Thursday, December 17, 2009

DTP ban elicits demonstrations in Iraqi Kurdistan

Iraqi Kurds say they are worried, but continue to hope for wise solutions in Turkey
Demonstrators seek to “break the silence of the Iraqi Kurds toward their problems in Turkey.”
Nearly 300 people throughout Iraqi Kurdistan gathered Tuesday in front of the Region’s Parliament in Erbil, demanding that Iraqi Kurdish leaders take a stance on recent developments concerning Kurds in Turkey. The Region’s leaders consider the Kurdish question there a Turkish internal problem, but they hope for the continuation of democratic improvements launched recently by the Turkish government, said an official in Erbil.

Parliament to legislate security agencies

Iraqi Parliament analyzes security situation of the country following questioning top officials. It will make recommendations on improving cooperation between police and the army, and raise the reward money for informers who reveal information about explosions, stated a lawmaker.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Kurdish MP says Kurds’ crucial mistake was rescuing Maliki government

Iraqi Parliament member from Kurdistan Coalition list Mahmud Osman analyzes the current political process in a phone interview.
Osman says Kurds should unite for the January parliamentary elections and that Erbil-Baghdad negotiations are likely to resume after the elections. He added that Kurds should reject any special case for elections in Kirkuk, and the United States wants to delay any settlement of disputed areas. He also expects more seats for Kurds.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

KRG worried about delaying general census

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) immediately expressed concern after the declaration of an Iraqi government decree delaying the process of counting the population for one year.
“The KRG is concerned that the decree has been issued. The census process is a national right for all Iraq, including Kurdistan Region. By holding the census, all of us would have benefited from the great information that would have been gained,” said Osman Shwani, KRG Minister of Planning. Shwani explained that the delay had political backgrounds.

Barzani asserts Article 140 only solution for Kirkuk

Kurdistan Parliament speaker complains UN is only wasting time
New UN Representative to Iraq faces daunting challenges, most of which were left unresolved by the previous UN Representative, Staffan de Mistura.
Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani assured Ad Melkert, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq (SRSG), during a meeting that the Kurdish insistence on implementing Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution is the only and key solution for Kirkuk and disputed areas. Melkert ended his two-day visit to Kurdistan on Wednesday.
Melkert also met with other high-ranking Kurdish officials including Region Parliament Speaker Kamal Kirkuki and Barham Salih, leader of the Kurdistani List in Parliament.
The UN’s official website in Iraq described Melkert’s meetings with Kurdish officials as “productive,” but no further details were released. Local media reported that the UN delegation came to Kurdistan to closely watch the political process of the region and to observe UN humanitarian and economic aid.
Melkert acknowledged Kurdish leaders’ will to cooperate in developing relations between Erbil and Baghdad.
“We want to advance cooperation with both the Iraq and Kurdistan Regional governments. We would like to listen to your [President Barzani's] suggestions and guidance,” the Kurdistan presidency’s official website conveyed from Melkert.
The issue of Kirkuk and disputed areas was a focal point of discussion during the meetings.
The UN mission to Iraq mediated during the presence of former SRSG Staffan de Mistura in offering technical suggestions to help terminate long-lasting disputes between Iraqi Kurds and the Baghdad federal government on which side should have the direct right of places--including oil-rich Kirkuk city--that are claimed by Kurdish leaders as part of their autonomous region in the north of the country.
“We appreciate the role of the UN on this issue, and hope that the UN will work with all sides to find a resolution,” President Barzani said.
UN involvement came as Baghdad halted fulfilling constitutional Article 140, which calls for returning displaced families home in the disputed areas, deporting brought-in people from those areas, and allowing the original people of those places to decide in a referendum whether to be governed by the Kurdistan Regional Government or directly by the federal government.
“We insist on the resolution of this issue in accordance with the implementation of Article 140 of the Constitution, because we do not want to see our people go through hardships and tragedies again.”
Barzani also assured of their readiness to cooperate with the UN, “but this issue concerns a whole nation and we will not make any concessions on this issue in any way whatsoever.
“I believe in this issue. I once defended this issue in battle and now I will defend it in peacetime,” added the President, noting that the Kurds have showed enough “flexibility” on the issue of the disputed areas. He warned that further delays on this issue would only serve in complicating it.
“Evading the implementation of this article [140] will only complicate the issue further. If the UN is for an alternative to Article 140, then there will be no progress on this issue.”
Meanwhile, during the meeting with the Kurdistan Region Parliament Speaker, the UN delegation heard a clear complaint from the Kurdish side regarding UN involvement in the Kirkuk issue.
“With our respect for De Mistura, he spent a lot of time but left no consequences,” explained Parliament speaker Kirkuki.
He also assured that Kurdistan Region leaders highly regard fulfilling Article 140, and that this issue is to be settled via dialogue between the federal and regional governments of Baghdad and Erbil. “Also, opportunities must be allowed to components of Kirkuk and of other disputed areas so they can decide on the destiny of their origins through a referendum,” Kirkuki added.
During the meeting, Kirkuki offered to the UN delegation historical and geographical documents to prove the Kurdistan identity of the disputed areas. These places were exposed to demographic changes in favor of increasing numbers of Arab inhabitants on the count of Kurds, according to a statement published from Kirkuki’s office on Wednesday.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Kurds divide but hope to unite in Baghdad

