About the Crisis in Kurdistan

  • KurdishMedia.com - By Nawshirwan Mustafa
  • 20/05/2011 00:00:00

About the Crisis in Kurdistan

Kurdistan Is Gripped In The Midst Of Turmoil

Yes. Kurdistan is in crisis.

The crisis that engulfed Kurdistan did not just came into existence today.

It is not the reverberation of the crises that is sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.

It is not the outcome of the recent demonstrations that filled up the streets of some cities of Kurdistan.

It is not orchestrated by the opposition; Gorran Movement, Islamic Assembly and Islamic Union.

The Crisis in Kurdistan is not the product of any of these factors. The causes behind it are older than all of these factors. It is a deep and comprehensive crisis that has political, economic, social and cultural dimensions.

The crisis in Kurdistan was borne out of the political system that governs the region of Kurdistan. It is the product of political, social and cultural policies deployed by the two governing parties, Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). Until few weeks ago, none of the leadership of these two parties, nor anyone of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials were prepared to acknowledge the existence of any crisis. Indeed, they would respond angrily to the very mention of it, till the situation reached boiling point and almost reached the level of overthrowing the government. Only then they accepted that;

Yes. There is a crisis in Kurdistan

Yes. Kurdistan needs reforms

In spite of these admissions, they are yet to come even close to identifying the causes of the crisis or to propose solutions.

The current crisis in Kurdistan stems from four factors:

The first factor is the diminished trust of the people that they had in these two parties. It stems from the erosion of the faith of the people in their promises and the integrity of their leaders.

The second factor is the erosion of faith of the party’s rank and files and the cadres of the party apparatus in the leadership of their own party. This was exasperated by the several years long wait of the membership of the party for the much delayed conference.

The third factor is the erosion of trust between individual members of the party leadership that is reflected in the open and hidden rivalries that involves their persons as well as their entourage to undermine each others.

The fourth factor is the erosion of trust between the two main governing parties. None of these two parties trust the other enough to hand over power or sensitive apparatuses to each other.

This quadruplet crisis of loss of trust, with each factor reinforces the other, has plunged Kurdistan in a vicious circle. This crisis could be termed as Crisis of Trust.

The consequences of this crisis have directly contributed toward undermining and weakening the institutions of the regional government in Kurdistan, the very institutions that should be the tools to solve the crisis. The legislative, executive and judiciary authorities, that should have been the reconciliatory arbitrator amongst the people and the instruments by which the crisis could be defused, have become part of the problem and have been drawn into the labyrinth that the two ruling parties have constructed. Therefore, the erosion of trust in the parties and their policies have impinged upon and reinforced the erosion of trust in the executive, the legislative and judiciary authorities.

Social Harmony

Social Harmony is the main pillar of National Security.

The prevalence of social harmony is an essential prerequisite to the prevalence and maintenance of National Security. Harmony must exist between different ethnicities, different religions and sects, different cultures, different social classes and opposing political views, in spite of the differences between them. To achieve this coveted harmony certain conditions have to be met;

First, acknowledging the existence of these differences and respecting their individualities and accepting each other with the differences.

Second, establishing equality for all citizens, in the constitution, the written law as well as implementing it in practice.

Third, the firm conviction and believe of all citizen that, regardless of their ethnicity, religion, local and tribal origins, they are equal stakeholder in the wealth of the nation and equal participants in the determination of its future.

Today the social harmony in Kurdistan is in great danger. The danger is generated by the ruling political elite. Because they have divided the region into two single-party-rule areas, in which each of these two areas they have imposed the status of two-tier-citizenship. The ruling parties have replaced the notion of the patriotic loyalty of the citizens to the nation as a whole, with the notion of the loyalty of individuals to the ruling party as a measure to determine the class of the citizens.

The tier of first-class citizens consists of the party membership, rank and file and supporters, who systematically benefit from political, financial, economic and social privileges.

