Qubad Talabani: It’s Time to Go Back to Kurdistan

Qubad Talabani: It’s Time to Go Back to Kurdistan
By Sîrwan Kajjo
(originally published in the June 2012 issue of
The Kurdish Review, a monthly Kurdish newspaper from Washington, DC. Reprinted here by request of author)

US Representative of Kurdistan Regional Government Qubad Talabani is getting ready to leave his office this year. After 12 years of representing Kurds in several positions, Talabani is expected to be working in the Prime Minister office once he’s back in Erbil. To shed light on this issue and other relevant matters, The Kurdish Review met with Mr. Talabani for this exclusive interview.

Sîrwan Kajjo (L) interviews Qubad Talabani (R)

Kurdish Review: Let’s begin with the continuous dispute between KRG and central government, how do you see the US stance on this crisis?

Qubad Talabani: There is obviously a political dispute within the federal government, and this dispute is a natural dispute between legitimate entities in the country. The United States is no longer in charge of Iraq. Iraq is a sovereign country, so these disputes have to be managed domestically, managed by the governments themselves.  It’s not the United States’ role to have a stance. It’s not for the US to take one side over the other. I think the US is trying to normalize its relation with Iraq. I think what the US wants out of all of this is an outcome that will lead to stability.

KR: There were Kurdish delegations from Turkey, Syria and Iran in Washington DC over the last few weeks to meet with US officials. Did you get to meet and/or Help them?

Qubad: We were pleased to meet all of our delegations in town. The details of the Eastern Kurdistan delegation was less clear to me.  But I was certainly aware and closely following BDP/DTK delegation and Kurdish National Council in Syria’s delegation. We received them here in the office and gave them our advice of the kind of things that people here in Washington are interested in. I’m very happy to see these kinds of delegations coming from other parts on Kurdistan to meet with US government officials, meet with think thanks and educate them on other aspects of Kurdistan that they might not be familiar with. There’s a reasonable understanding in Washington regarding the issues of Iraqi Kurdistan and its complications. But I don’t think the policy community here is fully aware of Kurdish issues of Eastern, Northern and Western Kurdistan. So I believe these meetings are very important.

KR: Did you get any feedback from Washington policy-makers regarding those delegations and their meetings?

Qubad: Yes the feedback, official and nonofficial, that I’ve received was positive. The meetings were timely and people learned a lot from the delegations’ visit in Washington. For example, there is some much analysis on Syria. Very smart people in Washington and London are analyzing the situation as they read, but what makes all that even more unique is actually hearing from people from that region. Having the Kurdish delegation from Syria helped policy makers here to form a clearer vision on the issue. It was a good source of information for Washington.

KR: Rumors being spread in the Kurdish community that New-elect Kurdistan PM Nechirvan Barzani wants you in Kurdistan to hold the post of minister of oil and natural resources in KRG. Is that true?

Qubad: (Laughing)…. That is so far away from the truth. It’s true I’m leaving Washington after serving Kurdistan interests for 12 years in various posts as PUK representative, KRG – Sulaimaniyah Adminstration representative and finally the unified KRG representative. Now my time is running out here. I’m going back to Kurdistan to work for the Prime Minister in his office.

KR: When are you going back?

Qubad: This summer.

KR: Yes, but when precisely?

Qubad: This summer.

KR: Fine, who is going to take over your position?

Qubad: It’s not clear yet.

KR: Do you think KRG representative to UK, Bayan Sami Abdulrahman will succeed you?

Qubad: I have not heard anything formally about that. I think whoever takes over the job, will do it fantastically. Certainly Bayan Xan is more than capable of handling this job. In fact, she’s doing it already in England. I know she’s a great candidate and a great colleague of mine. I have a lot of respect for her. But for everybody’s sake, I think we should wait to see who the nominee is.

KR: During your period of service, how was your relationship with the Iraqi embassy in Washington?