Kurds divide but hope to unite in Baghdad
Kurdistan elections paint Kurdish participation in Iraqi Parliament
“If the Kurdistan parties don’t go into the field with one voice, we will be defeated…”—Sadi Barzinji of the KDP
Kurdish ruling parties are keeping open the possibility of forming a large alliance including political powers in Kurdistan Region preparing to run for the Iraqi parliamentary elections scheduled for mid January. However, the second and third big powers in the Region are willing to run as separate lists. All assure preserving their unity on national issues in Baghdad.
The Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) has opened the door for Iraqi political parties to register until the end of August, after which the time comes to announce electoral alliances.
“Taking part together is a better choice; if they [Kurdistan parties] take part separately, we hope they will ally after the elections,” said Sadi Barzinji, a current member of Iraqi Parliament representing the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
Kurdistan political parties as one bloc, Kurdistan Coalition, and the Kurdistan Islam Union (KIU) bloc together hold 57 seats of Parliament’s 275 seats.
Working as one alliance “is very crucial because the situation is complicated there [in Baghdad] and we face a lot of challenges. If the Kurdistan parties don’t go into the field with one voice, we will be defeated, quite frankly,” Barzinji told the “Globe.” He also revealed that the KDP assures they will unite attitudes and work on bringing Kurdistan powers together and “ignore internal differences.”
The KDP, led by Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, share a strategic agreement are likely to keep in one list. In the meantime, the two parties that now run the local government in Kurdistan Region have not announced the way of their participation, only that they hope for a common list gathering all the powers.
Regardless, some Kurdish parties have shown a willingness to separately run in the elections.
A group known as the Four Parties—the KIU, Islamic Group in Kurdistan, Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party, and Kurdistan Tailors Party of Qadir Aziz--are now studying whether to compete individually or to keep their alliance the same as their participation for the July Kurdistan parliamentary election. The Four Parties under the name of the Service and Reform List placed third, winning 13 of Kurdistan Parliament’s 111 seats.
Muhammad Hakeem, politburo member of the Islamic Group in Kurdistan, told the “Globe” that they haven’t decided yet but that they will consult with their members and with allies in the Four Parties on how to prepare for the coming elections.
As for the choice to join the KDP and PUK, Hakeem said, “We have both experience of jointly and separately working with them. What’s important is that we keep unity in positions with every Kurd in Baghdad concerning the strategic issues in the service of the higher interests of the people of Kurdistan.” He thinks that the electoral competition will be strong due to multiple lists.
The Islamic Group does not intend to form any alliance with Iraqi entities outside the Region. “If any Kurdish group tries to form an alliance with Iraqi parties, we shouldn’t immediately accuse them of treason. The time has passed for such a statement like that in Iraq now. We have to keep together with Iraqi parties for four years,” remarked Hakeem, refereeing to media reports that revealed intensions of the Goran (Change) List--the second biggest bloc of Kurdistan Parliament--to ally with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s Islamic Dawa Party.
Goran, with 25 seats in Kurdistan Parliament, has already declared their initial decision to run in the election alone--the same as they did for Kurdistan Parliament.
Osman Banimarani, a Goran leaderm reported that their group “has decided initially to run for the coming parliamentary election and for the provincial elections in Kurdistan Region as a separate list, but the door remains open for alliances with Kurdistan or Iraqi parties conditionally that the alliance falls in the interest of the Kurdish people.”
“Plurality of Kurdish lists in Iraqi Parliament services Kurds’ interests more than a unique list, because the bloc might be affected by external decrees,” Banimarani told Aswat al-Iraq News Agency. He opposed the idea Kurds would be defeated if they didn’t go along as one list.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

“The Flowers of Kirkuk” tells about Iraq through romance

European crew interviewed on film project new to Kurdistan Region
The Region lends itself to European filmmakers as the world begins to take notice of its relative safety and astonishing beauty and culture.
Local and international crews gathered in Erbil to shoot “The Flowers of Kirkuk,” a movie conveying historical moments of the late 1980s through romance to a European audience. The project is the first of its kind, bringing foreign investment via a movie completely made in Kurdistan Region, according to the crew.

All Kirkuk citizens now have voting rights

“…The government has done what it has to do.”—Nuri al-Maliki
Nuri al-Maliki’s mission in Kirkuk is not over yet, says Kurdish member of Iraqi Parliament
The Iraqi government still has a lot of work to do to complete the implementation of Iraqi Constitution Article 140, said a Kurdish member of the Iraqi Parliament in reply to a statement of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Kurdistani List confident to form government comfortably

Despite internal differences, Kurds should remain united on decisive issues

By Ako Muhammed

Candidate Mahmoud Muhammad exhibits agendas of the Kurdistani List, which is comprised of the two governing Kurdish Parties: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

Could you explain the projects that were carried out in the last four years and why there are complaints?

The Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG] during the past years had tried to fulfill the maximum number of projects listed within its work program and also within the agenda publicized by the Kurdistan Alliance List [for the 2005 election]. According to surveys, our own expectations and some organizations, a large number of the promised projects has been accomplished. Some of the promises were perhaps hard to make true because of issues relevant to disputes with Baghdad. Also, some of the promised projects have begun but are not yet complete.

Several projects were executed in Kurdistan cities and towns. There were attempts to bring in foreign investment to help in the region’s economy. Changes were made to the education system so as to follow the world’s developments. For higher education, it is clear how the number of universities has increased. Several construction and service projects have been achieved. Drinking water issues are now totally solved in many places. The electricity problem is being addressed, and this problem will be solved at a very good rate in the next year. Solutions are being found for fuel problems; also, the recently opened Erbil refinery will answer Kurdistan people’s demands for fuel and will provide power stations with the necessary fuel.

