Kirkuk: quo vadis?
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source: Telepolis

Mosul Vilayet Resolution (draft) Europepan Parliament

Iraqi Declaration 1932, Article 1
The stipulations in the present chapter are recognised as fundamental laws of Iraq, and no law, regulation or official action shall conflict or interfere with these stipulations, nor shall any law, regulation or official action now or in the future prevail over them.

Iraqi Constitution, Article 140
First: The executive authority shall undertake the necessary steps to complete the implementation of the requirements of all subparagraphs of Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law.  Second: The responsibility placed upon the executive branch of the Iraqi Transitional Government stipulated in Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law shall extend and continue to the executive authority elected in accordance with this Constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely (normalization and census and concludes with a referendum in Kirkuk and other disputed territories to determine the will of their citizens), by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.

15 Mar 11     Overriding desire for democracy tops Arab youth agenda, Zawya
14 Mar 11    Campaigners demand president's apology for Kirkuk comments, Zawya, Bradost Lawin
9 Mar 11   80 Iraqi MPs threaten to suspend membership in parliament, Zawya, Fulaih al-Jawari
9 Mar 11   Opposition locked in Kurdish parliament after objection, Zawya, Hevidar Ahmed
9 Mar 11   Against corruption in Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Kurdistan Post, Plea to President Obama
8 Mar 11   Eight al-Iraqiya deputies announce split from bloc, Zawya, Abdullah Shames
8 Mar 11   Kurdistan ruling parties may reconsider running for elections jointly, Zawya, Dilshad Saifaddin
7 Mar 11   Najaf Council members vote for semi-autonomy, Zawya, Salah al-Khuzaei
7 Mar 11   Talabani: opposition is necessary for progress of Kurdistan, Zawya , Sarwa Hawrami
7 Mar 11   Iraqi govt. has few options to improve economy, Zawya , Laith Hadi
5 Mar 11   Official: Maliki hasn't order to withdraw Kurdish troops from Kirkuk, Zawya, Karzan Bamandi
3 Mar 11   Barham Saleh says ready to resign to solve problems, Zawya
2 Mar 11   The tragedy that is Iraq, openDemocracy, Issa Khalaf
2 Mar 11   Pro-democracy demonstrations in northern Iraq/south Kurdistan, openDemocracy, Kamal Chomani
28 Feb 11   Sadrists launch referendum on public services across Iraq, Zawya , Raman Brosk
28 Feb 11   Turkish foreign minister: Kirkuk is the identity of Turkmans, Zawya, Hawar Baziyan
27 Feb 11   KDP second man in Kirkuk to cool down rage, Zawya, Sarwa Horami
27 Feb 11   Kurdish top politicians head to Kirkuk to settle unrest, Zawya, Ashti Khurshid
27 Feb 11   Kurdish ruling parties news statement on Kirkuk, Zawya, Sirwa Horami
24 Feb 11   Iraqi protests: aimed at changing the current regime?, openDemocracy, Shatha Al Juburi
23 Feb 11   Goran reiterates call for Kurdish govt. resignation, Zawya, Hazhar Mohammed
31 Jan 11   Gorran Movement: Current Situation in Kurdistan – Iraq,
15 Mar 08   Kirkuk negotiations between Turkmen and Kurds, SOITM, minutes
2 Feb 08   Kerkuk convention, SOITM
2 Feb 08   “Kerkuk Issue - unification of Turkmen message and project”, SOITM, workshop
17.Aug 07   Rache, Referendum oder Religion?, Telepolis, Peter Mühlbauer
21 Jun 02   Kurds regard Kirkuk as an integrated part of Kurdistan,, Robin Kurd
20 Jun 02   Beyatli: Kurds to attack Kirkuk when Iraq attacked,, Ken Muslimovic    June 20, 2002

Beyatli: Kurds to attack Kirkuk when Iraq attacked
By Ken Muslimovic

London ( 20 June 2002: Kemal Beyatli, chairman of the Iraqi Turks Culture and Solidarity Association has stated that the Kurdish authorities of Kurdistan de facto State (The KDP and PUK) are planning to attack Iraqi military installations in Kirkuk, seize the oil-rich city and annex it to the Kurdish-controlled territory in Kurdistan.

