its goals and embark on a military operation and violate territorial integrity of Iraq that already endures from a highly volatile situation, it will only give this region’s conflict a new and alarming dimension with incalculable damages. Therefore, Mr. President, I strongly urge you to exert all forms of pressure on Turkey to prevent their military adventure, violations of Iraq’s sovereignty and animosity towards people of Kurdistan.

Yours sincerely,

Masoud Barzani. END TEXT.

CROCKER

————————————————–

From Wikileaks

Second International Conference on Kurdish Studies at University of Exeter

Centre for Kurdish Studies, University of Exeter

Second International Conference on Kurdish Studies

‘The Kurds and Kurdistan: Considering Continuity and Change’

Exeter, 6-8 September 2012

 

Since our first international conference on Kurdish Studies in 2009, the States where Kurds live have seen tumultuous events. The Iranian elections and their aftermath have been followed by the protests in Iraq, anger over the referendum and elections in Turkey, and huge violence in Syria.

As many ask whether the so-called ‘Arab spring’ will bring change to the Middle East, we would like to interrogate the very ideas of continuity and change themselves across a number of disciplines. Does complete ‘rupture’ ever occur in history? Does regime change bring real differences in people’s lives? When migration brings change to individuals and families, what continuity is maintained in order to re-produce identity? How does language change and how far should linguistic change be managed? How should we study cultural continuity which exists over ethnic boundaries and international frontiers? What have been the changes and continuities within the field of Kurdish studies itself?

Our Second International Conference on Kurdish Studies will be held in Exeter on 6-8 September 2012. We aim to bring together scholars from all over the world, working in political science, geography, anthropology, history, literature, linguistics, gender studies and other disciplines of the humanities and social sciences.

We invite abstracts for individual papers of twenty minutes, or proposals for panels comprising three or four papers. Abstracts should be 250 to 300 words in length, clearly stating the contributor’s name, institutional affiliation and contact details. There will be some limited bursaries available to cover expenses; preference will be given to junior scholars and those from countries outside Western Europe and the USA without funding from their own institutions. If you wish to request one of these, please state clearly whether you have other sources of funding and give a reasonable estimate of your costs.

Please send abstracts to cks-kurdishconference@exeter.ac.uk by 30 November 2011. Notification of acceptance will be sent by 15 January 2012.

CrossTalk: Pax Kurdistana

How critical is Kurdistan to Iraq’s stability and prosperity? Should Kurdistan be granted sovereignty? Why is the US always willing to protect the region, even though its human rights record is very low? How would the US withdrawal affect the Kurds? And will they find common ground with Turkey? CT-ing with Sami Ramadani, Brendan O’Leary and Peshwaz Faizulla.

KHRP Report: Mother-Tongue Education in the Kurdish Regions

Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) today published a briefing paper entitled Culture and Language Rights – Mother-Tongue Education in the Kurdish Regions. The paper concludes that mother-tongue education, which in itself may be regarded as a fundamental right under international law, is not adequately recognised, protected or promoted in the Kurdish regions, serving as a barrier to conflict resolution in that area. The paper provides a comparative legal and practical overview of the use of mother-tongue education in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey today and makes some key recommendations for governments, civil society organisations and the international community on how to resolve the outstanding issues.

Summary

The use of mother-tongue languages is a crucial means for minority groups to express their cultural identity. The use of mother-tongue languages in education, both as the language of instruction and as an academic discipline, is a basic right, which serves to protect and promote this aim. Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey (hereinafter referred to as the “States”) are obliged under international human rights law and standards to guarantee this right.

However, to varying degrees, these States are failing to fulfil their international legal obligations in this regard, resulting in many individuals from minority groups being denied the enjoyment of this and various other fundamental rights.

The KHRP Briefing Paper provides an overview of the use of mother-tongue education in the States mentioned above and provides some key recommendations on how to tackle language right issues, which hinder conflict resolution in that region. The Briefing Paper is divided into five main parts:

(i) an overview of the relevant obligations under international law;
(ii) an overview of the national legal framework in each of the States;
(iii) a discussion of the importance of the right to mother-tongue education;
(iv) an analysis of the current status of the use of mother-tongue education in the States; and
(v) key recommendations for governments, civil society organisations and the international community on how to resolve the language rights issues discussed in this Briefing Paper.

**Click here to download the full (19 pg) report in .pdf.**

Tiziano Project | 360° Kurdistan: exhibit in DC, needs your help!

The Tiziano Project’s 360° Kurdistan will be on exhibit in Washington, DC beginning 04 August (through 01 September). They need your support to ensure its success! Please see letter below to learn about the exhibition and how you can donate.

