Nawshirwan Mustafa: “The political language that this lot have used on this occasion indeed betrays regressive political thinking"

  • 04/02/2011 00:00:00

Nawshirwan Mustafa: "The political language that this lot have used on this occasion indeed betrays regressive political thinking"

On 29th January 2011, Gorran Movement, which headed by Mr. Nawshirwan Mistefa, issued a statement calling for the dissolution of Kurdistan Regional Parliament and called for new elections. Their statement, which contained 6 radical demands, steered strong reactions from the two ruling parties in Kurdistan, Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which is headed by President Jalal Talabani, and Kurdistan Democratic Party, headed by Mr. Massoud Barzani, president of the region of Kurdistan. The initial reaction included strong condemnations, putting Kurdistan Peshmerga on full alert, deployment of tanks (by PUK) in Sulaimaniah, numerous high level meetings and frenzied press conferences.

To explain the rationale behind their decision to issue the statement, Mr. Mistafa was interviewed by the anchor, Mr. Hoshyar Saeed, on KNN, Gorran’s own satellite TV channel on 30th January.

KNN: How do you assess their reaction? What is your position on their reaction?

NM: I am bewildered that two political parties, who consider themselves to have a great political heritage and claim that they have substantial experience in opposition, in resistance and in being in government, to resort to such language in political debate. I believe that the political language of any political organisation reflects their way of thinking. The political language that this lot have used on this occasion indeed betrays regressive political thinking. The adjectives that they have used, such as trouble-makers, quarrel-mongers, coup-mongers and the like, fall into the category of political swearwords and slander, not political debate. It is regrettable that they have responded in such way to our statement. We thought that they would sit-down and study it and come up with their own alternatives scenario, an even better and more thoughtful one than ours, to enrich the debate. Especially, since they have the power and control of the government. We didn’t expect them to respond in this manner.

KNN: You spoke about language. There are some who would say that the political language of your movement, or your media organisations, is a harsh one?

NM: Yes. They describe us as such. No doubt those in power are, probably some of our friends too. But let us take a stock of the situation. What avenue has been left for us within which we could work. They have controlled the legislative authority, which consists of the Parliament, by manipulating the majority-minority rules and use it as they wish, calling it when they want and dismissing it when they wish to do so. They pass whatever legislation they want. In short they have monopolised the legislative authority. When it comes to the executive authority, which consists of the Council of Ministers (cabinet), we accept that it comprises ministers from the two ruling parties and some other parties who participate in the government with them. But below the cabinet posts they have left no room for our participation whatsoever. As citizen of this country, we believe it is our right to partake, and not to be excluded from, posts such as technocrat assistants of Ministers, director generals, head of schools, heads of districts and municipalities, council’s executives and police commissioners.. Etc. We are not asking for a quota in these posts, but we expect to have some of our supporters in these positions, according to their qualifications and abilities. But the ruling parties exclude anyone who is not supporter of one of these two parties and be submissive to their whims. They have dismissed from their posts anyone they believe to be a Gorran activist or even a distant supporter of our movement. For example, the case of the four head of the schools (in Sulaimanieh) who have been dismissed. They are prevented from even attending the school and hand over their responsibilities unless they obtain instructions from the Centre (PUK’s local leadership). In other word, they have blocked our way and prevented us from taking part in serving our people through any executive role. They have adopted similar practices in the judiciary as well and have politicised it. They drag anyone they dislike or have a grudge with to the courts and instruct the courts to punish them. Unfortunately for the Kurds, we have two more executive authorities exercising their powers in Kurdistan; first the authority of the armed forces and second the influence of the partisan media apparatus. The armed forces consists of the Peshmerga (the militia), Asayish (Security Services), Zanyary (PUK’s Intelligence Services) and Parastin (KDP’s Intelligence Services). All of these forces are under their total control. They do not allow us to join these forces in any capacity. As for the media apparatus, they control hundreds of satellite and terrestrial TV channels, radio stations, newspapers and news magazines. We have only one TV channel, one radio station, one weekly and one website. This is in comparison to their in excess of 400 various media organisations. That is how they have deprived us from all avenues, whether it is executive rules, judiciary or others. The only venue that is left for us is to speak out. If we don’t do that either, then what should we do?