Qubad: I’ve always had a good relationship with the Iraqi embassy. Obviously our work is different. There was some sensitivity in the past, mainly from embassy side. I can’t represent Basra here. I can’t represent Baghdad. My job here is to represent Kurdistan. In fact, we’d like to think that we’re filling a void on behalf of the embassy. So we live together, we work together but we don’t work for each other.

KR: But the embassy has complained about the expansion of your work here! Why is that?

Qubad: Up until recently, we only had six staffers, a couple of part-timers and contactors. We can’t compare our expansion and budget with the embassy. For instance, the embassy has a commercial attaché with a staff, a military attaché with its own staff and several other offices. So there really shouldn’t be any complaints.

KR: By the way, how many people work for your office now?

Qubad: Well so far, we have eight full time positions. We have a Director of Public Affairs, Director of Congressional and Academic Affairs, Director of Cultural and Community Affairs, Director of Political and Diplomatic Affairs, Director for Outreach . There also a couple of administrative positions. Moreover, we always have internships for Kurds and non-Kurds. So it’s quite a full team.

KR: What has Qubad Talabani done in the past 12 years representing the Kurds in the US?

Qubad: Well, it’s a good question. But it’s not for Qubad Talabani to say what I’ve done. With the help of my staff, we’ve been able to turn this office from a one-person office into an institution. I think that’s probably the accomplishment I’m most proud of. Twenty years ago, this office was run from somebody’s basement in Fairfax. Now it’s a true representation. We have this beautiful building that is owned by our government in a prominent location of the city. I would say it’s no less that an embassy in Washington. Of course, forming the American-Kurdish Congressional Caucus for the first time in the history of US Congress, for example, was a testimony of the good work this office’s been doing. Many other groups have been established here in order to promote Kurdish interests in the US.

KR: Many think that you played an imperative role in unifying the “divided” Kurdish community in America, in Washington area specifically. How could you get all these people together?

Qubad: I thank whoever says that. Indeed when I first came here, the community was really divided. Newroz parties were held separately. There was one for PUK, one for KDP, one for KDP-I. Even simple things like demonstrations were done separately. There was still a left over effect of the regrettable conflict in Kurdistan within the community here. But thankfully, that dynamic has changed and things are much better now. There’s one Newroz and everyone goes to it. Whether you’re Northern, Eastern, Southern or Westerner, it doesn’t matter. It was one of my goals when I first came here. I thought was crazy. Newroz is Newroz, it’s not PUK’s or KDP’s. It even went beyond that. Once we had meeting for several groups. Our eastern brothers got angry and left the meeting. And do you know what the challenge was? It was a problem with portraits of political leaders (laughing)… It was about whose picture to hang up at the event!! One party, I won’t mention names, wanted two pictures, one said just one picture is enough. Then things got so complicated… just over pictures. Of course, the experiment of having each person bring one picture became so embarrassing. So everyone eventually came to the understanding that its time to move on. Thankfully , the year after, which was 2005, we had the first new year without pictures. We just had the Kurdish flag.  The community has also been more active in getting involved in policy making in the US. For example, the community was very helpful when we passed a resolution to open the US Consulate in Erbil

KR: What advice would you give to the next KRG representative in Washington?

Qubad: Washington is a unique animal. It’s not like other capitals in the world. Anyone who comes here has to be aware of this. My advice would be for them to not become part of the political divisions here. They should work with all parties, think thanks and other institutions. Our job here is not to take sides.

The other thing that I would like the next representative to work on is our getting closer to the community here. The Kurdish community can strengthen our mission here. One aspect of my years here that I can be somewhat self critical at is my work with the community. While we did engage the youth with some success, I think I could’ve done better in terms of broader community outreach and better engaging the community in our efforts. We have some exceptionally talented and patriotic Kurds here in the US, and they can be a real asset to Kurdistan.

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.

Who’s the bleeding ulcer?

Michael Rubin

Once again, Michael Rubin is spewing anti-Kurdish vitriol. His latest piece entitled Saddam in Kurdistan is much of the same stuff he’s been writing for many years, though the tone does seem a wee bit harsher.