**DOWNLOAD EXHIBITION FLYER HERE.**

——————-

Dear friends,

It brings me great pleasure to announce the Iraqi Cultural Center in Washington, DC has agreed to host an exhibition curated by yours truly and my colleague, award-winning photographer and Executive Director of the Tiziano Project, Jon Vidar. In Our Own Words is based on “360° Kurdistan”, a documentary initiative that presents the journalistic efforts and personal accounts of Iraqi citizens living in the Kurdish north. The project and exhibition strives to provide visitors with a robust and complete understanding of life, culture and news in present-day Iraqi Kurdistan. This unique exhibition is an example of storytelling as an art form, where the narrative is expressed and controlled by Iraqis and not filtered through the Western media.

The exhibition features:

  • 16 original photographs from young Iraqi journalists and their mentors
  • 15 individual video frames to exhibit journalist-produced news videos
  • Interactive computer stations with the 360 | Kurdistan website
  • Dedicated computer station with Skype interface enabling visitors to chat with Iraqi journalists (opening night only)
  • Interview booth with videographer where visitors can document their own stories about living and working in Iraq, or being an Iraqi American (opening night only)

While the Iraqi Cultural Center is gracious enough to host our exhibit opening on August 4, there’s a catch…we need to raise the funds for this event ourselves. Our budget is $3,000 to cover the costs of photographs and label printing, the video frames, and mounting supplies. We only have until July 8 before our materials need to go to the printer, so I am calling on all my loyal friends for their help to make this exhibition happen!

If you feel like supporting, you can donate through our Pledge page. As of June 28, we have already raised over $500. Another $20 or $30 from you would go a very long way. As an added incentive, if you donate $50 or more, I will send you an 8″x10″ print of any one of the original photographs featured in the exhibition.

If you have any questions or comments about the exhibition, don’t hesitate to ask. Opening night is Thursday August 4, so if you find yourself in DC, stop on by for the reception: 1630 Connecticut Avenue NW.

Sincerely,

Catherine Foster

Kurdish Genocide Conference

Conference organisers from the American Kurdish Council have announced that the Kurdish Genocide Conference will be broadcast live online from Tennessee State University in Nashville on Sunday afternoon, 22 May 2011.

The conference will focus on the different genocides perpetrated by the governments of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey against the Kurds. The conference will also feature a monodrama, Pakiza, performed by Kurdish actor Sarkawt Taro.

———-

Tune in here to watch the conference. To find out what time Opening Remarks begin in your area, click here.

———-

Conference Programme:

1.00-1.10pm Opening Remarks

American Kurdish Council

1.10-2.30pm Kurdish Genocide: Beyond the Borders

Speakers: Kirmanj Gundi, Kamal Artin, Kani Xulam and Sirwan Kajjo

2.30-3.00pm Anfal: The Exploitation of the Qur’an

Speaker: Dr. Zaid Brifkani

3.00-4.00pm lunch break

4.00-5.30pm Kurdish Genocide: Witnesses and Survivors

Speakers: Azad Hamad, Yonis Haji, Amina Mahmood Ali, Neaamat Torabian and Dilovan Parwar

5.30-6.00pm Pakiza – Monodrama

Performed by: Sarkawt Taro

HRW slams media repression in Kurdistan

HRW slams media repression and widening use of force in crackdowns on peaceful protesters in Kurdistan. Excerpts (related to Kurdistan) below are from ‘Iraq: Widening Crackdown on Protests: New Restrictions, Abuse in Arbil, Sulaimaniya, Baghdad‘, Human Rights Watch, New York, 21 April 2011.

Kurdistan authorities should end their widening crackdown on peaceful protests in northern Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today. The authorities should hold accountable those responsible for attacking protesters and journalists in Arbil and Sulaimaniya since April 17, 2011, including opening fire on demonstrators and beating them severely, Human Rights Watch said.

The Kurdistan Regional Government authorities should revoke their recent bans on unlicensed demonstrations in Sulaimaniya province, Human Rights Watch said.

“Iraqi authorities in Kurdistan and Baghdad need to rein in their security forces and protect the right to protest peacefully,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.

Repression in Kurdistan

In the afternoon of April 18 in Arbil, the Kurdistan capital, dozens of armed men in civilian clothes attacked students from the Kurdistan region’s largest university, Salahadin, as they tried to hold a demonstration. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that the assailants also attacked journalists and at least one Member of Parliament.

A third-year Salahadin student told Human Rights Watch that a large group of organized assailants wearing civilian clothes attacked the protesters with brute force.

“We chanted ‘freedom, freedom,’ and then security forces came and abolished the demonstration,” the student said. “They were hitting people by knives and sticks … and arrested 23 protesters.”