KNN: Don’t you expect that your statement would precipitate violence?

NM: From the outset we decided that our movement would be a peaceable one, a peaceful one and a democratic one. We want it to be a movement that relies on Civil Rights Struggle. We reject all kinds of violence. We also consider ourselves active participant in the construction and building of the institutions that exist in Kurdistan, even the buildings, the roads and the streets. Therefore, we do not want to see something that we and our people have been building for the last 20 years to be ruined and destroyed in a matter of days. We certainly do not condole violence, nor do we like it. We have not asked anyone to commit any violence act either. Nor we have any apparatus in our disposal that we could use to conduct violence. We have no armed forces. We are a political movement that enjoys the support of unarmed civilians. We have no military or terrorist organisations that we could use in this fashion. It is the other parties that have such organisation and they can use it to exercise political, ideological and social terrorism.

KNN: It was argued that, in terms of your relationship with the other political parties, that some sort of accord to be maintained, at least in Baghdad (Iraqi Parliament). But that accord was diverged very quickly. What is your opinion on that?

NM: Our understanding of the Kurdish Unity, or a better term would be Kurdish National Security, differs from theirs. They have based their understanding on the existence of enemies, even occasionally ficticious ones. We believe that Kurdish Unity, Kurdish National Security, the security of the Kurdish nation stems from the Kurdish society in Iraq. If we can achieve social peace amongst ourselves by eradicating social injustice, by reducing the gap between the classes, by promoting social equity so all sections of the society believe that they have a stake in the wealth and the affluence of the country. If we can arrive at a common understanding on who is the enemy, who is the friend and who is the foe. If we can have a common understanding between the political parties about the strategic goals of our struggle. If we can identify the strategic framework of the movement of Iraqi Kurdistan and the policies we apply in Iraqi Kurdistan, both internally and externally, and the issue of the freedom of expression, all of these important issues that touch upon the lives of the people now and of the future generations. That is how we can construct unity. In that situation we can be united even in the face of outsiders. We can be united in Baghdad, Washington, London, Tehran and Damascus too. But if they want to use the excuses of fictitious enemies and misleading slogans in order to aggrieve us, to oppress us. Or if they want to neglect the social peace on the one hand, and another to disregard the rights for political freedom, or the other to marginalise other political parties and dismiss their opinions, then demand that we should preserve national unity. We believe that unity cannot be achieved in that way. Unity would be achieved starting from within Iraqi Kurdistan.

KNN: How do you describe the relations between your movement and PUK and KDP?

NM: One of the wholemarks of the crisis that afflicts Kurdistan, at least one of the currents that confluence into the crisis is the unhealthy relationship that exists between us and the other parties. These parties are used to the idea that people submit to them and always say “Yes, sir”. They are not used to be criticised. That is why, since we have emerged and our fractions (in both Parliaments) have started their activities, they have regarded us as their enemy when we really are not their enemy. Since the outset we believed that we should have healthy relationship with the parties. It is true that they are ruling in the government and we are the opposition and outside the government. But we could have reached on agreements on many fundamental issues that affect the livelihood of the people as well as the strategic issues that influence our people’s future. The unhealthy relationship that exists between Gorran Movement and KDP-PUK is one of the contributing factors that exacerbates the political crisis in Kurdistan region.

KNN: Do you consider your movement to be aggrieved, especially when it comes to the issue of the budget and other matters?

NM: I don’t want to talk about grievances or things like that. It is not just the issue of the budget. Until now the cases of the Political- Punishment and the victims of these practices remain unresolved. There is still political terrorism exercised here. If they suspect that any civil servant is an activist of ours or has sympathies for us, he (or she) is subjected to malpractices such as transferring him to remote locations, intimidating him or even exacting undue punishment on him. There is an array of similar issues prevail. Due to the “Strategic Accord” that exists between the two parties, each one being cautious not to anger the other, therefore both parties have refrained from establishing normal relationships with us, with the exception of the Parliamentarians. Even when one of them secretly establishes a contacts with us, it is to threaten the other party with it. Just like that time when PUK sought closeness with us only to use it as a pressure to secure another cabinet post in Baghdad (Iraqi Government) with it and they succeeded.