The complaints are not abnormal. Kurdistan people’s expectations are high. People are aware now; more openly, they can see the world outside. They think that the reality now could be much more improved. Therefore, their life demands are continuously boosted, and then they complain.

One of the complaints is that the projects were not equally distributed throughout the region.

This perhaps is because we had two administrations and the construction process was fast somewhere and slow in somewhere else. In some places, projects for services really began very late. We will try to solve this in the coming years. We will try to address problems everywhere in the region in order to achieve justice in distributing the projects and the solutions. Also, some places that received lesser services must be taken into consideration in order to boost the development in those areas.

Every list talks about reform. What kind of reform is in your agenda?

Reform should not be only slogans. It needs to be planned. A slogan is no deeper than the surface. We don’t want to exploit this important issue for electoral campaigning, but we want reform within the content of our agenda. Besides, for reform to become reality, it requires a social and economic environment. This is because some problems that hinder reform in Kurdistan are social relations, and some of the relations are sacred. An economic environment is needed--you cannot publish slogans for an economic reform that is beyond your financial ability.

It is not reform you promise when you speak of dedicating salaries. Reform is when you create job opportunities. You must find a system to help unemployed people until they find a job.

No one can deny there is corruption. What in your agenda confronts this problem?

Yes. We do not deny that we became heirs to a bad administrative system. The corruption is not only about money, but it also means deficient work, imperfect execution of projects, not being at work, disadvantages of wealth and ability, lack of project oversight, and also injustice in distribution of projects. All of these must be studied and resolved. Confronting corruption cannot be limited; for example, you catch four people and fine them. The confrontation needs to be according to detailed programs so as to uproot corruption totally.

The ruling parties have shares with companies that carry out major projects, and the parties’ influence helps the companies evade oversight.

Parties can take part in the investment and can carry out projects to earn financial support for themselves. But, a party should not use its influence with the government to take over all the projects and block work and investment opportunities from other people. One point in our agenda is to prevent exploitation. The market must be free and investment must be open to everybody in accordance with determined criteria. Any party, company, or investor with the criteria should have the right to take on a project.

The KDP and PUK contributed salaries for a large number of people. Why weren’t factories built instead?

This dates back to some years ago. The economic situation at that time must be taken into consideration. The two parties employed many people at a time when it was impossible to create job opportunities; unemployment spread drastically in Kurdistan. Employing people at that time could have partially improved the individuals’ low incomes. That was a way to prevent people from being broke. And now, this case must be treated through a system suitable for the current situation.

In what w do you think opposition is helpful for the political process in the region?

We, as the Kurdistani List, believe in diversity of political opinions in Kurdistan. We believe in the religious, ethnical, and political multiplicity, thus we expect different political lists colored with their own ideologies to come to Parliament. With all the diversity we can serve our country; a part of them that wins people’s trust can form the government, and another part can stay as opposition in Parliament. If there was no opposition up until now, the KDP and PUK should not be blamed. We never prevented anyone from becoming the opposition. The parties took part in the government according to their size; this perhaps was a necessity of a certain stage when a wide-ranging government of all colors was needed.

Whenever a party joins the government, it cannot be opposition in Parliament at the same time. We have seen that and it is an unhealthy case.

Will the appearance of an opposition not weaken the Kurdish discourse in Baghdad where more demands still need to be achieved?

We must draw a line between the decisive national issues and the internal issues such reconstructing the economy and social and cultural issues. We benefit when our national and political discourse is united toward Iraq on the decisive issues such as federalism, Kirkuk and disputed areas, Kurdistan Region’s wealth, and relations with the Iraqi federal government. This does not mean that we don’t have a variety of opinions, but we must have a united attitude toward those issues.

Why do some parties oppose the Kurdistan Region Constitution project?

Those who stand against the Constitution are two groups: some from inside and some from outside the region. The parties inside the region did not honestly explain why they oppose the Constitution. I can frankly uncover most of them; those who work inside a known list that already announced its rivalry against us stood against the Constitution because of the role of religion. They interpreted their opposition through another issue--the authority of the region’s president has been increased. Meanwhile, this excuse is baseless; authorities of the president in the Constitution are the same as those in the presidential law that was approved by Parliament. Those people who oppose now were present at discussing every item of that law and they never showed any disagreement. What they say now is just electoral campaigning.

Internal objections are on some specific items. In Kurdistan, with its religious and ethnic multiplicity, the Constitution cannot achieve the total interests of every side. All of them, however, must compromise a part of its interests.

But for those outside, they never want Kurdistan Region to have a Constitution at all. These people governed Iraq during the former system; not only do they oppose the region’s Constitution, but they also oppose the federalism and oppose the region’s having own its parliament and government.

The Constitution project was passed in one day. This makes the process suspicious.

The Constitution project has been published online since 2007. A committee was formed to review it. The committee received nearly 17,000 notes and, accordingly, the Constitution project was amended several times. Also, we have consulted with several international experts to help us draft a Constitution appropriate with the current situation of Kurdistan and in accordance with the Iraqi Constitution. Parliament voted to make it a project ready for referendum.

How do you feel the campaigns played out?

The campaigns went two ways. One way was like ours in the Kurdistani List. We tried to have civilized campaigns in order to not cause disorder or annoy people. But some campaigns by some lists were old style, as they gathered annoying crowds and disturbed people until late at night. For this campaign, we tried to expose our agenda via media more than advertising. All in all, the campaign process progressed well, with the exception of some disorder in Suleimaniya. It was more peaceful in Erbil and Duhok. The tense campaigns in Suleimaniya might be because of the latest competitions within the fractured PUK fracture.