The assailants beat Muhamad Kyani, a member of the Iraqi national parliament for the opposition party Goran (Change) List, and his bodyguard while they were walking away from the demonstration. “There was no violence from us, nothing happened from our side to incite them,” Kyani told Human Rights Watch. “I was on my way to the car when the Asayish [the official security agency for the Kurdistan region] threw me to the ground and started to kick and beat me.” Kyani had two black eyes and other minor injuries from the beating. “They just wanted to intimidate and insult me and those with me,” he said. “During the beating they swore at us and called me a traitor.”

Reporters without Borders documented attacks on at least 10 journalists covering the April 18 protest. The group said assailants also detained numerous journalists, including Awara Hamid of the newspaper Rozhnam, Bahman Omer of Civil Magazine, Hajar Anwar, bureau chief of the Kurdistan News Network, and Mariwan Mala Hassan, a KNN reporter, as well as two of the station’s cameramen.

Shwan Sidiq of Civil Magazine was hospitalized after the assailants broke his hand. “My hand is broken, my head still hurts,” he told Human Rights Watch. “What I saw was what in 1988 Saddam Hussein did against me and my family.”

Security forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government and the two ruling parties there, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, have used repressive measures against journalists since the start of the protests in Iraq on February 17. The local press freedom group Metro Center has documented more than 150 cases of attacks and harassment of Kurdish journalists since February 17. In March, Human Rights Watch interviewed more than 20 journalists covering the protests in Kurdistan.

“Time and again we found that security forces and their proxies violate journalists’ freedom of expression through death threats, arbitrary arrests, beatings, harassment, and by confiscating and vandalizing their equipment,” Stork said.

In Sulaimaniya, daily clashes since April 17 have injured more than 100 protesters, journalists, and security forces. Witnesses told Human Rights Watch that on April 17 security forces fired live ammunition into the air to clear protesters blocking a road, while others shot into the crowd indiscriminately, wounding at least seven demonstrators.

“Police and security forces used everything to attack us,” one protester told Human Rights Watch. “They opened fire, threw stones, used sticks and their Kalashnikovs to keep us from demonstrating.”

Protest organizers told Human Rights Watch that on April 18, security forces violently seized control of Sara Square, the center of daily protests in Sulaimaniya since February 17, and demolished the protesters’ podium. Security forces have fanned out across the city and have refused to allow protesters back to the site – renamed Azadi (Freedom) Square by demonstrators – resulting in clashes on April 18 and 19.

On March 6, masked assailants attacked demonstrators and set their tents on fire but failed to evict protesters from the site.

On April 19, protest organizers said, security forces detained dozens of students and others in and around Sulaimaniya, releasing most later in the day. One law undergraduate told Human Rights Watch that security forces attacked her and other protesters at the Dukan checkpoint on their way to Sulaimaniya.

“We were forced to get off the buses,” she said. “They threatened if we went [to the protest], we would be killed. A friend of mine asked them not to shoot us because we have pens and not guns, but when he raised his pen security forces opened fire and he was badly injured.”

Since then, this student said, she has received anonymous threatening phone calls telling her not to return to Sulaymaniya. Security forces raided Koya University, where she studies, and arrested two students. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

The family of a prominent Kurdish writer and activist, Rebin Hardi, told Human Rights Watch that security forces severely beat him during and after his arrest on April 19 for participating in a protest in front of the Sulaimaniya courthouse. Photos taken after his release later that day viewed by Human Rights Watch showed severe swelling up and down the right sight of his body including his eye, arm, and thigh.

Since February 17, clashes with security forces have killed at least seven civilians and injured more than 250 demonstrators in Kurdistan, but thousands have continued to protest alleged corruption and the political dominance of the KDP and PUK.

On April 19, the government’s Security Committee for Sulaimaniya Province banned all unlicensed demonstrations. Legislation passed by the Kurdistan Regional Government in December gives authorities wide discretion in deciding whether to approve a license for a protest. The law’s wording is exceptionally vague and susceptible to abuse, Human Rights Watch said. Under article 3(c) of the law, authorities can reject a request if “the protest will damage the system or public decency.”

Inside Story: Battle for Kurdistan

AlJazeera’s Inside Story, with presenter Laura Kyle, discusses with guests: Makki Nazzal, a political analyst; Noreldin Waisy, a journalist in Irbil and Nasik Kadir, a Sulaimaniyah protest leader.

This episode of Inside Story aired on Wednesday, April 19, 2011.

AUI-S Voice: independent student media

The AUI-S Voice, which recently celebrated its one-year anniversary, is a publication of the students of The American University of Iraq-Sulaimani (AUI-S). AUI-S is a private non-profit university offering a comprehensive American-style liberal arts education to all qualified students regardless of their affiliation or origin. It opened its doors in October 2007.

The AUI-S Voice published its first issue on 31 January 2010 and to date has published 24 issues, with articles about a Facebook ban on the university campus, student feelings towards a ‘liberal arts’ education, tree planting on campus to reduce CO2, and student support for Egyptian protesters.

