KB and I have agreed to start a regular segment on Kurdistan Commentary focusing on the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Every week, or even bi-weekly depending on time and workload, I will give an update of the major news and issues that are being reported on in the Kurdistan region media.
This segment will be called ‘Kurdistan Region Media Scan’ (KRMS). My first update is pretty long considering there was a lot to write about. Hopefully readers will get a better insight on the Kurdistan region of Iraq through KRMS.
KRMS for the week of 14th – 20th June, 2010
This week the major topics in the Kurdistan region of Iraq were related to:
- the Iranian bombing of the Kurdistan region,
- the 3rd Congress of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan,
- the Human Rights Watch report on female genital mutilation in Kurdistan region,
- the wake of student journalist Sardasht Osman who was kidnapped and killed,
- education reform in the Kurdistan region.
The Iranian bombardments of the Kurdistan region.
The independent Awene reported on its website that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) held a press conference on 17th June 2010, where Kawa Mahmud, the official KRG spokesperson and Minister for Culture and Youth, objected to the Iranian bombing of and incursion into the Kurdistan region. Mustafa Moradi, the Erbil (Hewler) General Director for the Environment, also stated in the press conference that the KRG will take munitions’ remnants of the Iranian bombards to Germany to be tested for poisonous substances.
The KRG Minister is reported to have said:
“Iranian forces have crossed 2km into the Kurdistan region in the area of Haji Omran… the incursion into Iraq is not in line with the proper neighborly relations and international conventions…the [Kurdistan] regional government does not interfere in the affairs of neighboring countries and will not accept any neighboring country to interfere in the affairs of Kurdistan…we [KRG] do not conduct two-faced politics”
Awene also published, in their print edition, a photo of the 14 year old girl, Basoz Jabar, that was killed by Iranian shelling, and wrote that she was top of her class at school.
The Peyamner website which is affiliated to Nechirvan Barzani, former PM of KRG, published two separate articles regarding the bombings, reporting, citing local villagers, that Iranian Revolutionary Guards will shoot at anyone nearing the border, and that there were plans by the Kurdish students union to hold sit-down protests both on the border areas being bombed, as well as outside the Iranian consulate in Erbil (Hewler).
The independent Hawlati reported on their website that in Sangasar, a child, from one of the families that have been displaced by the Iranian bombings, had drowned after falling into a river.
On 19th of June the Xendan media organisation which is rumoured to be affiliated with Barhman Salih, the current PM of the KRG, reported that Iran had started bombarding the Choman border area, and that since the bombardments started two months ago “more than 500 families in the Qaladze area and the surrounding villages had fled to Ranya town”
The Gorran affiliated Sbeiy media organisation also reported, citing security sources, that Iran had bombarded the Choman area for over an hour. The security sources also added that Turkish fighter jets had been sighted in the area of Soran.
The independent Lvin magazine published an article on its website with a link containing photos of the refugees from the border area.
The 3rd General Congress of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
Most media in the Kurdistan region have reported on the 3rd General Congress of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which follows the breakaway of a significant number of top officials from the party who established the Gorran movement that made major gains in both last year’s Kurdistan region elections, and the March 2010 Iraqi federal elections.
PUKmedia, the official website of the PUK has been published the names of the members elected to two of the party’s three main institutions, the Leadership Committee and the Central Committee. The Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, was re-elected to his post as Secretary General of the PUK and Barham Salih, PM of KRG, and Kosrat Rasul were selected as his deputies. Talabani’s wife gained the majority of the votes in the leadership committee.
Independent media as well as the Gorran newspaper, Rojname, have published articles stating that the PUK’s 3rd General Congress did not bring about the change that was expected.
The independent Hawlati published two interviews with Jalal Ayranjakhi and Ghafur Darwesh, both PUK members that failed to be elected to the party’s Leadership committee. Ghafur Darwesh said in his interview that PUK decided to keep the same old members in positions of power because they looked at the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and saw that the Barzani family stays in power with every congress they hold. So the PUK agreed to do the same.