The website that published the article describes him as ‘a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute [AEI]; senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations; and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.’ But a better description comes from investigative journalist Robert Dreyfuss, who often writes for the publication Nation. In February 2010 he wrote this about Rubin: ‘The 2000s produced a panoply of villains, cretins and bunglers on Iraq and the broader Middle East. Truly, however, none of them can hold a candle to the pudgy-faced boy wonder of the American Enterprise Institute, Michael Rubin.’

AEI is a conservative, pro-corporation think-tank based in Washington DC whose neo-con ‘scholars’ and affiliated individuals include the likes of John Bolton, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, and Richard Kagan.

In this latest essay he writes that ‘Iraqi Kurdistan was once a shining example of democracy’s potential in Iraq, but today it is freedom’s bleeding ulcer. While ordinary Iraqis have seen their freedoms increase since Saddam Hussein’s fall, the trajectory is the reverse in Iraqi Kurdistan…’

In May of 2010 he wrote a piece published in Rozhnama that said the KRG was ‘a region of Iraq which [is] no longer a beacon of liberty.’

In July of 2009 in the Daily Star he said that while the KRG ‘could once describe itself as a democratic beacon in the region, today such depictions lack credibility. Seventeen years after its first election, Iraqi Kurdistan is at best as democratic as Egypt or Iran, and worst akin to Syria or Tunisia.’

The Washington Post published one of his pieces in April 2009 in which he said, that ‘before Saddam Hussein was ousted, Iraqi Kurdistan was certainly more democratic than the rest of Iraq. But this is no longer the case.’

In January of 2008 in MEI Outlook he stated that ‘Iraq has changed, but Iraqi Kurdistan has not. After Saddam’s fall, many Iraqi Kurds expected that their region would liberalize and democratize. Rather than reform, however, regional politics have ossified. Barzani retains dictatorial control over the Duhok and Erbil governorates, and Talabani likewise dominates Sulaymaniyah. Freed from the shadow of Saddam, however, Iraqi Kurdistan has slid backward.’

And so on, and so on. But Rubin has a track record of misleading claims, says Right Web, a group that tracks militarists’ efforts to influence US foreign policy.

It is clear in the case of the KRG that he has a grudge; a personal vendetta against the leadership of the region. While the KRG deserves criticism in certain areas, Rubin’s diatribes are nothing more than the venomous outpourings of a scorned neocon, desperately seeking revenge. Some have opined that he wasn’t offered a cushy job by the KRG after his year in Slêmanî teaching some ten years ago and this has led to his seething hatred.

Rubin’s track record in the region includes working for a number of groups associated with the US ‘Israel lobby’ (including AEI, as well as the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and the Middle East Forum), championing the US invasion of Iraq, suggesting the assassination of foreign leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, reportedly misrepresenting translations of statements by Iranian officials, working at the controversial Pentagon Office of Special Plans, and consulting for the PR firm the Lincoln Group, which was accused of planting propaganda in the Iraqi press.

He whines in his article that ‘[i]n the Middle East, power always trumps principle’ and writes frequently about it. Is this a ‘Middle East’ phenomenon? Hardly. Mr Rubin should look at his own record and at Washington’s record. In Washington’s foreign policy money always trumps human rights. And he is one of the main cheerleaders of that policy.

Rubin’s wrath is not just aimed at the Kurds who run the KRG. He hates the Kurds in Turkey too. He is an outspoken and controversial proponent of hardline US foreign policies and this is manifested in his views on the PKK. Rubin and his AIE colleagues support Turkish generals and the lies that mask the truth and label the oppressed as ‘terrorists.’ As one Kurdish commentator put it: ‘It would seem that the Turkish glasses through which Mr Rubin sees the world have blinded his vision.’