Click to watch video of the Voice's first year celebration

Arez Hussen Ahmed, who majors in international studies, is the Editor-in-Chief and leads a staff of 50 students at this first independent student newspaper in Iraq. Ahmed, 19, calls the work challenging and says that the Voice, whose first commitment is to news about the university, ‘records the history of AUI-S.’

In an article published yesterday on the American Journalism Review website Jackie Spinnner, who was the founder and first faculty adviser of the Voice, describes it as ‘a scrappy bimonthly newspaper with an excess of spelling and grammatical errors as well as an abundance of ambition.’

She goes on to say that the Voice ‘is attempting to do what few professional media outlets have been able to accomplish since the fall of Saddam Hussein: to bring Arab and Kurdish journalists together in a politically and ethnically divided Iraq with no alliance to any political party or religious sect, with no allegiance to anything at all except fairness and accuracy.’

The Voice’s website describes itself as ‘an independent publication and is not connected to any political party, religious group or ethnic group’ and says it ‘will defend [the newspaper] against influence from any group or individual, including those who support [it] logistically and financially.’

The newspaper got off to a rocky start though because of attempts to control it. When it first tried to begin publishing in 2009, political parties tried to control it through the students, and the AUI-S administration immediately shut it down.

Now the Voice prohibits students in political party leadership positions from overseeing the staff, accepting financial contributions from political parties, and publishing stories or editorials about political issues.

The staff members consist of Kurdish and Arab students, diligently working to create a sustainable publication that could serve as a model for other student newspapers in the country.

The Voice’s first photo editor, Hazha Ahmed, says the staff ‘all started from zero and had no skill of how to work in a newspaper, but with the passage of time and engaging more with the work, I learned that we are capable of managing a newspaper that achieved many accomplishments.’

Namo Kaftan, the paper’s first Web editor, assigned video reports, created multimedia and updated the site. The Voice’s website contains some video reports and slide shows as well as .pdf copies of all its issues.

Former faculty adviser Spinner says though that ‘the students have not produced any new multimedia reports or posted breaking news on the Voice website in five months because no one has taught the new staff how to produce the reports or stressed the importance of the Web.’

The Voice does have a Facebook page, which seems somewhat active and has 564 ‘likes.’ However, their Twitter feed shows fewer than a dozen tweets with nothing new for almost a year.

Iraqi media specialist, Mohammed Salih, who is at AUI-S says this commitment ‘to having an independent campus newspaper is a cause for much celebration.’ He adds that ‘it is also a cause for hope that the young generation, through some assistance and liberal education, as offered at AUI-S, is capable of putting forward a different vision for the future of the country, one that shows despite all differences we can work together in a productive manner.’

Kurdistan Commentary wishes the staff of the Voice success in their journalistic endeavours. It is a worthy undertaking that we hope will produce the next generation of journalists in a region in need of a free and fair media, reporting and publishing freely and without the stress of undue political influences.
Sources:

Spinner, Jackie. Letter From Iraq, American Journalism Review, 03 March 2011.

AUI-S Voice website

The American University of Iraq-Sulaimani website

 

Runaway to Nowhere

Runaway to Nowhere is the first novel by Kurdish-American author Qasham Balata. She was born in Duhok (South Kurdistan) in 1968 and now lives in Boston, MA, USA.

From the author’s website, she says:

My novel’s events happened during the Kurd’s uprising after the first Gulf War and their mass exodus from Northern Iraq to refugee camps along the Turkish and Iranian borders and when the western journalists compelled the first Bush administration to establish the safe haven better known in the 1990s as ‘the Northern No-fly zone.’ In my book I wrote about modern Kurdish history, tradition, and women.

Kani Xulam of the American Kurdish Information Network (AKIN) published a reflection on the book yesterday on the AKIN website and he describes it as a book about love, war, and the haplessness of the Kurdish woman.

It is about the cruelty of the Kurdish man. It is about the brutality of Arabs. It is about the fickleness of ‘Great Powers.’ It is about the dearth of virtue. It is about the absence of honor. And yes, it is also about the transience of freedom.

With some levity, the reflection continues and discusses how brides are chosen at funerals. They are chosen at funerals ‘one character tells us in the book, to avoid an ugly bride, for in Kurdish weddings, the Kurdish maidens put on a lot of make up.’

But it is a serious novel that tells a story of love and loss and separation. Xulam’s reflection continues…

It is a war drama. It starts off in a place called Mosul. For those of you who don’t know of the place, it is a dusty city on the banks of Tigris. But for the narrator, a Kurdish woman, who attends its university, it comes close to being idyllic. Initially, you are thrown off by the incongruence of the comparison, but soon you realize that even Nome, Alaska would have qualified for the same description. The reason: it is away from home.

Pray to God that war has not knocked on your door for a visit, says Xulam’s reflection. He mentions war and the mountains and their indifference to the young and the old.