The second class citizen tier consist of all of these citizens who are outside the party circle, and in order to force them inside, they are deprived of the rulers privileges.

Never in the lifespan of Kurdish rule since the uprising of 1991 that social harmony has been threatened as much as it is today. The political and social conflicts are deepening, while economic and cultural problems are worsening.

On the one hand, a widening gap between the impoverished majority and a privileged minority, who grow rich as a result of the alliance of the political rulers and the leaders of the economic and commercial activities, is threatening the social harmony. On the other hand, the growing conflict between the supporters of wider freedoms and those who wish to limit the liberties, the ruling leadership, has pushed the latter even more strongly to legitimise a partisan-totalitarian regime and to convert the elitist party-political establishment into national state institutions, which pauses even more threats to social harmony, a pillar of national security.

The events that followed the 17th February have accentuated few realities:

First, the political system that governs all aspects of life in the society has created a fissure within it. It has divided the society into oppressor and oppressed, where the oppressed, in spite of their different ideologies, social status, education and intellectual abilities, have risen to demand their rights.

Second, the ruling elite are not hesitant to use any form of violence in order to maintain the “status quo” and to repress the people. The goal of attaining and maintaining social harmony in their view is subservient to the goal of maintaining their rule and grip on power.

The Authority Disregards the People

The third election of the Kurdistan Parliament took place in July 2009, when the people participated with great enthusiasm and expectations.

The ruling parties, specifically Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), resorted to all kinds of tricks to sway the outcome of the election in their advantage:

- They used the armed forces of Peshmerga (Kurdish Armed Forces), Security and Police to their unfair advantage to secure a favourable outcome.

- They used the influence of the government ministries, the civil servants of the general directorates, the head of work-units in the work fields and the head teachers of many schools to their benefit.

- They draw huge sums from the public purse.

- They utilised the mighty propaganda machines of their party media, which is also funded from public funds.

- They manipulated to their advantage the large network of the region’s contacts with Iraq proper and the outside world.

- They have distributed thousands of pieces of land, guns, computers and cars buy off the people’s loyalties, contrary to law and norms of democracy.

In addition to all of the above:

- They threatened the supporters of the other parties and even assaulted Gorran’s activists in their homes and their branch-quarters with firearms.

- They started exacting political punishment such as dismissal from work, stopping payment of wages, transferring work locations to remote areas, daily intimidation and degradation, imprisonment, arrest and persecution.

- Worst of all, they devised and implemented a systematic falsification and rigging of the election process and the results.

In spite of all this, many people, including supporters of Gorran Movement, KIU and KIA, reluctantly accepted the election result with the hope that, first, the protests of the streets would be transferred to the Parliament chambers, and second, the ruling parties would review their conducts and take note of their diminishing public support.

The strange thing was the reluctance of the ruling parties to take head and learn the lessons of the past. They prevented the opposition, which in practice became the advocates of the views of the protesters on the street, to play any role in shaping the legislations that defined the political system. Nor did they allow the opposition to block those legislations that reconfigured the system to suit the one-party-rule or those that contradicted the principals of human rights. They filibustered the opposition-sponsored legislations that would have made the governing system more respectful of the law, democratic and open. They even prevented the Parliament to play its crucial role as the bona fide monitor of the government. Instead, they rolled even worse on:

- To forcefully organise all citizens into their parties.

- To quickly isolate the opposition groups in the Parliament and to silence the protest voices outside the Parliament.

- To persecute supporters of the opposition, especially supporters of Gorran Movement, and chase them out of the civil service organisations as well as the marketplace and private sector.

- To siphon public funds from the national budget and use it to further strengthen their party organisations.

The conduct of both ruling parties during the March 2010 election for the Iraqi National Assembly reached the pinnacle of irresponsibility.

The angry streets, which were happy with the emergence of the opposition in the Parliament, lost their faith in the opposition’s ability to influence events through Parliament and to bring about a minimum level of social justice, to improve public services, to combat corruption or to harness reforms of the political system. The streets rose up.