Rubin calls Iraqi Kurdistan ‘freedom’s bleeding ulcer.’ One symptom of a bleeding ulcer is the ‘passing of foul smelling black, tarry stools.’ That describes Rubin’s ‘scholarly’ articles and his regional analyses. Perhaps then it is Rubin who is the bleeding ulcer.

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.

Day 7: Peace wall and flowers in Slêmanî

Upwards of 5,000 demonstrators gathered yesterday Slêmanî in a peaceful protest against corruption by the two ruling parties and demanded an investigation into the deaths of three young protesters. In addition to the three deaths, 124 have been wounded and many have been arrested since protests began a week ago.

‘Killing of the civilians was a red line,’ said Nasik Kadir, one of the protesters. Another, 35-year-old Kardo Karim said they will continue ‘demonstrations until officials implement real change.’

Many well-known Kurdish artists, singers and actors came out to Tuesday’s protests wearing white sheets with peace slogans imprinted on them. They positioned themselves in a ‘peace wall’ between the protesters and security forces to deter further violence. Protesters handed out flowers, even to those in the security forces.

Below are some photos from yesterday (from AFP and Destour).

Woman hands out flowers

Security forces with flowers

Wall of Peace

'Peace shirts'

An emotional observer in the crowd

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.’

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.

Protests and violence continue in Slêmanî

Updates for Saturday, 19 February (submitted by W. Karda):

– Based on Lvin, the shootout in February 17th which resulted in dozens of civilian victims was committed under the order of Fadhil Mirani, a high official in the KDP. Fadhil Mirani had ordered Branch 4 security not to spare anyone, even if the shooting resulted in killing civilians. See this link.

– In the protests of yesterday, February 18, 25 protesters were arrested and were delivered to Ma’askar Salam Prison.

– In a press conference, Nechirvan Barzani didn’t condemn the shooting and justified it by saying ‘If the protesters had come and killed our members, would that be right? This is something that must be investigated.’ He also states: ‘We demand the government to investigate this issue and we think that wrong was done upon us, an investigation must be carried out and the guilty (amongst protesters) must be brought to the court, this is our request.’ Surprisingly, he didn’t utter a single word about those who shot at the crowd and killed and wounded dozens..!

– Dr. Barham Salih, the Prime Minister of Kurdistan region has announced that they have formed an investigation team. He said: ‘This team (committee) will investigate what happened in front of Branch 4 on Thursday. After the investigations, whoever is found guilty of the chaos will be revealed on TV and be brought to court and dealt with.’ He too, again, didn’t talk at all about bringing those who shot at the people to justice.

– It is planned that on Sunday, February 20th, a group of Kurds in Stockholm in Sweden to arrange a demonstration to protest against the killing of civilians and the allowance of a massive army into the city of Silemani.

– Yesterday, some groups in the University of Silemani announced they are preparing themselves to demonstrate the next day (today) protesting the massive influx of Zeravani army into the city, the shooters to be brought to justice and Barzani himself to apologize to the people of Silemani. It is not yet clear if the protest by the students took place today or not.

– The students of College of Arts in Khanaqin had planned to wear black today for the same aforementioned reasons.

– The father of one of the victims has complained that the name of his son is nowhere to be found. While many media outlets showed the photo of a young boy wearing a red shirt and blue jeans whose head was bleeding and identified him as Rezhwan Ali, the only death so far announced. But actually, Rezhwan was wearing a black jeans and the boy in the photo is Zmnako Rzgar, who, according to his father, is in a very unstable health condition and in intensive care. Doctors say ‘his brain has stopped working but his heart is still beating.’ Zmnako is 16. More here.

– Yesterday, a group under the name of Khopishandarani Khorsk demanded to carry out another demonstration the next day (today) in Silemani in Bar Darky Sara Square, then march to Mawlawi Street, and from there to Branch 4.

– The protest took place today with Farouq Rafiq, a well-known intellectual was among the crowd, who demanded that the KDP army, Zeravani forces, to withdraw from the city and also for the shooters and head of Branch 4 to be brought to court for killing and wounding civilians. It is said that he has also stated that ‘Bardarky Sara square is our Freedom Square, we will not move away until our demands are met.’