In the words of one character, they [the mountains] devour especially ‘children under three years old and [the] elderly.’  Cold wears the robes of the angel of death.  Hunger and thirst aid and abet and thousands are lowered into shallow makeshift graves.  You can’t help but remember your Thomas Hobbes from college.  Life, as the English philosopher once so memorably put it, is ‘solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short’ in the spring of 1991…

Author, Qasham Balata

The reflection leaves us with a wish from Nareen, the narrator, who ‘becomes the reluctant chronicler of this mass exodus’ to the mountains. In a conversation Nareen has with her American photojournalist friend, Emily, she says she wishes ‘we had a united Kurdish state –a wish that will continue to live in my heart and the hearts of millions of Kurds across the globe.’

To read the rest of the thoughtful reflection penned by Kani Xulam, visit the AKIN website.

To learn more about the author, visit her book’s website.

After that, go buy the book!

Kurdistan Parliament’s 17-point agreement

The Kurdistan Parliament announced on its official website that all political blocs had signed the 17-point agreement that condemns both the use of force against the protestors in Slêmanî and against the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) headquarters, drawn up during the exceptional Wednesday meeting that continued through to 1.00am this Thursday morning.

While the announcement says ‘all political blocs had signed’, the Gorran Movement, the largest Kurdish opposition group said it had not signed the agreement.

‘Though the 17-point agreement contained important decisions, we did not sign it because the demands of the faction had not been taken into account,’ Kardo Mohammed, the parliamentary head of Gorran told the Sbeiy.com news website.

Mohammed went on to say that the party will disclose its position on the subject in a separate statement. ‘We will discuss it among ourselves and decide on it later,’ he said.

Here are the 17 points:

1. Condemning, prohibiting and criminalising violence and the use of live ammunition against citizens and attacking the governmental and political offices and harming the public and private properties by any party.

2. The immediate withdrawal of all of the moved forces, that were ordered to move 17/02/2011 to Slêmanî or any other city in Kurdistan Region and their return to their previous locations.

3.Freeing all of those who were detained as a result of participating in the demonstrations, and those who committed crimes should be dealt with by the courts and police forces.

4.The government should, according to the laws, compensate all persons, parties and institutions who were harmed as a result of the attacks and violence.

5. Protecting and organising the demonstrations by only the interior forces of police and the civil activities police. The identities of those forces (name, ID cards, and location of work) should be made public and nobody should be allowed to move with their face covered or windows of their cars blackened.

6. The Peshmerga forces should be prohibited from participating in any internal political conflict and should undertake its national functions of protecting the achievements of the people of Kurdistan.

7. It is necessary that the investigation committee established by the government be headed by a member of the Court of Cassation, and recruit professional and independent personality to be its member and should announce the results of its investigations as soon as possible to the public.

8. There were shortcomings in the dealing with the situation by the police and Asayish (Security) forces and those responsible for those shortcomings should be legally followed after the results of the investigations are announced.

9. No demonstrator should be detained for his or her participation without legal proceedings.

10. The decision for moving military forces should not be issued only in the cases of the existence of a foreign danger.

11. Those who burnt down Nalia channel and the Gorran/Change radio and television should be legally followed and sued immediately.

12. For the purpose of general and radical reform, projects should be prepared by the blocs and committees of the parliament with the help of the Council of Ministries and with partnership with the political parties, civil society organisations, university professors, professionals and independent personalities. Those projects should be presented to the Parliament for discussions and their implementation should be followed as soon as possible.

13. The government should immediately issue a host of important and urgent decisions that are needed for improving the living situation of the people and introducing social justice and increasing the political freedoms and rights.

14. Every party should play its role to calm the situation and end the media attacks by the political parties.

15. Calling on the Prime Minister, the Minister of Interior and the Minister of Peshmerga for a hearing in the parliament for clarifications and questioning according to the legal provisions and procedures.

16. Arranging and supporting a national political dialogue among those political parties and bodies that have representatives in the Kurdistan Parliament in order to introduce a political and legal understanding to amend those laws that have political and national dimensions.

17. The establishment of a special committee from all of the blocs in the parliament in order to investigate and start hearings about the demands of the demonstrators.

Meanwhile, in anticipation of tomorrow’s ‘Day of Rage’ protests scheduled throughout Iraq, one of the routes between Slêmanî and Erbil (Hewlêr) has been closed.

Speaking on the security measures, Erbil Governor Nawzad Hadi said: ‘Part of the plan is the prevention of entry from other Iraqi provinces into Erbil’ to stop any ‘undesired incidents’ from taking place.

Ismat Argushi, the director of the regional security agency told AKnews that they have precise intelligence information that ‘terrorists’ are trying to enter the region from across the national borders and from other Iraqi provinces.

