By: H.A Babo Barzani
“Those mistakes brought forth a new Iraqi political leadership comprised largely of exiles and militia chiefs, many of whom were focused primarily on aggrandizing their own wealth and power”
Comment by Kenneth M. Pollack on USA mistakes in Iraq 2012……. With the persistence of the Arab revolts, four autocrats have been ousted in: Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Yemen, meanwhile the ongoing bloody confrontation since more than 19 months in Syria, may engulf more or less Algeria, Morocco, Jordan, Gulf Emirates and perhaps Saudi Arabia. The contingent effect on Kurdish society was short lived, due to the brutality of the Kurdish authority and the ambivalent attitude of the main opposition forces: Gorran, Yekgirto and Komeleh, during the popular protests of 17 February 2011.
In fact Turkey, Syria and Iran, are not in favor of real democracy prevailing in Kurdistan, as it may pave the way for international recognition and gaining political maturity for the Kurdish nation. Maintenance of a corrupt and anti democratic Massoud-Jalal regime is synonymous to outdated feudal rule and tribal order, hence, preventing Kurdish people from achieving the status of nationhood and statehood. Both autocrats are going well with the Turkish, Syria and Iran policies aimed at aborting any birth of a democratic and accountable government, truly elected parliament and independent judiciary.
Both incumbent autocrats: Mr. Massoud and Mr. Talebani, knew well, that their rule is no difference than other corrupt Middle East despots. The so called (Strategic Agreement) between the two autocrats, is the manifestation of the bi- consensus for plundering the wealth and resources of South Kurdistan. KDP chief knew well that Ibrahim Khalil scenario cannot be repeated with the 17% budget from Baghdad. This tricky agreement signed only, when both chiefs reached the conclusion that none of them can go with the huge budget alone, but must agree to divide it between them, and prevent the third partner from sharing with. It is the first time in Kurdish history, that a number of the same ruling family attains the rank of multi milliardairs at the expense of the Kurdish people.
The “Green Light policy” of the Kurdish chief towards Turkey has enabled Ankara, parallel to its soft power policy, an impressive economic control of South Kurdistan and maintain military bases since the 1990s. There are currently four outposts in Bamerni, Batufa, Kanimasi and Dilmentepe with some 2,500 soldiers. The Turkish military also has liaison offices in Suleymani and Erbil.
The imposition of self-censorship on the Kurdish society; was so obvious, when Mr. Massoud returned from Washington in April 2012, he convened a press conference in Erbil, where most of the independent Kurdish journalists invited – Lvin Magazine and its chief editor Ahmad Mira excluded – though, just few days before, Dr. A. Sulaiman Barzani, – University professor- was kidnapped and tortured by Parastin agents headed by the son of Mr. Massoud. Sherwan Sherwani, the editor of Bashur Magazine was arrested and imprisoned by the same KDP security. Another journalist, Karim Karzan, Sayid Akram Khalid were still in jail. To generalize fear among the population, KDP secret police has started waves of kidnapping young citizens in Erbil (read Awena 18.9.2012).
During April press conference, no single journalist dared asking Mr. Massoud about the violation of basic rights and freedoms in Kurdistan; as such violation has no importance for the people of Kurdistan! Self-censorship was so evidence among the journalists that surprised all. Such attitude with no doubt pleased the KDP and Regional president. He understood the nature of these journalists, very respectful not to make him embarrassed for his unlawful deeds, meanwhile discarding their duty as committed journalists. It was humiliating for free and healthy journalism. The KDP chief was so happy; cynically denouncing Maleki dictatorship, ignoring his own dictatorship and corruption, which might be the worst in Kurdistan and Iraq.
It is well known that half truth may be worse than lies, as it aimed to deceive the inexperienced segment of the population, and leave the other have untold for the delight of the autocrat, as the truth about his rule is concealed from the people. This dangerous trend is deeply rooted among certain journalists in Kurdistan, but well paid by the KDP chief.
