Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Is there a third pathway for Iraqi Kurdistan?


Hasan Usak

When Muhammed Buazizi, a 26 years old unemployed Tunisian computer engineer, set fire himself on 17 January, no one expected he would spark a revolution, perhaps even Muhammed himself. In the following days, this event led to mass demonstrations against dictator in the Middle East and North Africa. Former Tunisian President Zeynelabidin Bin Ali had to flee his country. Hosni Mubarak, president of Egypt for 30 years, forced to resign. Algeria, Libya, Bahrain and others are now in change, reform and revolution mood.

What does non-Arab Muslim world do, while Arab Muslim World is in revolution mood, in Middle East? Kurd, Turks and Persian people are main part of non-Arab Muslim world.

Turks may not be happy, but they are not in the mood for a revolution. Persian people are divided into two main parts, secular and religious. They have lost their energies after an artificial uprising, provoked by some imperialist countries.

Can Kurds become a locomotive power for non-Arab Muslim world in Middle East to get rid of corruption, dictators, bribery, oligarchy, nepotism, lack of human rights and all kind of reactionary approaches?

Kurds are generally accepted as the most dynamic people of the Middle East. Many ethnic minorities are inspired by Kurds, such as Assyrian and Armenian. They are the biggest non-state nation in the World and Kurdistan has been divided between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.

As mentioned above Kurds are the largest non-state people in the world, but they had a semi-autonomy region between 1991- 2003. Since 2003, Iraq-US war, they have had a recognized federal government, called KRG, Kurdistan Regional Government. At the first stage, life was marked by civil war, between KDP and PUK and the second stage the ruling parties have worked in a coalition government. These two important stages have inspired all Kurds around the world.

Kurds have fought against the regimes in charge of the land they live in, but they are fairly new at fighting against internal factors such as corruption, anti-democracy, dictatorship, oligarchy, repressive regimes, etc.

As all regions in the Middle East and North Africa are inspired by Egyptian revolution, Northern Iraq (KRG), many Kurdish people say Southern Kurdistan, is also inspired.

Iraqi Kurdistan has been ruled by two main parties, KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party), which is led by Massoud Barzani (the president of KRG) and PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan), which is led by Jalal Talabeni, president of Iraq. These parties are in control of everything in Kurdistan they are believed to be moving towards dictatorship. They can not govern under a democratic system, because of their narrow interests and tribal mentality, two parties dominated by two tribes, Barzani and Talabani.

Now, there are two new alternative political parties, Gorran Movement (Change), led by Nawshirwan Mustafa and Yekgirtu, or Islamic Union.

Mr. Mustafa after working many years in shadow of Mr. Talabani, President of Iraq, founded his own Party and his party became third party at the last election on 25th July 2009.

Deterioration, poverty, the huge gap between the life style of ruling elite and others, unemployment, oppressive and lack of basic human rights caused the first Kurdish uprising against Kurdish ruling parties on 17th February 20011 in Suleimaniah, the second biggest city of the region.

Young Kurdish people have gathered in solidarity with Tunisia and Egypt; however the demonstration turned against main ruling party, KDP.

Demonstrators attacked HQ of KDP, and Kurdish police shot at crowd and 2 people were killed, more than 50 were wounded on 17th February.

The following day KDP supporters raided HQ of Gorran Movement, the opposition party, in Erbil, capital city of KRG. Unrest continues to grow.

Although, all social classes have played their part, young people have played the main role at demonstrations. Unlike, women did not attend the demonstrations first two days, and then they have begun to play a significant role too.

Unrest still continues and is expected to further deepen and it seems will be more effective in the future.

Despite the fact that they have been demanding freedom for a while, it is the first time Kurdish people are fighting against their own leaders. The same situation also applies to ruling elite, because it is first time Kurdish people fight against them. There is an unusual situation and it also causes concern.

This significant point makes Kurdish uprising different from Arab Muslim World, such as Tunisian, Egyptians and Libyans.

“The streets of Suleimaniah are turned into bloodshed of our loved ones, just in a few days one hundred people are injured and another then are reported to be killed. While Mr. Barzani was away members of his militia army, opened fire on ordinary defenseless civilian in the city of Suleimaniah, who were protesting against Barzani, corruption, poverty, lack of social justice and basic human rights,” said Dr. Mohammed Ali.

Eye witness, freelance journalist Ozan Amed, said on the phone: “There is a very tense atmosphere. Most of the shops are closed and it is forbidden to shop except to extend required general shopping. The security forces have kept the all streets,”

There is an important point that must be underlined. Northern Iraq, or Iraqi Kurdistan, based on two main Kurdish dialects, Sorani and Kurmanci. There has been a conflict between them.

“Two ruling parties, KDP and PUK, struggled against tyrant Saddam, and the country was re-invented. It is not so easy to overthrow them. A civil war is not in favour of Kurds,” said Mr. Amed with angry tone of voice.

He pointed at the risk of civil war, which was stopped only a few years ago in 2003, because of US pressure. There is still a strong potential for civil war because of social structure, social differences, lack of tolerance and ignorance.

KDP and PUK had fought each other and they signed a ceasefire agreement to reinforce unity, but there is an actual fragmented situation.

The idea of the unrest in Southern Kurdistan that would be a new version of the civil war, disturbs the Kurds, because they suffered from “brakuji”,(killing between siblings).

The Prime Minister of KRG, Barham Salih, said that political parties agreed on peace and dialog to KDP run agency Peyamner. President Barzani called for provincial elections to be held immediately.

A few days following, the KRG Parliament agreed on 17 items, but none of them are on the merits. A political reform was not announced. They only decided to soften some provocative security measures and to free detainees.

This is only a security measure, whereas Kurdish people need more. They are demanding reform, democracy, human rights, equal opportunity, justice and freedom.

While many Kurds live in absolutely poverty, the ruling elite, Barzani, Talabani families and their relatives have privileged lives. There is a huge gap between the governors and governed. This unfair gap needs to be closed.

Kurds are at a crossroads.

All Kurds, except ruling elite, accept that there is corruption, nepotism, lack of transparency and injustice. They deserve democracy, reform, justice, freedom and human rights.

Do Kurds have a better option? Can Gorran Movement and Yekgirtu, Islamic Union, be a solution?

To my way of thinking Gorran and Yekgirtu will bring a worse future for Kurdish people, because they are based on the same ground, with KDP and PUK. There are not many differences in essence between them.


Gorran does not have a firm Kirkuk policy, the most important province of Kurds which is controlled by the KRG, so they attract the attention of Turkey and Iran. Kurds’ interests never combined at one point with Turkey and Iran.

The wind of revolution in the Arab Muslim World may not have the same positive effect in the non-Arab Muslim World, particularly in Iraqi Kurdistan. Kurds are not Arab and Kurdistan has different conditions than Egypt and Tunisia. A process that is working in Arab Muslim World may not work in non-Arab Muslim World.

Like all people Kurds need democracy, reform, transparency and justice. They need a real revolution to take their place among modern and democratic nations. Kurds have some structural problem that must be solved. When or If Kurds get rid of the ruling parties they may open a partway for another corrupt group or parties. Kurdish society is based on many tribes and each tribe has its own ruling system.

A civil war must not be an option. The corruption must be stopped but I am not sure about the opposition, they may be worse than existing government.

Kurds should look for a third pathway to reach democracy, unity, reform and prosperity.

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