Amnesty International Urges Restraint in Kurdistan

From Amnesty International:

Restraint urged in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region following more protester deaths
21 February 2011

Amnesty International has called on the Kurdistan regional government to rein-in militias affiliated to political parties who killed two protestors on Sunday, as anti-government demonstrations continue in the north of Iraq.

A 17-year-old boy, Serkho Mohammed, was shot dead yesterday as hundreds of demonstrators clashed with government security forces and armed militia belonging to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the city of Sulaimaniya.

A second protester died in hospital today after being shot during the protests, which also left at least 30 people injured. Others were apparently arrested.

“These killings add fuel to an already volatile situation in Sulaimaniya and represent a very worrying, as well as tragic, development,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“It is imperative that the authorities step in and prevent further killings and other abuses, and bring the KDP militia under control and accountable under the law.”

Security forces reportedly opened fired and used tear gas on protesters trying to reach the KDP building, apparently in order to burn it down.

Armed KDP militia have killed three people in Sulaimaniya, including a 15-year-old boy, since protests began outside the party’s main offices on 17 February. The protestors have been calling for an end to corruption.

“The Kurdish authorities must order an immediate independent investigation into these killings and those who perpetrated them must be brought to justice if, as it appears, the killings were unlawful,” said Malcolm Smart.

Since the protests started on 17 February, several buildings of the opposition Goran (Change) party and the headquarters of a newly established TV and radio station have reportedly set on fire.

The KDP and another Kurdish party jointly hold power as the government of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region.

“The two political parties that jointly rule Iraq’s three Kurdish provinces continue to operate armed militia which act almost as a law unto themselves and have been permitted to commit human rights abuses with impunity,” said Malcolm Smart.

A ‘day of rage’ has been organised for 25 February across Iraq where coordinated demonstrations are expected to take place calling for reforms, including an end to corruption.

Kurdistan and the Blame Game

An Op-Ed piece submitted by W. Karda

Recently, tension has skyrocketed in Kurdistan region, especially in the city of Silêmanî. The primary reason behind it is because of a call made by the main opposition party, Gorran (Change), for the dissolution of the current government and parliament. This reason, coupled with the latest developments in the region, prompted the locals to protest and shower the KDP HQ with stones. In return they were shot at by the security forces defending the base. This mess has led to all different factions and groups blaming each other for such unfortunate developments in a relatively peaceful region.

If we are to understand the situation, we have to analyze it and look back at what happened; at how and what started it all.

First we have to identify the flaws in the government. It is no secret that inside all the ranks of the government, corruption is rampant. In fact such corruption is apparent in all all aspects of normal daily social life and business, from a simple taxi driver charging double to a grocery store selling rotten vegetables to doctors ripping patients off with high fees. Hence politicians are no exception in such corruption and corrupted mentalities. This has become more of a trend in the local Kurdish community in which pointing a finger to any one segment of society is misleading and utterly false.

Indeed one fact is correct and it is the fact that politicians must be the ones to annihilate such corruption and lead the people towards the right path as they have the responsibility of guiding the people towards a better future. Unfortunately, neither in Kurdistan nor in many other parts of the world is the case like that. Consequently, reform is desperately needed, but the ultimate question is, or rather should be: How should we approach such reforms? Does the need of reforms justify ‘protests,’ which in my eyes, is closer to vandalism? Does it justify stoning every government building and looting shops on the streets and destroying public property simply because the people are ‘angry’!? Should any ‘anger’ in any part of the world be translated into such havoc and mayhem!?

Again, we have to look back and wonder how it all went so wrong. Since the establishment back in 2009 of Gorran, the leading opposition party, the political situation has become tense, and that is mostly due to Gorran’s policies in the region. Gorran itself was founded as a splinter group from the PUK, which had a stronghold in the city of Silêmanî. Its head is Nawshirwan Mustafa, who is an old friend of Jalal Talabani’s, the head of the PUK, the party they both founded back in 1975. Their relationship deteriorated in the late 2000s, which led to Mustafa’s resignation from the PUK and the foundation of the opposition party Gorran. Such opposition prompted the PUK and the KDP to strengthen their alliance in order to safeguard their position in the political hierarchy.

From the time of its establishment, Gorran adopted only one policy to increase its popularity, and that was criticising the government and bashing it non-stop for whatever the government was doing, regardless of considering how such ‘criticism’ would impact society as a whole, its interest and its future.

At the beginning, this method, of course, was understandable for it was a way to increase its popularity amongst the people, especially the youth, who were tired of the high unemployment rate and other problems. But then, in the latest election in Kurdistan, Gorran was able to garner 25 seats out of 111, and effectively became a part of a government they had been bashing for so long.

Expectation rose from parts of the public for words to turn into action, words for reform and such in which Gorran had been preaching for so long. But again, and as usual, Gorran restarted its anti-government rhetoric, this time talking against a government in which they were a part of!