The opposition parties: Gorran, Yekgirto and Komela, vacillating between the authority and the deeply discontent people, seen by many observers as playing a double game with the autocrats and the Kurdish masses, disappointing bitterly the real supporters of change who bravely challenged the autocrats. Further, the ambiguity of the free press and its obvious fatigue, have made the two Kurdish chiefs, see no obstacle continuing their authoritarian policies. A part from bi-plundering of Kurdistan national wealth, they have embarked on a foreign policy adventurism with total disdain of the Kurdish parliament and government.
Both autocrats have multiplied international TV channels,- more than 17 partisan owned channels – and around 450 of news papers and Magazines in Kurdistan region – paid from people’s money for further manipulation of the people, simultaneously, blocking democratic procedure, stifle the free voice of a number of non partisan journalists and writers.
It seems that Mr. Massoud is preparing to enhance further his grip on power by all means at his disposal, including foreign assistance, mainly from Turkey. He appointed his close relatives in ministerial posts in Erbil and Baghdad. further, the PUK visible weakness may lead to a major power shift in the region of Sulaimani, the party leader Mr. Talebani, eighty years old, was recently hospitalized in Berlin clinic, undergone heart treatment; he is back home since 17 September.
It is most likely that KDP president is hunted by his growing unpopularity. He knows very well that people distrust him, his sons and relatives, his men, his ministers, and there is no confidence on judiciary and on partisan made institutions, the gap between the people and the authority is unbridgeable. He is not ready to accept democratic reforms, or allow free and fair elections take place. Transition of power peacefully is tantamount to death, hence he may feel no way out, but to confront Kurdish people with brutal force, as it is the case of other despots in the Middle East.
On September 11, 2012, in the occasion of Kurdish revolt of 11 September 1961, he announced a vicious crackdown on dissenting ideas, attempting to control the thoughts of others and creating an atmosphere of intolerance. In his own words, he announced: “Now I am saying frankly that from now on, we will deal very violently against anyone, inside or outside, who wants to disfigure this history, or put down the history of 11 September and the struggle of the Peshmerga.” In fact, the greatest humiliations inflicted on the participants in the 11 September revolt, including the Peshmerga, have come from the leadership of the KDP itself:
• The leaders of the KDP disarmed the Peshmerga and forced them into capitulation to the Ba’ath regime and the Shah’s regime while the Kurdish leadership in Iraq discretely, in 1975 fled to Iran, abandoning the Kurdish people.
• The KDP leadership, for personal interest, on many occasions has forced the Peshmerga to engage in fratricidal wars.
• Members of the ruling family have engaged in flagrant corruption and are to be counted among the few wealthiest people in Iraq while buying with the people’s money luxurious houses and villas for themselves in the United States and in European capitals.
• The KDP leaders have denied freedom of expression in Kurdistan and have assassinated Kurdish journalists and members of the opposition.
• They have legalized theft.
• They have brought in foreign armies to fight Kurdish rivals.
• They have treated the Peshmerga as their personal militia rather than as a national army in the service of the people.
• They have turned Kurdistan’s Parliament into a rubber stamp of their own preferences, demands, and decisions.
• And they have repeatedly falsified people’s votes.
The PUK nearly did the same and failed to present a different model acceptable to Kurdish people.
In truth, the list of humiliations suffered by the participants in the Kurdish struggle at the hands of their own leaders exceeds what can be written down in a simple article.
Anger and violence are instruments of the weak or those who are unable to find other options; it is the same elite’s old mindset pattern that existed under Saddam Hussein, the same suppression and repression mechanism is reproduced by the current Kurdish autocrats.
The Kurdish society under Massoud-Jalal rule reflects tyranny, fear, hypocrisy, opportunism, bribery and social disintegration. Party spies are planted everywhere, hence, life of citizens characterized with distrust even among the same family members, death squads operate freely and above the law. Patriotic values, honesty replaced with materialistic voracity and mercenary trends. Dollar is above everything else. The Kurdish autocrats see ideas like freedom, justice, dignity, government responsibility, as dangerous ideas.