What’s your comment on the housing problem in Kurdistan Region?

We have plans to build apartments and distribute land for youths. This issue is discussed in detail in our agenda in order to solve it completely.

Kurdish youth immigrants are now being deported from Europe. How do you deal with this issue?

We as the KDP and as the KRG have announced that we are against deporting people from Europe to Kurdistan. The situation here is not yet quite suitable for them to be returned. But indeed, we cannot impose our opinion on European countries. We are against the deportation and attempted to stop it, but we couldn’t succeed. When they are returned, they should be helped in terms of employment and housing.

Many education projects have been and are being carried out, but still there are 50 to 60 students in some classrooms.

We have plans to build a range of schools and also to encourage investors and donators to build schools in order to reduce the school crises.

The Peshmarga forces should turn under the command of the government.

We continue our attempt to change the party authority to governmental authority.

More importantly, concerning Article 140 and the Kirkuk issue--Kurds could not create pressures to settle it on time.

There were pressures from the Kurdish side and sometimes it reached a stage to where we threatened a boycott of the Iraqi government because of Article 140. But this issue is not a problem of Iraq and Kurdistan alone; it is being taken into consideration by the United States, Arab countries, and neighboring countries as well. Therefore, the issue is much more complicated. The problem can be solved only through constitutional and diplomatic means, and we will increase our efforts in this stream.

What are your expectations for the elections?

We should not tell our expectations; but in any case, we will win a rate of votes that will be sufficient to form the government comfortably.

Are you the next Parliament speaker?

This is to be answered after the elections. There were rumors who will become the speaker and who is the prime minister and we [the KDP and PUK] have been accused that we have already distributed the posts. Therefore, we have decided not to talk about posts.

Why is it better for the people of Kurdistan to vote for the Kurdistani List and for its presidential candidate?

This list can protect security and confront all problems created for the region. It has experience in administration and has noticeable political influence in the level of Iraq and also regionally. The Kurdistani List is more competent than any other list. Voting for the Kurdistani List is voting for more reconstruction, reform, security, and for the welfare of Kurdistan’s people.

Voting for the Kurdistani List presidential candidate Massoud Barzani guarantees Kurdistan people confidence, for he can confront conspiracies set against our legitimate issues and against Kurdistan Region. The strength of the KRG comes from a strong president who is recognizable in the international medium and who has played a key role in the Iraqi political process.

The Kurdish Globe

“No compromise” over Kirkuk

Massoud Barzani declares “unity” of Kurdistan’s people a priority

By Ako Muhammed

Barzani announces his presidential election agenda; considers Kurdistan’s Constitution more important than being president

Kurdistan Region’s current president and presidential candidate Massoud Barzani announced the priorities of his electoral agenda and his political attitude on crucial issues in Kurdistan in an election rally in Suleimaniya on Sunday.

“We exert our absolute efforts to carry out Article 140 of the federal Constitution. We promise to Kurdistan people that we will not compromise on this article or on any other rights of our people,” said Barzani, remarking on his policy on incorporating the disputed areas, including Kirkuk and other places, into Kurdistan Region. The Kurds’ demands and achievements are much less than their sacrifices, he added.

The unity of the Kurdistan people was another priority declared by Barzani, one of several candidates in the Kurdistan Region presidential election to be held along with the region parliamentary election on July 25. Four other candidates are competing to win the highest post in the region besides Barzani, who is the only candidate for both governing Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), under his leadership, and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The two parties are allied in one list, the Kurdistani List, for parliamentary elections.

“The strategic agreement between the KDP and PUK is an essential agreement that aims to protect the high interests of Kurdistan and to guarantee an enlightened future for our people,” said Barzani, who also assured that he would “never allow another civil war among Kurds.”

Barzani’s agenda also included “defending democratic principles, guaranteeing individual freedom and rights, political and religious rights of people in Kurdistan, adopting the culture of tolerance, accepting each other as well as protecting the freedom of press.”

“Our claims are not extremist or racist. None of our claims is outside the federal Constitution that 80 to 85% of Iraqi people have voted for,” said Barzani, blaming some officials in the Baghdad government for boosting and suspending the issues of disputed areas, Kurdistan Peshmarga, and oil as a result of “their denial of the Constitution.”

On the Erbil-Baghdad disputes over oil, Barzani confirmed that Iraqi oil is for all Iraqi people. Now 100,000 barrels of oil per day is produced in Kurdistan Region, and the revenues go to the Iraqi people; the Region’s share, however, is kept.

Barzani noted that he is against the nature of the governing system of Baghdad, which is now the equivalent of a "monopolizing authority."

“The same as oil, the Iraqi army is a wealth for all of Iraq. We are very worried that a person alone in Baghdad rebuilds the army, neglecting entire agreements,” pointing to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Barzani noted that Kurds should also have a role and share in building the new army units. “We, with the other parties, took part in bringing down the former regime; now, ostensibly, we are a part of the [federal] authority.”

Barzani criticized the staffing of the newly built Iraqi army’s 14 to 15 divisions with commanders appointed according to decrees issued by a single person. Appointing commanders must be approved by Parliament and the Republic’s President, as is stated in the Constitution. “…The balance of military formation must be taken into account. We in Kurdistan have the right to be sure that the army, once again, is not educated to destroy Kurdistan and torture the Iraqi people.”