– Thousands of protesters gathered today for the same aforementioned reasons. They were chanting ‘What do you want Silemani, the withdrawal of Zeravani’, ‘Silemani doesn’t fear the forces of Zeravani,’ and ‘In raining and hailing, Slemani has high morale.’ Riot police are trying to block their way by using electrified batons and also water pumps from firefighter vehicles. Many shops are closed and the situation seems extremely tense.

– A confrontation took place between demonstrators and riot police, protesters forced some police to flee after showering them with rocks. Protesters destroyed a firefighter vehicle after it ran out of water, in exchange riot police pushed back by using force and arrested some of them.

– Protest continues, they are chanting ‘Zeravani get out’ and ‘Down with Barzani.

– Things just got out of hand, in a very urgent news by local media, riot police started to shoot at the crowd to disperse them, so far one is wounded.

– Shooting continues, the protesters have run into the streets and ambulances are rushing to scene. Tension is sky high.

– Hawlati reports that although the crowd has dispersed, police are chasing after them street by street and is shooting at them.

– Protest continues. Protesters are burning wood and tiers on the streets so that firefighters turn their attention away from them, shooting also continues.

– A huge force has entered the Emergency Hospital to arrest the wounded protesters. So far, 10 protesters are wounded and 2 riot police.

– DPK is on high alert in Garmyan and has filled its bases and HQs with dozens of soldiers.

– The building of the Student Union, a KDP-sponsored student organization, was just set ablaze by protesters in Silemani.

– Talabani just reached Silemani and is planning to hold an immediate emergency meeting.

– A force, wearing civilian clothing, has started shooting at protesters.

– Chaos abounds..! Division amongst police.! Security forces and riot police started fighting each other and directed their guns at each other after a group of them refused to hit the protesters and tried to stop the other ones from hitting the civilians.

– Zeravani forces have spread throughout Bazian, a town very close to Silemani.

– Protester numbers is increasing with an extremely heavy military presence throughout the city.

– Security forces are taking photo of the protesters, most likely to identify them later and arrest them.  See more here.

-More photos can be viewed here.

News roundup and analysis from Kurdistan

Many thanks to W. Karda for sending this to Kurdistan Commentary…

Tank on the street as part of heavy military presence in the city

The mentality of the Silemani people is that while they don’t like the ruling parties, they excessively hate the KDP, and especially its leader, Massud Barzani. This reason alongside what has been going on in the Arab countries, plus all the pumping and fueling by Gorran for days now, revolutionary sentiments in the people were extremely high in order to do something, and the most vulnerable are the youth. Looking at the bits and pieces of videos we have, it is clear that the vast majority of the protestors in front of (Branch 4) of KDP HQ were younger than 18.

Their method of protesting was incredibly uncivilized, throwing stones and shouting as if it was some sort of fun party. But nonetheless, nothing justifies showering the whole population with bullets, killing several and wounding dozens. They could’ve at least thrown some smoke gas, tear gas, rubber bullets. Hell, even flash bangs. But to use live ammunition on the sons of your own nation simply because they were throwing stones is barbaric at best.

This is not only widened the gap between the people and the ruling parties, or between the ruling parties and Gorran, but in fact it drifted apart the ruling parties between themselves. KDP was quick to accuse PUK, who have control over security in Silemani, that they didn’t do enough to protect the KDP HQ and hence forced their security guards to open fire in order to save themselves. This, in fact, is correct. PUK hardly sent any security force riot police to defend the HQ. Due to that, KDP’s (Zeravani) army, a highly professional, well-equipped, large force was sent to safeguard KDP areas in Silemani. Last night it was reported that the PUK forces, led by Kosrat Rasul, clashed with the Zeravani police in Bazian. But this morning reports say that the city is crawling with KDP forces, especially near (Branch 4), and it is reported than even more soldiers are near (Bakrajo), the gateway into Silemani, ready to come into the city if things go wrong. And Kosrat’s army has surrounded the city.