Kirkuk, a Southern Kurdish city, is not under the control of the Kurdish authorities but rather under the control of Saddam Hussain’s regime in Baghdad. When the Kurds revolted against Saddam’s regime after the Gulf War, the regime lost control of most of the Northern Kurdish territories, however, it put down the rebellions in the Southern Kurdish areas and controls them to this day.

Beyatli added that Turkey is against a Kurdish state and does not want Kurds to control Kirkuk. He said that an independent Kurdish state would have problems with the economy and only oil-rich Kirkuk can help a Kurdish state. He claims that when the United States would attack Iraq, the Kurds would launch a simultaneous attack from the north with aims in seizing territory. "We heard that the Iraqi Kurds are planning a massacre. They plan is to attack Kirkuk when the United States attacks Iraq."

However Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdish Democratic Party has said that the Kurds will not cooperate with a US-inspired plan to topple Saddam Hussain. "The Iraqi issue won’t be solved by military action or covert action," he added.

The US is getting less and less support to topple Saddam Hussain, especially from Arab nations who want the US to stop supporting Israel and want an end to the Palestinian crisis.  Several Gulf Arab leaders have stated that they are ready and willing to accept the continuation of the Ba’ath regime as long as Saddam is no longer the ruler. They stated that their problem is directly with Saddam Hussain, but not the government of Iraq, the Ba’ath party or the Tikritis and are willing to restore complete diplomatic relations with Iraq under either of Saddam’s sons or a high ranking Ba’ath official.

KurdishMedia.comJune 21, 2002

Kurds regard Kirkuk as an integrated part of Kurdistan,
Hurriyet makes up stories
By Robin Kurd

London ( 21 June 2002: According to the Turkish daily Hurriyet, an unnamed American official has stated that the Washington government had not negotiated the future of the city of Kirkuk with KDP, responding to claims in the world media that it had.  Also, according to Hurriyet, the American official claimed that a draft of a future Constitution prepared by the KDP for a post-Saddam Iraq had not been approved.

As it appeared in Hurriyet today, the American official noted that, "Iraq deserved a better future and that only the Iraqi people could decide that future". The official apparently stated said that they would like to see a democratic Iraq with its national unity and territorial integrity, based on the rule of law, adapted to the UN resolutions, respecting its people and in good relation with its neighbours.

Hurriyet also wrote that the American official commenting on the Kirkuk issue said that no negotiations had taken place with any group regarding the future of Kirkuk. The Constitution prepared by the KDP regarding the future of Iraq, which they received in April, had not been approved by the government in Washington, the official claimed, reported Hurriyet.

The views of the Washington government on this issue had been reported to the Turkish officials and a promised had been made to Turkey to inform and ask for advise from Turkey about any developments regarding the issue of Iraq, claimed the official. The unnamed official also said that they had worries regarding a post-Saddam Iraq where the new structure was based on ethnic grounds, which could create tension between the different ethnic groups.

The official said that the US government was in support of a coming conference between the oppositional groups on the issue of the future of Iraq. The lack of knowledge of the date and whereabouts of the conference persisted, the official noted but assumed that probably it would be in Europe this summer, he said, reported Hurriyet.

Whether US officials agree to the Kuridicity of Kirkuk or not, Kurds regard Kirkuk as an integrated part of divided Kurdistan, in which Turkey forcibly occupied a biggest part of it.  Kurds also regard people of Kirkuk as an integrated part of the divided Kurdish nation, in which Turkey has been oppressing them for years, despite every international rule and agreement. Other minorities living in Kirkuk would rather live within Kurdistan rather than any other names.

In an interview with Der Spiegel, June 17, Mr Jalal Talabani, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said, “Already at the time of the Ottoman Empire Kirkuk belonged to the largely Kurdish Vilayet. Kirkuk is part of Kurdistan - and it will remain so in the future.”

