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

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