Today will be critical and will decide what may happen in the coming days, if things are calm today, then the situation will calm. But based on articles and reports, it doesn’t seem like that. Hawlati just reported that protesters have gathered again near (Branch 4) to resume demonstrations, Gorran is pouring more fuel onto the fire and have stated that those who shot at the crowd yesterday must be brought to justice. The KRG office in London was infiltrated by protesters in demand of DPK’s army leaving Silemani and also demanded justice on those who shot at the crowd. Many people have gathered near Gorran HQ in Silemani as a way to shield it after reports appeared claiming that the DPK is planning to overtake it after Gorran’s HQ in Hawler, Duhok and Soran were set ablaze and were looted. Also waves of arrests seem to be in motion. This morning at 10.45, an activist (Azhi Jamal) was arrested in his home and his laptop was confiscated.

An article just now from Hawlati reported that Dr.Barham Salih and Kosrat Rasul didn’t allow entry to any of the KDP forces and they have said (Silemani doesn’t need any more forces). It also states that PUK is currently negotiating with Gorran, and later today, PUK will have a meeting with DPK in (Salahdin resort). So there are conflicting reports about KDP’s existence in Silemani.

Things are still tense, more and more facebook pages are being made and it seems like today is a deciding factor, if protesters go out full force, which I doubt, it will wreck havoc in the entire region and will lead to more bloodshed. But if things calm down a bit and the political parties reach a conclusion, especially Gorran, which seems to have backed down a bit, then things will get normal after some time. We only have to wait and see and hope for the best.

It seems like the situation has calmed down a bit on the streets, as expected. But still the major headlines of today are:

– Inline with my expectations, Awene newspaper expects that the relation between the three main parties will normalize after the aforementioned meetings. Hawlati states that right now, the meeting is ongoing. Until the final decision is issued, the DPK security forces will remain on the borders of Silemani.

– Rudaw.net reports that last night, Mala Bakhtiar from PUK met with Gorran officials to calm the situation. Today, Gorran gave a statement demanding extensive meetings with the two parties in less than 48 hours. The statement in which Gorran accuses both parties and their security forces harshly can be found here.

– In another statement, both PUK and DPK have demanded the government investigate yesterday’s incidents and to find out who were behind the protests. (This is quite strange, because PUK and DPK ARE the government, so basically they are asking themselves to carry such investigations).

– In Garmyan province, PUK and DPK have tightened the security in fears of riot, especially in Kalar city.

– Nechirvan Barzani too blamed the PUK and Silemany security for not guarding their base yesterday.

– A group by the name of (Chatri Azadi) meaning (Freedom Umbrella) took control over KRG office in London for more that 45 minutes, you can read a detailed article about this here.

– According to Awene newspaper, the head of healthcare refused to give accurate statistics and names of the victims of yesterday “Because of security reasons.” Although Awene gives the numbers; 57 wounded, 30 of them by bullets, out of those 30, 24 of them were hit in their legs or hands and 6 in their abdomens, two of them at are at an extremely dangerous and life threatening positions. The 30 people wounded by bullets have undergone surgery, the health of 70% of these is unstable.

– Dr. Kamal Said Qadir, A Kurdish activist living in Austria, has pressed charges against Massud Barzani in a European court under charges of shooting at innocent people.

– Another Gorran department was burned in (Bna Slawa), making it fourth after Hawler, Duhok and Soran. Based on Awene website, six Gorran HQs in Hawler and Duhok governorates are being held by DPK security. Gorran members are still not allowed to return to these buildings.

– Over 50 organizations and leading figures have made a statement asking for reconciliation and dialogue amongst all sides. The statement can be found in Kurdish here.

– Movement of both cars and pedestrians were forbidden in front of (Branch 4), with an extremely heavy military presence in front of it. Especially from the evening, the whole city streets are filled with military tanks and vehicles, which has worried the locals.