The Kurdistan Region President warned that the Kurds “will not leave the governing in Baghdad for some other people.” He noted, “Our struggle seeks our rights and democracy for Iraq….Our struggle is based on the Constitution through which we try to settle all problems.”

On the controversial Kurdistan Region Constitution, which was recently passed by Kurdistan Region’s Parliament, Barzani assured that “the existence of a Constitution for the Region is more important than the existence of a president for the Region.” He was addressing voices inside the Region antagonist to the Constitution project because of so much authority allowed to the President.

“The Region authority in the Constitution is stated according to law. If there are still some articles in the Constitution that are not in the interests of Kurdistan and the people of Kurdistan, then I call on Parliament to remove them,” stated Barzani. He noted that the final decision is for the people of Kurdistan Region to approve the draft as the Constitution or not.

Meanwhile, the President described those outside the Region who oppose the Constitution as “chauvinists.” “The chauvinists are against the [Kurdistan] Constitution and against the existence of Kurds and Kurdistan. Therefore, we say to them that we will never consult with them and their attitude has no worth to the people of Kurdistan.”

The Kurdish Globe

Friday, July 17, 2009

Leader urges Kurdish Parliament to decide for returning disputed Areas

The following interview by “The Kurdish Globe” is with Ghafour Makhmouri, leader of the National Democratic Union of Kurdistan. Campaigning for his list, No. 51, he speaks about violations against his list and notes that his campaign posters have been ripped down.

By Ako Muhammed and Qassim Khidir

Why did you decide to take part in election alone, in a private list?

We want to know how many supporters we have. And we want to weigh how happy our people are with the work we have done.

What are your list’s priorities?

We want to separate political parties’ influences from the government. We want the government to be the government of all the people in the region; for this, we suggest technocrat ministers run the government. We will fight corruption by asking for the establishment of a transparent agency. We think business movement in the region is monopolized by the major parties, and we will work toward removing those parties’ takeover of businesses. We want all the disputed areas included within Article 140 [of the Iraqi Constitution] to be returned to the region. We will work for a better life for all the retirees, women and youths. Another priority is to solve the housing problem.

What can be done to separate party influence over the government?

The government should work according to the law, and it should be run by technocrat people. But now, everything goes according to the mood of individuals--we have to change the current mentality of the administration.

Entire markets are monopolized by the parties and their companies. All the [foreign] companies that come to Kurdistan are partners of those parties. Therefore, we have a plan to improve and activate the private sectors to fall in line with the interests of the people and to create more job opportunities for young people. Now, however, you see that the two parties have lists of their own supporters to employ while the son of a poor man cannot be employed.

You list the housing problem as a priority. Can you please explain more?

During the past years in Parliament, we worked on this. Parliament issued a law for building apartments and allowing housing loans to people. But the loans included only those people who own 200 square meters of land. We want to work to solve the housing problem by giving loans with long-term payback as an option so that everybody can benefit. Rents also are very expensive. A law must be issued to legally decrease house rents.

Kurdistan people, who are mostly Muslims, don’t accept loans with interest; therefore, this program has failed.

as I was in the Parliament, we tried to stop putting interest on the loans and alternatively to demand taxes from those who get housing loans in order to escape the loan interests, which is haram [forbidden] in Islam. This issue must be discussed again.

Now all call for reformations; why they didn’t reform while some of them were part of this administration?

This time it will be different as we will witness opposition in Parliament. A real opposition is a necessity of the Kurdistan Region political process—it is going to be born. In the previous elections, most of the parties ran as one alliance list. Several parties were part of the administration, but their participation was something cartoonish as the real decision-makers were only the two parties. Having an active opposition will guarantee the region’s political process, democracy and civil society.

When you arrive in Parliament, will you become an opposition?

This is something we have to decide later. Whether we take part in the government or not, we will have our say.

Up until now, how has the electoral campaign been run?

The election campaign is not healthy. We see there is a fear of democracy—they tear up the posters. Lately, I have been in Soran, Semel, Shaqlawa, Choman, and even Erbil as well as some other places, and all of our posters have been torn down. This is uncivilized.

The two parties—the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan—have many TV channels on which to advertise their electoral campaigns. They don’t let other small parties advertise, and we are able only to campaign with posters.

You accuse the two parties of tearing down your posters?

Of course, security and everything is under their control. Their security elements are guards and responsible for protection. The municipality is also acting immoral. They exploit government influence, government cars and people. The other day I was home and some municipality employees knocked at the door. They asked me to remove the posters of my list I had hanging on the wall of my house.

Have you recorded any complaints about that to the electoral commission?

No. To whom should we complain? They (the parties) control everything.

Does tearing your posters down affect your supporters.

Certainly, but in a positive way. The one who does the tearing defames himself and becomes ugly to the people. The lists whose posters are torn down become more beautiful and earn more supporters.

Which candidate do you support in the Kurdistan Region presidential election?

We haven’t decided yet. We will study the programs of each candidate to see whose agenda most closely matches our own. Then, we will ask our supporters.

Aside from the election, you and your newspaper “Mydia” have exerted much effort to address the issue of Arabization and the disputed areas. But your efforts are past efforts; do you thing Arabization still exists?

The Arabization continues. It is Arabization when they [the Iraqi government] oppose the implementation of Article 140. There are attempts to bring more Iraqi army into those areas. And the final decisions to be issued concerning those places rest with Baghdad.