The first up-rising came about in the wake of the assassination of Serdasht Osman. The second was in response to the ratification of the restrictive Demonstration Law.

Not only did the authority ignore the protests on the streets, but it aggravated the situation by resorting to the flimsy technical excuses of “Majority and Minority” in the Parliament, they attempted to railroad a series of undemocratic programs that would maintain the one-party-rule and guarantees the perpetuity of their control over the Parliament.

The desperate population, who lost their hope in the effectiveness of the Parliament or the Government, rose up for the 3rd time.

The third uprising that started in Ber Derky Sera square in the heart of Sulaimaniyah on 17th February 2011 was ignited with the killing of one 15 years old young boy and the injury of 55 others in Salim Boulevard. It was concurrent with the victories of the people of Tunisia and Egypt.

The collapse of the regimes of each Zain Al-Abdeen bin Ali in Tunisia and Husni Mubarak in Egypt did not push the rulers of Kurdistan to learn the lessons and take the initiative and implement the demands of the people. Those demands that have been repeated for years by the public on the street, by the independent press, even members of rank and files of their own parties, and lately by the opposition groups that was eventually articulated by Gorran Movement in a 7 paragraph statement issued on 29th January 2011. Instead, they resorted to oppression, confrontation, intimidation and even killing and arresting protestors.

Oppression on its own did not curb the tension. The gathering and demonstrations continued. The rulers were afraid that it would spill over to other parts of Kurdistan, especially Hawler, the capital, and would increase the pressure on them. To defuse the situation, they tried to contain the protest of the people of Kurdistan, the opposition groups and the Kurds abroad so they could come out of the crisis without giving in any concessions to the people. Therefore, they resorted to a multi-facetted strategy:

First: to suppress the uprising of the people with state terrorism and to pacify them with false promises.

Second: to wage an all-out war against the opposition groups; such as media campaign, financial and movement restrictions, psychological war, political persecution, deployment of armed forces in formal fatigue and civilian clothes in to the cities and towns. They attempted to draw the opposition to the negotiation table for a long and protracted dialogues to compel them to accept their conditions.

Demonstration and Civil War

Every time there is a mention of demonstrations the state media and the ruling elite, even on accession well meaning independent individuals too, warn the people from the dangers of civil war. No doubt the people are right to be frightened by the spectre of civil war, since it has brought devastation and miseries in loss of lives and property, as well as serious damage and set back to the Kurdish national cause. Therefore, we need to take a closer look at the dynamics between demonstrations and civil war.

The attempts to frighten the public with the possibilities of “civil war” when they face public demonstrations of a general, political or industrial purposes is a symptom of the backwardness and archaic political thinking of the Kurdish rulers, compared to the advancements in the developing world. Since the ruling parties in Kurdistan have decided to rule forever, they view any critical movement on the street, however peaceful it may be expressed, no matter by whichever political or social group, they view it as a hostile act committed by an internal enemy. And internal enemies, being the weakest forms of enemies, must be dealt with by brute force.

The traditional parties of Kurdistan did not have the opportunity to take the Parliamentary routs and exercise lawful civil means of struggle during the Kurdish revolt. They only could resort to secretive underground armed struggle. That is how the two parties emerged and through these methods they built their organisation and popular bases. They are still trapped in these methods of thinking and modes operandi:

First: They consider the possession of armed forces as a prerequisite to maintaining their interest and continue their rule.

Second: they view the balance of power only through the number of guns they and their opponents have and that is how they weigh their strength against their opponents.

Third: they view the civic means of struggle, outside the boundaries of armed-politics, as unnatural, conspiracy, foreign-designs, coup d’etat, trouble-making and sabotage.

Fourth: Whenever they are faced with a deadlock in a dispute with another group they always resort to settle the stand-off in their favour by using force, because they are not used to, nor do they believe in, the civil means of winning arguments through demonstrations, picketing or strikes.