KNN: How do you describe your relationship with the other opposition parties in Kurdistan?

NM: Our relationships with them are normal. Of course there will always be differences of opinions, because they have their own political ideology and have adopted their own objectives. We respect their objectives and their ideology. But we cooperate on many significant issues in Iraqi Kurdistan. I would like to mention that the two ruling parties have not stopped at refraining from establishing relationships with us, they also exert considerable pressure on the other parties as well in an attempt to isolate and marginalise us. Very often they put pressure on the other parties to distance themselves from us. But I am happy to say that they have not been able to create fissures between us and the parties that we work with in the Parliament.

KNN: How do you rate your popular base vis a vie PUK and KDP?

NM: We believe that the balance is tilting towards us day by day as we grow stronger.

KNN: They describe you as an antagonistic opposition that sees black as white and white as black. They say, for example, that you reject every proposed-legislation that comes to the Parliament and vote against it?

NM: This is another accusation that is levelled at us that in reality has no basis. In Kurdistan Parliament, we are the minority group. They have the majority. As I mentioned earlier on, they have monopolised the Parliament in one way or the other. I would like to the mention here that in the past months they have called the Parliament for meeting whenever they wanted and presented their bills and sat the agenda. The bills can be categorised into several categories. One category is the kind of legislations that are related to the issues that concern the daily lives of people such as taxes, wages, agriculture and industry, housing rent, sex trade and so on. Of course we don’t have much problem with these legislations, even when we have different views on some aspects of it, once they are passed by the majority, then they become the laws of our land and we respect it. But there are some laws that impinge on three principal criteria that we’ve set for ourselves, and if they clash with any one of it then we no doubt object to those legislations. One of the criteria is the National Doctrine. We believe that there are laws that affect the political regime of this country, that impinge on the future of this country, that affect the future generations of this country, that are pertinent to core believes of the political parties. On these legislations we believe that we have to arrive at a National political consensus. If there is no political consensus we would never agree to it. Even if they attempt to force it on us this year by way of majority rule, then it will be repealed few years later when another group (of Parliamentarians) come to the fro. We don’t agree with the notion that we should pass a constitution only to be repealed few years later by another group of MPs who come in the wake of the collapse of the popularity these two parties. We believe that we should pass a constitution that would not need amendments for a decade. Some of the laws fall into this category, the Political Regime category. In other words, I mean the category of National Doctrine. For example elections laws, laws of demonstrations, Security Council and many more. These are part of the political system and there should be political consensus about it. The second criteria, since we are part of the international community, we always fought and struggled for Human Rights. Many times in our history we sought support of international bodies to defend the Human Rights of Kurds. Our Regional Government, which is part of the government of Iraq, as well as in its own right, is committed to many international agreements concerning human rights and the protection of these rights. Therefore, one of our criteria, which is an internationalist criteria, is the Human Rights Doctrine. We cannot oppose something that is universally granted, such as the right to demonstrate, which is considered a fundamental human right. This is part of human right and we cannot agree to ban it. The third of our criteria, and I would like to state it from this podium to all of the people of Kurdistan, is the Religion Doctrine. Any legislation that is not compatible with religion doctrine, which is Islam religion, I assure you that we will not agree to it and we will endeavour to block it because we consider (Islam) to be sacred.

KNN: The last bill that you opposed was about Asayish (Kurdistan Security Services) which is very much talked about. You also made it the first demand in the statement that you issued on 29th January. Why do you concentrate on Asayish and the Peshmerga (Kurdistan Armed Forces)?