This hazardous drift in our society cannot be halted without replacement of autocratically grown social values with principled cultural resistance. Autocratic values consist of total submission, blind obedience to a repressive, corrupt and criminal authority; citizens are forced to glorify and express gratitude to the autocrats and their henchmen. The values impelled by autocrats create a human being denude of national pride and dignity, dehumanized, coward and self-centered. When society marred in this way, people lose faith in justice, the rule of law and the whole political process. People’s dynamism is paralyzed, distanced from politics and, become apathetic.
People of Kurdistan yearn for emancipation, as they see Middle East nations chase their autocrats. The world has dramatically changed; old autocratic habits and methods are no longer acceptable; the old elite, who passed lifetime in theft and criminality, cannot be reformed, Kurdistan must free itself from partisan and dynastical tutelage. It is a pre-condition for Kurdistan to become economically and democratically a developed country.
Knowing the true nature of Kurdish autocrats; they do not hold elections to lose, but to gain by all means and shamelessly. The frequent burning of opposition headquarters, threats, salary cut and ousting thousands from official posts, killing, assassination of the opposition activists, are living examples of how Kurdish chieftains tend to manage elections in Kurdistan.
Indeed the situation is too risky to be left as it is. We may wonder why, after all the sacrifices and national tragedies; we have not been able to obstruct corrupt authority and establish a democratic system with social justice? Why we allowed the two autocrats, rule us for more than 20 years without constitution? How could these mediocre autocrats impose their devious will on all of us for so long decades? From KDP dissented PUK, from PUK dissented Gorran, People’s party dissented also from KDP, but opportunistically re-merged with the same KDP, more or less, all were from the same political offspring. They fought internal bloody wars for privileges and reconciled for financial privileges, their endemic conflict has nothing to do with Kurdish national rights. The Kurdish political sphere blocked by this rigid autocratic mentality for so long time, that a great potential force of very able patriotic intellectuals in Kurdistan and Diaspora pushed into oblivion, marginalized, plunged into individualism and non-organized, all that renders them powerless and apathetic. This in itself is a great lose.
It will be very naïve to believe the promises of the old elite, to make radical reforms. They work ardently to keep privileges and enhance statue quo, using different names and slogans for manipulation.
The origin of current despotism, resides in our cultural backwardness, our democratic failure is deeply ingrained in our political culture and social history, precisely, the dominance of so long lasting feudal authority and mentality. It is a decisive moment in Kurdish history! Do we allow despotism deepening its roots further in Kurdish polity? Do we allow them to lead us to another national disaster similar to the one of 1975? Or we resist? But before resisting we need to organize ourselves in a (NEW) political movement. The endemic impotent of our non-partisan intellectuals resides in individualism and accept being sidelined, in a time national salvation requires daring collective action to face challenges imposed by Kurdish despots. There were NO, in the past, and still NO effective institutional-based counter balancing despotism in Kurdish society. The lack of such balancing political pressure enables Kurdish despots to grow in strength and carry on arrogantly.
Even, the opposition forces, centered mostly in Sulaimani, though carried out considerable campaigns against KDP & PUK elite’s corruption; it failed to avoid being trapped by useless and tricky overtures of the autocrats to negotiate. It was a waste of time, further, people’s trust in the opposition has begun to falter, the expansion of opposition basis North West of Sulaimani come to a halt. The autocrats outmaneuvered the leaders of the opposition easily. In fact the old elite are proliferating under the new names, but the core is the same. The common denominator of these autocrats, with no doubt, is self-profit and greed. We should not waste more time, and be manipulated by another dissenting group to shape a new party formed from old elite, then disillusioned later on, as it is the case with more than half a century of national frustrations. In order to make real changes in the political system in Kurdistan, the new movement should be disinfected of the old incumbent elite’s influence and mentality. The project presented by the Kurdistan Democratic Alliance (KDA) can be considered as the first step in the right direction.
It won’t be easy, but the task is a noble one, it deserves sacrifice and struggle, as it is the case with dynamic free nations on earth. Staying idly means political suicide and shunning from our historical duty.