After 2003, we had a plan to remove traces of Arabization in the Kurdistan parts currently outside KRG, like in Makhmur. We can say that Arabization is 90% removed there. But in Kirkuk, because of the struggle between the two political parties, nothing significant has been done. The blame is on the Kurdistan leadership for they were very smooth and, instead of working on returning those areas to the region, they cared for the interest of Arabs, Iraq and its unity. The Kurdish leaders were acting in accordance with their mood without returning to the other parties or even to the people.

What can be done now?

Many things can be done; at least Parliament should issue a decree demanding the return of the disputed areas.

Such an attitude worsens Erbil-Baghdad relations, it is said.

That is absurd. The more the Kurds show themselves to be weak, the less they achieve. They must cause trouble for Baghdad so as to be respected.

What do you think about relations with Turkey and the PKK issue?

The PKK are on the defense front and they are freedom fighters in northern Kurdistan (Turkey Kurdish areas). We see Turkey as an international terrorist actor, as it denies Kurds. It is Turkey that bombards our helpless border villagers. It is Turkey that has refused truces declared by the PKK several times.

Again, this worsens relations with Turkey, they say.

Again, that is an absurd thing to say. If I could not defend my brother, why should I defend my brother’s enemy? Furthermore, the Turkish military bases in Kurdistan Region must be taken out.

The Kurdish Globe

Kurdistan Islamic groups exceed ideology to satisfy people

Hadi Ali, politburo secretary of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), hopes for their list of Services and Reform (No. 59) to place second in the elections. His hope springs from his party’s alliance with each the Islamic Group in Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party, and the Aynda (Future) Party.

By Ako Muhammed

Your list says you will win 30 to 40 seats. Where this expectation comes from?

Who says this? I don’t say so. Expecting a number [of seats] is not important. For now, we are 4 parties and have 18 seats in Parliament. Therefore, we have the right if we expect for more seats.

The KIU has had popularity in Kurdistan as it adopted a religious program. Now you are allied with seculars. How much will this lessen your votes?

Absolutely our votes not only will not decrease, but the opposite is true: Our votes will increase. We are an Islamic party; but since our declaration in the early 1990s, we have introduced ourselves as reformist, political, pro-democratic, and pro-civil [activities}, and all our works are circled within these frames. It is normal; we respect the plurality—with all its colors—of Kurdistan. We always had cooperation with them in the decisive and crucial issues such as the civil war and the challenges Kurdistan Region faced from outside. Now, it is very normal for us to gather for the sake of the high interests of Kurdistan’s people with those parties despite the ideological differences. The common point is embodied in the electoral program we agreed upon; this program is the demand of people and we all are part of it. Our gathering with those powers—we can say—is an enlightening sign for Kurdistan’s political and democratic process. It explains that the Kurdistan parties can exceed their ideology to ally on the people’s high general interests.

Thus, you exceed Islamic ideology for the sake of public interests?

Don’t call it Islamic; Islamic issue is something else. I say that we could go beyond our thinking and ideological background for the sake of the high, general, and common interests between Kurdistan Region and Kurdistan people.

Why is reform an electoral campaign priority?

Reform has been our main slogan since the KIU was declared. And now, we think that the Kurdistan Regional Government and Parliament are in need of essential and general reforms.

What political and economic reforms can you make?

For example, this Parliament is not active; opposition with its real meaning does not exist in Kurdistan. Parties’ influences within the government are many, and it must be removed. Security and Peshmarga forces still belong to parties while they should fall under the command of the government. People’s incomes and services to them should be improved. Corruption within the governmental establishments must be confronted and treated.

You were a part of the current administration and also a part of the opposition. Which one will you be the next time?

We think that the democratic process in Kurdistan hasn’t yet fallen in line with what is called real democracy and its true meaning as we see in developed countries. One of the reasons is the lack of real opposition in Parliament; this does not exist yet due to some reason, subjective or objective. If it [real opposition] was something not allowed or there was no opportunity, now is the time to exceed that stage. Existence of a real opposition is a necessity for the political system, necessary for government and necessary for people.

So you will remain the opposition in Parliament?

We have to wait for the election’s outcome. Then we can decide whether to stay in Parliament, or perhaps we win the majority and form the government, or to form the government with another party but not like pervious one.

As there is no real democracy, the elections will not be democratic too.

Of course, we have fears from the ruling parties that have all the capabilities—that is of government and people—they use it not only for their interests but also against the other lists. They may go for forgery or other ways to influence in decreasing other lists’ voting rates.

Is this only fear or are there facts as well?

All the posters of other lists from Zakho to Erbil have been torn down and removed. A very simple example: The Newroz TV, which supposedly belongs to the government and is independent, has a program with an organization to interview representatives of lists each day. The other day, when it was time to interview the Services and Reform List, the local broadcast of the TV was stopped totally during the whole night. This was to prevent the Reform and Services List’s show from being watched by anyone. They don’t feel ashamed in front of the people. What if they find underground chances, they don’t exploit it?

Why this fear of your list?

Because we own offices all over Kurdistan, we have people, and we are four parties. Certainly, they are afraid we might win large votes. They try the most to decrease our votes. It doesn’t matter for us what they say in the campaign within the regular principles. They have rights and so do we. But they resort to illegal actions.

In Duhok, your campaign is weak.

In all Badinan area [Duhok province], only the KIU exists after the KDP. We have distributed the area between us—laughing—there is no other power. Opportunities there are few for campaigning. They tear down posters; our TV in Zakho is closed and they don’t allow us to reopen it.