With the latest developments in the region, such call for reform changed to the dissolution of the current government and parliament, a call that started to worry the two ruling parties and its many followers; a move that delighted a people who were made to expect that reform can be achieved only after the total uprooting of the government.

Then we come to what happened on 17 February after a relatively peaceful demonstration in Silêmanî, when a group of mostly young people marched towards Branch 4 of KDP HQ, bombarding it with stones, with virtually no security guards from the city to defend it. This prompted KDP soldiers based inside the building to respond with live ammunition, killing one demonstrator and wounding over 50. Then, everything exploded. Facebook pages were created one after another calling for protests; local media completely focused on the protests and clashes between protesters and the anti-riot police force. The two ruling parties started to come up with some weak statements condemning the stoning and the tension it brought; Gorran sided with the protesters and came up with a list of demands for the government. Locals and NGOs started dividing themselves between the two factions. Ultimately, the situation got out of hand, to such a degree that protests are now spreading throughout the other Kurdish cities like Darbandikhan and Kalar.

So what went wrong and who is to blame for all the chaos? To answer that, we have to analyze the main factions.

Gorran bears the biggest responsibility in the latest developments. It has been campaigning for the removal of the ruling parties, despite the fact that they are extremely popular and were elected in a free election by the people. And the continuous and excessive criticism allowed Gorran to gain some popularity, especially amongst the youth who were the easiest targets to affect. This despite the fact that Gorran has not come up with a single alternative regarding any of the ensuing problems in the region. In fact, Gorran’s financial and political structure should be the subjects of scrutiny, for whilst a lot is known about the ruling party’s policies and objectives for the future, their financial bases, which are deeply rooted in the region and the neighbouring countries, with the background for its prominent members well known in detail, Gorran’s structure is completely shrouded in mystery. While it talks negatively about the economy, they haven’t come up with a single alternative on how to approach reforms aside from destroying the government. In fact, they haven’t come up with any plans, strategies or alternatives regarding any of the issues they’ve objected to. As a political entity with a presence in the parliament, they should have had such plans. Even their financial bases and political affiliations remain a mystery. Wikileaks documents also clarify that the US embassy is yet to know the position of the Kurdish opposition party Gorran. The cable states that ‘Gorran is committed to unseating the PUK (and Talabani) in Sulaimani province but needs financial backing to ensure its long-term viability in the KRG and national politics. Iran could conceivably alleviate Gorran’s financial woes, particularly through its close ties with the Kurdish Jaff tribe, some of whom are Gorran members…’

Then there are the protesters who have been empowered by Gorran with such mentality in which they envision a utopian Kurdistan by overthrowing the government. Such a mentality has made them relentless in their quest and they will use any means possible to achieve their aims. This reason led to the incidents of last Thursday, when they showered the KDP HQ with stones in an extremely uncivilised manner, which ultimately led to all the chaos.

Then there remains the main political parties and how they brought this mess upon themselves. Since 2005 and the adoption of the Iraqi constitution, these two parties have stepped up corruption to such an extent that now almost every business is controlled by them, security forces are controlled by them, and no one knows where all the flow of money goes.

Especially in this recent incident, despite all the stoning by the protesters, it is nothing short of barbaric to shower the crowd with bullets. Not to mention their weak statements and their sluggishness in solving the case in an urgent and smart manner in order to decrease the sudden tension amongst the locals.

So, to point a finger at any one of theses factions alone is completely unrealistic and false; in fact the blame lies with all of them; Gorran for not coming up with clear goals and objectives with a detailed and civilised roadmap on how to achieve them through the concepts of democracy instead of coup-like overthrow of the regime.

The leading parties, for not having formed a well-structured and democratic government in which the rights of each and every individual is respected and guarded with the fruits of the economy for all the people not just certain groups.

The people also must take their share of the blame for following some parties blindly without considering and thinking about the interests of their country as a whole and carrying out protests in an unimaginably uncivilised manner by destroying and looting public properties.

One more important player that should not be forgotten is the media, which has had a very negative impact on all the growing tension. They are divided into two main groups, one is affiliated with the government and denies any wrongdoings from their side and puts all the blame on the opposition and protesters. The other so-called ‘free’ media or press which is not so free and have clearly taken the side of the protesters and show only one side of the picture in a way that whatever the government is doing is wrong, and whatever the opposition-protesters are doing is right. And to add to the tensions, yesterday a newly opened independent TV station was torched in apparent retaliation for showing footage of the protests.