– This dusk, small scale protests resumed, but in a very recent Hawlati news, local security has dispersed the protesters even journalists by using fire fighter’s water pumps and have even arrested a score of the protesters in Mawlawi street.

– Some photos from yesterday can be found here.

– In a press conference in Hawler, Nechirvan Barzani stated that they do not point any fingers in yesterday’s incident and that they had warned Silemani security forces several days earlier about such attack but “Silemani security forces didn’t have any reaction during the incident.”

-Meanwhile, Fadhil Mirani, a top official in KDP stated “We do not assault anyone but do not accept assaults from anyone as well, that is why whoever attack our bases (HQs) we will cut their hands.”

Lvin states that one full bus of arrested protesters has been taken to (Ma’askar Salam prison), but the head of the prison has not taken those arrested simply because the arresters didn’t have any statement from the court. But the prison chief is under a lot of pressure to take the arrested people.

– Some intellectuals from Australia have strongly condemned the “Silemani massacre” and have stated that the president again proved that he is the head of militia party and whenever he wants, he orders to commit such massacres. Full report here.

– A group of graduated students from college and institutions have said that if the government do not listen to them, they will set themselves on fire.

Clashes erupt in Kurdistan; protestors killed

Hundreds of protestors clashed with security forces after a smaller group stormed the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Slêmanî (Suleimaniya) today. Once inside KDP headquarters they destroyed furniture and computers. Witnesses said that security forces opened fire to disperse the crowd. Reports are varied and changing often, but CNN reported 9 dead and 47 injured. Other reports suggest only two have been killed. AKNews says 5 killed, 9 wounded.

Thousand of protestors chanted 'Government resign!', 'Work for the unemployed!', and 'The corrupt must face justice!'

Demonstrators are said to be angry about government corruption, the quality of basic services and unemployment. Tensions began in late January when Gorran’s leader, Nawshirwan Mustafa, called on the current government to step down. Gorran spokesperson Mohammed Tawfiq Rahim said at the time, ‘Waves of protest are resonating across the world. If the KDP and PUK don’t reform, that could happen here as well.’

A local police and hospital official both said two people were killed in the incident, and the medical official said 47 people were injured. Both the officials said the deaths and injuries were the result of shootings. Neither wanted to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The two protesters killed were men aged 18 and 25.

An Associated Press reporter on the scene saw one teenager shot in the head and being carried away by policemen on the street who were trying to help the protesters.

In one tweet ‘GorranGuy’ who is a medical doctor in Slêmanî, pleads for blood to treat the wounded: ‘i am a doctor at Tawarreka we need O-/O+ for some of the wounded.’ He said they had run out and there were many wounded, some of whom were in need of surgery.

Retaliation attacks are being reported in Erbil (Hewlêr), the region’s capital, where Gorran Headquarters and Gorran-owned KNN TV station offices have been attacked and burned. Lvin Magazine reports that several other Gorran offices have been attacked in the city. A Gorran office in Duhok has also been attacked and looted.

A curfew is now in place from 7pm to 7am.


UPDATES: Please see the many updates in the comments section sent in by NC

Barham Salih and the upcoming KRG elections

Dr Barham Salih

Dr Barham Salih

One of Iraq’s two deputy prime ministers, Barham Salih, is expected to resign within days to lead the main Kurdish bloc in elections in the autonomous Kurdish region.  Salih, born in 1960, is one of two deputies for Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a member of the country’s Shiite Arab majority.  Salih is deputy for the Kurds and Rafa al-Essawi for the Sunni Arabs.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) of Kurdish regional president Mesûd Barzanî and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, in which Salih is a leading figure, have agreed to appoint Barham Salih as Prime Minister of the KRG if their coalition list wins the upcoming Kurdistan elections.  The news was relayed by Fu’ad Ma’sum, the head of the Kurdish bloc in the Parliament.

The Kurdish Alliance (KDP and PUK) is strongly expected to win in the upcoming elections on 25 July.  If Salih becomes KRG Prime Minister, he would replace Nêçîrvan Barzanî, Mesûd Barzanî’s nephew.