Demonstrations, strikes, marches, rallies and petitions are all legitimate means of expressions of protest against a specific issue or demands for economic, political, social, cultural and even environmental resolutions. These means are followed as a matter of norm in the democratic societies as well as those nations that have moved on from The armed-struggle phases. While these methods are still regarded by the ruling parties in Kurdistan as hostile acts of sabotage and destruction, because these kind of means have not yet been accommodated in their thinking culture. But if they want to leave the underground struggle phase that involved sabotage and guerrilla warfare behind, they have to get used to this modern and civilised form of conflict management.

So where does the threat of civil war stems from?

A political civilised group that has no armed forces, that even when it has been unjustly cheated in the election process and lost it through rigging, falsification and violation, cannot wage a civil war. Whether it accepts or reject it, the election results will be forced on it.

But for those parties who command armed forces and vying with each other over the political power, if the election result did not match their desires even after rigging and falsifications, they would wage war rather than accepting the election result. This is when a civil war could be started.

The main excuse for KDP and PUK forging the Strategic Accord, whatever its secret clauses maybe, was to stymie the possibility of another civil war occurring between these two parties, since both parties were armed and neither of them were prepared to concede to the other.

The danger of civil war stems from those parties that are still refusing to accept the civil-political competition, never accepting the orderly handover of power, and still commanding armed forces. They use these armed forces to maintain their grip on power, to intimidate the population and to win elections.

The danger of civil war stems from those parties that command armed forces and not from those parties that have no weapons. That is why, to eradicate the danger of civil war, the political parties should be stripped of their armed forces. Their armed forces should be converted from militia to one national army. A National army that maintains a neutral stance when different political parties disagree on policies or fight elections.

We Do Know What We Want!

The political crisis in Kurdistan will not disappear or become less serious if the two ruling parties, or any other party, ignore or disregard it. The leadership of the two parties, or as they self-style themselves the “Political Leadership”, place themselves above the three main authorities; legislative, executive and judiciary. They can deal with this crisis in one of two possible ways:

First, they can view it as a matter of protecting the security of the region from trouble and unrest and to put some “security solutions” to tackle it.

Second, to view it as a matter of rejection by the people of a failing, corrupt and disingenuous government that failed to provide the minimum aspirations of the people and to search for “political solutions” to tackle it from various angles.

If they decided to treat it as a security threat, as they have done so far, then they will continue to mobilise the Peshmerga, Security, Police, Zanyary (PUK’s Intelligent Services) and Parastin (KDP’s Intelligent Services) to lay siege to the people and repress it even more violently and more brutally.

This approach would go against the grain in the political atmosphere that is prevailing in Kurdistan, Iraq and the Middle East. Even if the ruling parties manage to secure a partial or temporary blackout of news, it will still end with the demise of their reign.

But if they decide to take the second approach, then they have to show their genuine intentions and commitment to the “political solution” by taking the following measures:

First, they have to restore the normal conditions in Kurdistan and end the state of emergency completely. They have to cease all measures of persecution or intimidation of opposition groups. They have to remove all measures and symbols of oppression of our streets.

Second, they have to engage in a genuine and serious dialogue to arrive at consensus on; radical reform of the governing system in the region, on the mechanism and methods of implementing it, and on the timeframe.

It has been frequently stated by the ruling elite, or through their commentators, university lecturers and “Political Observers”, that those people – and they mean us– do not know what they want!

Yes Masters! We do know what we want. And you too know what we want. We, in our turn, know what you want. But to prevent any possible ambiguity, we say it again laud and clear:

We want radical reforms!

Radical reforms consists of changing the government system of one-party totalitarian rule of PUK in Sulaimaniyah and the one-party totalitarian rule of KDP in Hawler and Duhok, to the government of Kurdistan National Institutions.

Hence, thus the maladies and thus the remedies!

Source: This article was originaly published in Kurdish on About the Crisis in Kurdistan

  • KurdishMedia.com - By Nawshirwan Mustafa
  • 20/05/2011 00:00:00