Hence it is very important for all different factions and sides to put their differences aside and work on a reconciliation programme to work hand in hand at this very sensitive moment to come up with quick, but effective solutions in order to restore peace and stability to a region heralded as the only corner of peace and democracy in the Middle East. It is clear that blaming each other at this moment will not result in ‘win’ for some and ‘lose’ for the other. But it will ultimately be a total defeat for all the factions and the most important, for the whole nation, a nation which has built what they have today by immeasurable sacrifices. For if such methods of ‘reforms’ continue, the consequences may be fatal for the entire Kurdish nation. As Stephen R. Covey said: ‘While we are free to choose our actions, we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions.’

Armed attack on Nalia (NRT) TV; station destroyed by fire

Nalia (NRT) office building after the attack.

At 2.30am today (20 February), approximately 50 armed men raided the privately-owned Nalia Radio & TV (NRT) station in Slêmanî, located in a gated community called ‘German Village.’ The attackers opened fire on the station’s guards, injuring one before entering the three-story building. The gunmen then fired on Nalia’s broadcasting equipment and torched the building, destroying everything inside.

NRT is the Kurdistan region’s first private, independent television station. It opened just three days before the attack. It was the only station to air footage of shots fired at demonstrators on the first day of the protests, according to an NRT statement.

The owner of the station, Shaswar Abdulwahid, says that he had received a number of threats from senior politicians in the city and was asked to stop broadcasting. NRT reported the threats and later he was reassured by many, including the KRG PM, Barham Salih, and PUK deputy secretary-general, Kosrat Rasul, not to worry and to continue broadcasting.

According to Twana Osman, the General Manager of NRT, the ‘attack is not only against NRT. It is a crime against the general public of Kurdistan and their right to know exactly what is happening.’ He added that this is ‘a dangerous attempt to hide the truth, keep the public ignorant and obstruct and intimidate independent media.’

The regionally-based Metro Centre to Defend Journalists said of the attack, “[t]his is a dark day for journalists in Iraqi Kurdistan. We condemn the vicious attack on Nalia TV. It seems the attack had been planned, given that the gunmen fired on all of the station’s broadcasting equipment and then set the building on fire. We call for an independent committee to be formed to investigate the incident and bring those responsible to justice.’

Gutted interior of Nalia (NRT) TV station

Hiwa Osman from the Institute for War & Peace Reporting says that the ‘destruction of the station comes at a time when all the other satellite TV channels are unable to provide a balanced coverage’ of the ongoing demonstrations in Slêmanî and other cities.

At least one of the gunmen was wounded, as bloodstains and a trail of blood were left behind at the scene.

Nalia has vowed to resume broadcasting as quickly as possible.

More updates on the demonstrations in Kurdistan

More updates from W. Karda. Click on photos to see more of them at Rawaz Rauf’s facebook page.

- The 25th of February has been set as the date for a mass protest throughout the whole of Iraq under the banner No to robbery and corruption.

- Some media outlets have started to write ‘Freedom Square’ instead of ‘Bar Darky Sara Square’, naming it after the famous Egyptian ‘Tahrir (Freedom) Square.’

- Another political party, PCDK, has blamed both PUK and KDP for what happened on Thursday, and demanded they ‘re-check their wrong policies.’

- The protesters have come up with a statement of seven points, which includes (Withdrawal of the Zeravani army and courting those who shot at the crowd on Thursday). They say that the government has only 24 hours to implement these points or else they will resume protests. More here and here.

- A shootout started in Darbandikhan city, which was the result of a fight between college students and police. This led to large-scale protests in the city as well in which protesters are chanting “We are all Rezhwan”. It is reported than in Kalar people are on the move as well to stage a demonstration.

- Another Gorran HQ was set ablaze, this time in Shaqlawa, a resort town in Hawlêr.

- Nawshirwan Mustafa, head of Gorran, refuted the claims that he had fled the country and said he is in Silemani, he stated that ‘[i]t is normal for anyone to travel, right now the president (Massud Barzani) is out of the country and nobody says he has fled.’ He also stated ‘We have said before that those channels (media) are based on (lies) and (money), their lies are starting to appear and the people are about to take their money away from them as well.’

- It is reported that, opposite to what was claimed earlier, no arrest warrant has been issued for Faruq Rafiq.

- Gorran finally revealed its formal position by stating ‘We are inline with the people’s demands and requests (the seven issued points).’ They have also come up with their own statement in which they demand five points from the government including: Forming an investigation team, charging those who shot at people, withdrawal of the army from the city, freeing all those who were arrested and are kept in jail, and listening to protesters and fulfilling their demands.

- Earlier today, it was reported that this night all of the political parties will gather to discuss the latest developments with the Islamic Union spearheading the call for such negotiations. But still, there is no news such a meeting has taken place. Awene reported that this Monday, all sides will meet in order to calm the situation and re-stabilize the region.

- Tomorrow protests will be held in both Sweden and London in support of the protests of Silemani.

- Students from the University of Silemani have stated that they will not enter classrooms until their demands are met.