Why is the TV closed? Because of elections or some other reason?

They say it has no license. But the Ministry of Culture agrees with the TV’s license. The law allows parties to have media channels; but, the Asaish (security forces) is not allowing this. This affects our votes and they frighten people with such acts.

If the Goran List was not in this election, the people unsatisfied with the major parties would have voted for you. Does this list affect your votes?

This is true; if there was not Goran, we would obtain more of those votes. Some of those votes will go to Goran, but this happens in Suleimaniya--and it is different in other places.

Who is second, you or Goran?

After the two parties [Kurdistan List], we are the second--and better we be the second.

Why did you vote for the [Kurdistan Region] Constitution?

Through our members in Parliament and in the committee for drafting the Constitution, we were intently aware about the Constitution over the last two or three years. We had some notes on it; our notes have been answered while a few of them remained. Normally, the Constitution would not win full agreement by every side. It is a political and social treaty among the components of a community; it must win the minimum of every side’s agreement but not win the maximum agreement.

It is true there is hastening in passing the Constitution now; indeed, it has been delayed. We call for not dragging the Constitution issue into the parties’ political struggle, but for it to be considered a national issue.

You are a reformist party. But is it going to become like the other parties as Salahaddin Bahaddin is the leader of this party since 1994? have you thought of changing leaders?

We hold conference every four years. Such issues are openly are discussed in the conference. For the leader to stay or to be changed is decided in the conference. We have no problem about that.

What about splits and blocs? Do you have them inside your party?

I think we are far removed from those things. But existence of a difference in opinion is normal and necessary for strengthening the party. Rumors about blocs [inside KIU] are only rumors.

The Kurdish Globe

Leftists question Kurdistan capitalism

Freedom and Social Justice touts market control and amendment of region’s investment law

Dr. Hadi Mahmoud, spokesman for the Freedom and Social Justice List No. 55, explains why five leftist parties have united to ensure their existence in the decision-making medium.

By Ako Muhammed

Why have the Kurdistan Leftist parties united?

Kurdish leftist parties have united on common grounds to prepare for the Kurdistan elections so as to fulfill a considered program. We want to find a way into the decision-making medium and effectively act there. Another reason is that we want to be able to create street/public activity--a form of leftist struggle that is democratic, civil, and peaceful.

This unification indicates that leftism is still alive in Kurdistan. It is alive because of an objective necessity through the program that leftists adopt. The left carries a project for social reforms, including developing society, expanding democracy’s dimensions, expanding secularism, and spreading civil ideas in both political and social lives.

These goals are claimed by every list; what do you as leftists specifically claim?

You cannot say they are goals of every list if you discuss them precisely. Not all the lists talk about secularism as we do clearly. When we talk about social reforms, we have our own ideas for this reform. We discuss social reform objectively. As leftists in Kurdistan, we have a duty more different than a leftist’s duty in Europe due to particular conditions that exist in Kurdistan. There is a certain political situation; Kurdistan is located inside Iraq—the rebuilding of the Iraqi State is not finished yet, and there is foreign interference in the internal affairs of Iraq by countries such as the United States and others. What happened in Iraq was because of foreign reasons. It is true that removing the dictator was a necessity, but the main reason was foreign. These facts must be taken into consideration while you demand independence, individual freedom, and democracy. The leftist discourse works to give a role to the subjective reason that is embodied in society. Others talk about democracy, but we demand social democracy.

What do you mean by social democracy?

Social democracy is reflected in economic and social policies; it affects the construction of infrastructure. Leftists are not content with the economic policy of the KRG and Iraq, which all are built dependent on the rationality of the new liberalism. It was the new liberalism that caused the economic crises for the capitalist system in the United States. We now cannot call for establishing a socialist system—it is now impossible to establish. But we want a capitalist system to be in way the government’s role to be restricted only in administration and to allow people a role to watching. We require the economic policy to be clear and progressive according to mechanisms; a healthy system cannot be achieved via slogans. The government should control the market and the region’s investment law must be amended.

What are your notes on investment law?

We didn’t vote for that law in Parliament for several reasons. All the doors are open for foreign investment while the law does not help native capitalists. Privileges given to a foreign investor are not allowed to a national investor. The foreign investors who come are exempted from taxes. Some contracts lack transparency. Development must fall in the social interest. Investment now, however, is the new liberal style that opens all the doors for investment without any control. This policy must be redirected.

Kurdistan is not in need of entertaining services, but it needs factory services more than any other types. Our economy shouldn’t depend only on oil income; this policy has a short-term perspective even if it creates an intermediate development. In our social and economic view, you shouldn’t employ a large number of people as police and give them a salary. Therefore, you should create real work opportunities.

For the differences in incomes, what plan do you apply?

For example, we ask that 30% of salaries dedicated for ministers and Parliament members be cut off and dedicated for construction projects. Also, we think that 10% of Kurdistan Region’s budget should be saved for future generations.

Income differences don’t exist strictly in one salary system. The capitalism here has divided people into very rich and poor layers. How would you deal with this?

This difference comes from mixing wealth and policy. The one who has the political decision is controlling the market as well. This is clear and it is known who owns the big companies. This is how corruption appears, especially as there is no oversight. Income differences can be limited through several ways. Party affairs must be separated from government affairs. An oversight agency needs to be established. Governmental employees’ lives need to be improved. Media should be able to reveal transparency. People should be asked about the projects that affect their lives.