Salih has been seen by Western diplomats as one of the most progressive and professional members of the Iraqi government, in which he has been a central part of a recent push to attract foreign investment to the war-torn country.

Salih was elected to the Iraqi National Assembly in December 2005 as part of the Kurdistan Alliance list. Salih also chairs a committee on oil and energy policy.  He was Prime Minister of the PUK region of Iraqi Kurdistan from 2001-2004. While working as an engineering consultant, he also served as spokesman for the PUK in London and later in Washington.

Dr Salih has a Twitter site and frequently ‘tweets’ about his activities.


Iraq deputy PM to quit to take up Kurdish role, AlArab Online, 06 June 2009

Deputy PM to quit to take up Kurdish region role, The Jordan Times, 07 June 2009

Talabani’s brother-in-law announces candidacy

Halo Ibrahim Ahmed (photo: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat)

Helo Ibrahim Ahmed (photo: Al-Sharq Al-Awsat)

President Jalal Talabani’s brother-in-law, Helo Ibrahim Ahmed, has posted his candidacy for the Kurdistan Regional presidency to compete with current president Massoud Barazani in elections slated for 25 July 2009.

Helo Ibrahim Ahmad, brother of Talabani’s wife, is the secretary general of the Progress Party, which he founded in November 2008 after being dismissed from the PUK.

Ahmed was born in 1951 and left Kurdistan in 1976 to live in Europe.   He earned a doctorate in computer science at the Technical Institute in Stockholm and returned to the Kurdistan region in 1991.

Last year Ahmed caused an uproar in journalistic and human rights circles after threatening to kill a journalist who he said insulted his late father in an article.   In an e-mail communication Ahmed wrote to journalist Nabaz Goran on 28 February 2008 in which he said, ‘[I will] kill you, [Goran] even if I have one day left of my life.’

Hawlati’s editor-in-chief Abid Aref said of Ahmed’s comments in response to Goran’s article were ‘an attack on freedom of expression and democracy in Kurdistan.’

The candidate’s platform calls for making the Kurdistan Region a model of human rights and peaceful coexistence in the Middle East, applying the principles of justice and democracy while fighting against corruption.


Talabani brother-in-law runs for elections, Kerkuk.net, 20 May 2009

Hama-Saeed, M. Death threat attack on ‘Freedom of Expression’ in Kurdistan, ICR No. 248, 10 March 1008

رئيس حزب التقدم أول مرشح لمنصب رئاسة إقليم كردستان , Aswat al-Iraq, 19 May 2009

Elections on 25 July says Barzani

Iraqi Kurds to elect new parliament on July 25
05 May 2009
Reuters UK

by Shamal Aqrawi

ARBIL, Iraq (Reuters) – Iraq’s largely autonomous Kurdish region has set an election for its regional parliament for July 25, a senior official said Tuesday.

barzani_elections“I call (on candidates) to understand and respect political diversity … Political groups have the freedom to campaign but not to defame others,” Massoud Barzani, president of the northern Kurdistan region, told the regional parliament.

Kurdish officials have blamed budgetary and technical problems for a delay in holding the election which was originally planned for May 19.

For years, Kurdistan has been tightly controlled by two parties headed by Barzani and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Minority Kurds, who were persecuted by former leader Saddam Hussein, were outside Baghdad’s control in the 1990s and enjoy autonomy over domestic affairs under the Iraqi constitution enacted after the U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam in 2003.

Barzani called for a second election to take place immediately after the parliamentary poll to choose a president for the region. The president is currently chosen by lawmakers.

Barzani, Kurdish president since 2005, said he would not stand for another term unless this second vote was held.

A rift has grown over the past year between Kurdish leaders and the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad as the two sides struggle for control of oil resources and disputed territories.

Iraq is due to hold an election for its national parliament, in which Kurds have a major voice, at the end of 2009.

[Reuters article]