NM: I don’t know why some people allow themselves sometime to gasconaded and rodomontade about this. We were among those who played a role in setting up Kurdistan Peshmerga (Armed Forces). I was also involved in the past 40 years in setting up Asayish and similar organisations. We believe that establishments like Peshmerga, Asayish, Zanyari (PUK-led intelligence Services) and Parastin (KDP-led intelligence Services) are necessary and essential for Kurdistan region. It is possible that some activities that were contrary to Human Rights laws were perpetrated by these establishments during the past 20 years of Kurdistan home-rule. But by in large these organisations have preserved the security of Kurdistan. All of their personnel are our friends and colleagues, our brothers and relatives and loved ones. We are totally against abolishing or adversely reorganising these organisations. But we are adamant that two changes have to take place in all of these organisations. The first change is a change in its functionality. As it stands, because of the domination one or other political party over these organisations, they are directed to spy on other parties. In the course of their political competition, one party uses it to combat the other with and utilise it for their own party political purposes. We believe that the function of these organisations should stem from the function of the executive authority. Some of the tasks that they currently undertake should be done by courts or the police. We believe that these organisations’ function is to gather intelligence, not the persecution, arrest, jailing or terrorising citizens. These organisations should be charged with the task of gathering intelligence for the benefit of the security of the public, the task of defending the security of the society in the face of the dangers that lurk out there. They are not supposed to be the source of threat and intimidation to citizens or political parties. The purpose of Asayish is not to arrest people, to persecute them, to intimidate them or oppress them at their homes. Their purpose should be gathering intelligence. The same applies to Zanyary and Parastin. The Peshmerga forces has no right to interfere in the internal (home) affairs. Their purpose is to defend our boarders and to protect the political system of our country. Their purpose is not to be an apparatus in the hand of one party to intimidate and suppress another party with. This is the first change that we consider necessary to make, change in functionality. If they change their function then I believe that the opinion of all of the Kurds about them would improve. The second change is to place independent professionals in the leadership of these organisations instead of party affiliated zealots. I mean that the leaders of these organisations should be appointed according to their abilities and qualifications, of which there are scores of people who could do it. If so then no one would be able to taint these directors with partisanship.

KNN: Many criticisms have been levelled at the performance of the Parliament and is described to be weak. What is your opinion on this matter?

NM: That is why we have demanded to dissolve it.

KNN: Many significant developments took place in the International arena in the recent past including the referendum in Southern Sudan. What is your opinion on this referendum?

NM: We are an aggrieved nation who suffered injustice. We consider it is our basic right to exercise our self determination. We consider it to be our right to be able to determine our own political destiny. I am very happy that this opportunity has become available to Southern Sudan. They couldn’t continue living with the north and have suffered for many years of bloody struggle. And now that the nation has achieved their goal through democratic means. I believe this is a very positive president in the international law, international relations and the relations between nations.

KNN: What is your view on the uprising of the people of Tunis?

NM: I for one didn’t know much about the plight of the people of Tunis. I didn’t realise that this man (Zein el Abidine ben Ali) was such a rotten person.

For many years a blanket of silence covered this country. We all thought it was as serene as paradise. But it was more of a ghost town where the population is terrified of the darkness and an eerie silence prevails upon it. Tunis was such. As if you are passing through a tranquil cemetery, but all over the sudden a skeleton and a ghost emerge from each grave. Tunis looked like that. No doubt that herever there is injustice, oppression and corruption, change would sooner or later overcome that country. This is not the first time that such thing occurs in the history of the region. Before that the Islamic revolution in Iran overthrew the Shah’s regime through uprising. A great uprising took place in Iraqi Kurdistan and Iraq proper that resulted the liberation of Iraqi Kurdistan but the rest of Iraq fell back to the Ba’athist regime. I believe that this one (Tunisian uprising) too is a great achievement and an example that inspires all nations in the region.

KNN: Many people speak of the similarities and the differences between Tunisia and Kurdistan. How fair do you think this comparison is? What is your opinion on this matter?

NM: There are similarities and there are differences too. For example one of the differences that we have with them is that they have (continuous supply of) electricity but we don’t. They have paved roads, parks and beautiful places that we don’t have here. The military apparatus over there is apolitical but it is not over here. I trust that their universities have high standards that could be compared with French universities, whereas we don’t have that here. In these examples we are different. But the similarities could be found in corruption, which if we have not surpassed theirs we certainly have it at the same level. When it comes to the total control of one single party over all aspects of life we both have that. We are similar in many other examples such as unemployment, lower living standards of the people. We also are similar when it comes to rigging elections.

  • 04/02/2011 00:00:00