Jala Ayrabjakhi said in his interview that the party has not brought the change that people expected and that the same powerful members stayed in their posts. He said that younger members of the party were not given the change to progress. He also said in the interview that there were many violations of the congress’s rules and that Jalal Talabani was the first to violate the rules by appointing his own deputies without them being put to a vote.
Rojname takes a similar tone. Another member of the PUK, Adalat Abdula, commented to Rojname that they were worried the pledges made at the congress for change and reform will not be fulfilled because the same people stayed in positions of as before. The Rojname article goes on to say that the PUK has become a military and security party because of the election of security and intelligence members to the leading committees.
Awene also published an article writing the same as Rojname, quoting anonymous sources, that the leadership of the PUK had pre-selected the members that would be elected to the new Leadership Committee, and that because many military and security intelligence members were elected at the cost of intellectuals, writers and young members, PUK has thus become a military and security party.
Human Rights Watch report on FGM in Kurdistan region
This week, Human Rights Watch published a report on female genital mutilation (FGM) in the Kurdistan region and strongly urged the KRG to do more to stop the practice in Kurdish society, which the report stated was widespread. The news gained much attention internationally from most major media organs such as the BBC, CNN, Reuters and so forth. It has also been a major topic in the Kurdistan region with all media reporting on it.
The Peyamner website affiliated to Nechirvan Barzani in a meeting with the Kurdistan region’s Minister for Health, Taha Hawrami, stated that the Minister had been visited by HRW and that they had told him only 30% of females in only “some areas” suffered from FGM and not 70% has the report stated. Hawrami also stated that in his history of being a doctor he had not once been visited by a female with the injuries written about in the HRW report, and for him that means the incidence of the practice is less than what HRW has reported.
The Gorran affiliated Sbeiy website reported that the Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs published a letter of discontent in reaction to the HRW report. The letter was addressed to Nadia Khalifa, a women’s rights expert with HRW in the Middle East, and stated the Ministry was displeased that it was not included in the report. They deemed their involvement important as it was suggested Kurds practice FGM partly because of religious reasons. Also in the letter the Ministry clarified that the practice of FGM is not related to the Islamic religion and that no Mullahs or Imams from the Ministry had issued any Fatwas (religious edict) urging the practice of FGM in the Kurdistan region.
Also, both the KDP affiliate Gulan magazine and the independent Awene reported on the statement of the Kurdistan Union of Islamic Scholars (KUIS) regarding the HRW report. In their official state the KUIS expressed their dissatisfaction for not being consulted on the matter of FGM in Kurdistan. The KUIS also stated that they are against any acts or customs that hinder the progress of women or violate their rights.
In the wake of the killing of Sardasht Osman
It has been 40 days since the kidnapping and killing of the student journalist, Sardasht Osman, which ignited protests in the Kurdistan region and the Kurdish diaspora against the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Barzani family which protestors alleged were responsible for the killing. Sadrasht’s killing gained much attention from international media. The KDP angrily accused the opposition Gorran movement of fuelling the protests. This week was Sardasht’s wake and only the Gorran affiliated media organs and independent media reported about it.
The Gorran media corporation Wusha’s KNN satellite channel reported that authorities in Erbil (Hewler) capital of Kurdistan region, did not allow a number of journalists to hold a public wake for Sardasht Osman.
Also, the independent Lvin, Hawlati, and the Gorran website Sbeiy all reported that the Hewler Union of Journalists have released a statement stating:
“we have lost hope in getting a final answer from the government regarding the circumstances in which Sardasht was killed”
Education in the Kurdistan Region
Both the Gorran affiliated Sbeiy website and the independent Awene published articles on a report published by the non-governmental American Society for Kurds (ASK), focused on the Kurdistan region’s education system.
The ASK report claims that the 6th cabinet of the Kurdistan Regional Government has not upheld promises it pledged for reforming the education system, and that political party influence is still strong on the Ministry of Education. The report also states that the KRG has not fully begun the building of the 125 schools it had pledged and only the foundation stones of a few schools had been laid in the region.
The ASK report does however state that many visible reforms have been made to the education system, but there are still many short-comings.