When a private hospital is opened, it will be useless for a poor person who cannot afford for it. Therefore, the government must act responsibly to raise the quality of public hospitals.

To avoid political party influence, what type of oversight system is needed in the region?

Several oversight methods can be established. The government can institute its own oversight establishments. A council that also belongs to the authority can be a watchdog. Administration courts can question government affairs. But we more need more oversight ability outside the expectative authority. A transparency commission is more practical, although such a commission is possible to be influenced politically.

What do you think about the disputed areas and Article 140?

We have mentioned this in our program. The disputed areas are not an issue on which we will compromise. This does not mean we have acted sufficiently toward this issue. We could have acted in another way. We could have worked to win public opinion on this issue. The political parties, especially the KDP and PUK, were committing conflicts for party interests in Kirkuk and in other disputed areas. This caused us damages.

How do you see the campaign and what are your expectations?

Although there are violations or tearing of posters and these must be dealt with by the Electoral Commission. In general we see the campaign is processing in the normal direction. Some lists are using loud tones, but we leftists don’t use a sensational manner. We adopt a rational discourse depending on the programs. Sensation is the easiest manner in such a society. We don’t erase totally what the opposite side has done.

What are your expectations?

If you notice the lists’ expectations, Parliament seats should be raised to 200 or 300 seats. We are not such a power wishing to govern, but we want to exist in the decision-making medium. The Red Flowers will be in Parliament as big as the size of existence in the community. We have an expectation, and it has increased since the launch of the campaign; we now hope for a bigger number.

The Kurdish Globe

Suleimaniya in turmoil

President Barzani promises control as electoral campaigns turn violent

By Ako Muhammed

The Kurdistani List of the two Kurdish governing parties accused Goran (Change) List of causing chaos in Suleimaniya, while the Goran List accused a regional minister of assault, as the parliamentary and presidential elections near in Kurdistan Region.

Electoral campaigns in Suleimaniya continue more noticeably than any other part of the Region, as supporters carry colorful banners and slogans in demonstrations and patrol in cars exhibiting their loyalty to competing lists. The unrest is a result of activities most noticeably by the Change List, led by Nawshirwan Mustafa, once a top leader of President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), and also the Kurdistani List, which comprises the two governing parties--the PUK, and Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

“As long as I am alive, I will never allow Kurdish blood to be shed by Kurds again,” said Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani on Thursday, promising that the experience of civil war will not happen again in Kurdistan. Addressing the disorder in Suleimaniya, he stated, “We shouldn’t once again make our enemies happy and have them laugh at us.”

Competitions between the two competing lists led to some minor violations in the province. Officials fear that tensions between the two lists may rise further, and are calling for calm. Tensions began July 11 when supporters of Goran gathered in front of a Kurdistan List office in Suleimaniya’s Tui-Malik neighborhood. The crowd threw stones at the office and shouted insults, reported PUK sources; the crowd was beaten, reported Goran sources. The scenario was repeated a few nights later, and top officials were reportedly involved.

“Declarations saying that supporters of the Kurdistani List were part of the disorder of the last few nights at the Tui-Malik Street [in Suleimaniya] are only made-up accusations. We can prove that the Change List caused the disorder,” announced Sozan Shahab, spokeswoman for the Kurdistan List during a press conference on Tuesday in Suleimaniya.

“Gathering teenagers and pushing them to attack Kurdistani List offices by the Goran List is an issue not worth commenting about,” said Shahab, who distributed video CDs at the press conference. The video shows people carrying Goran List posters and driving fast; some of them are shown carrying a knife, pistol, and wooden stick. Injured people are also shown saying that they were hit by Goran supporters. “I hope the electoral campaigns are not thrown into chaos and civil conflict and that they don’t remind us of bitter past memories,” said Shahab, calling for a peaceful campaign to the end.

During the period between June 25 and July 13, nearly 37 people visited Suleimaniya Emergency Hospital as they were wounded in the electoral campaigns, reported Suleimaniya-based weely “Awene” in its Tuesday issue. The paper also reported that on June 11 at night, Gen. Sarkawt Hassan, former chief of Suleimaniya’s security agency, physically attacked a number of police personnel in charge of demonstrations in the city. Also, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Minister of Peshmarga affairs Jafar Sheikh Mustafa assaulted some other police a night later.

The accusations were declined by the two PUK officials. Gen. Hassan denied the accusations in a statement, and suggested that the people of Tui-Malik judge for themselves who is causing disorder.

“I visited Tui-Malik and saw Goran List supporters insult people….They even came to my car; one of them had a big spanner in hand and loudly said “We are from Goran List,” said Minister Sheikh Mustafa in explaining the story in a statement published on the PUK’s official website. He added that he was about to be hit with spanner and therefore, “I took the spanner from him and I have it now with me.”

The Minister added, “There was civil activity by policemen, but they were unable to control the situation as it was necessary. I ordered the police to do their duty and to scatter the crowd. But I did not a police officer. Maybe I became angry but didn’t beat anybody.” He noted that he was ready to testify if he was summoned by the court to do so.

Shiekh Mustafa’s statement came in reply to Shaho Saeed, spokesman of the Goran List, who accused the Minister and his guards of assaulting his list’s supporters during a peaceful demonstration.

The police officers rejected the Minister’s orders to beat demonstrators, said Saeed, and the Minister then ordered the arrest of one of the officers, who was released after a few hours.

The Goran List and a number of beaten people filed complaints with the KRG president, demanding “an investigation” of the Minister, said Saeed.

The Kurdish Globe