It is important to note that there have been many cases of bogus reports in Turkey’s biggest daily Hurriyet, famous for its bias and pro-state/army stance. Therefore the seriousness of the report on today’s Hurriyet is questionable.

These stories are made up by Turkey in order to ensure the Turkish public that Turkey is still part of the negotiations. In the last meeting, the US decided not to invite Turkey to the meetings and US directly dealt with the Kurdish leaders. Reliable sources have revealed that the US will keep Turkey out of the negotiations and would not allow Turkey to have a say in the future of Iraq. In one of the meetings in the US, Turkey wanted to discuss the Turkoman issue, the US authorities were not prepared to listen.

Telepolis    17.August 2007

Rache, Referendum oder Religion?
Für die jüngsten Terroranschläge im Nordirak kommen mindestens drei Motive in Frage
Peter Mühlbauer

Noch sind nicht alle Leichen geborgen – aber laut Angaben von Al-Dschasira (1) kosteten die Anschläge mindestens 400 Menschen das Leben. Am Dienstag hatten Unbekannte in zwei Dörfern im Kreis Sindschar in der Provinz Niniveh, vier LKWs zur Explosion gebracht, die alle Gebäude auf jeweils einem Quadratkilometer Fläche zerstört haben sollen.
Verschiedene Stellen spekulierten über verschiedene mögliche Täter und Motive: Während der irakische Staatspräsident Dschalal Talabani, ein Kurde, Gruppen verantwortlich machte, "die andere zu Ungläubigen erklärten", äußerte der sunnitische Rat der Religionsgelehrten die Vermutung, dass hinter den Anschlägen Täter steckten, die versuchten, "die irakische Landkarte neu zu zeichnen" und "die demographischen Verhältnisse zu ändern".
Tatsächlich sind mehrere Motive denkbar, die auch kumulativ vorliegen können: Die beiden Dörfer werden von kurdischsprachigen Jesiden bewohnt. Neben einem Racheattentat für die Steinigung einer Jesidin ist deshalb auch eine religiöse Einschüchterung der "Teufelsanbeter" durch Islamisten sowie Terror im Zusammenhang mit der geplanten Abstimmung über die Zugehörigkeit zum Kurdengebiet im November möglich.

Die Jesiden sind eine streng endogame religiöse Minderheit. Im April dieses Jahres war in der nordirakischen Ortschaft Bashika die siebzehnjährige Jesidin Du'a Khalil teilweise entkleidet und öffentlich gesteinigt worden, nachdem sie sich mit einem Sunniten eingelassen hatte. Die Steinigung, die etwa eine halbe Stunde dauerte, wurde mit einem Mobiltelefon gefilmt (2). Auf der Aufnahme ist zu sehen, dass acht oder neun Männer die Tat durchführen und eine große Menschenmasse zusieht. Ebenfalls erkennbar ist, dass auch Mitarbeiter von Sicherheitsbehörden dem Ereignis beiwohnten, ohne einzugreifen.
Nach Angaben von Amnesty International (3) sind vergleichbare Vorgänge im Nordirak nicht selten. Als Anlass reichen bereits Gerüchte. Obwohl die Regionalregierung diese "Ehrenmorde" offiziell verbot, versäumten es die kurdischen Behörden bisher, in solchen Fällen zu ermitteln und Anklage zu erheben.
Allerdings wurde die Steinigung bereits in größerem Umfang blutig gerächt: Am 23. April 2007 (4) entführten Bewaffnete einen Bus, der Textilarbeiter von Mosul in ihren Heimatort Bashika bringen sollte, in dem 80 % Jesiden, 15 % Christen und 5 % Moslems leben. Die Entführer kontrollierten die Papiere der Fahrgäste, ließen die Moslems und Christen aussteigen und fuhren mit den 23 verbliebenen Jesiden in den Osten von Mosul, wo sie diese an eine Wand stellten und erschossen.

Niniveh ist zwischen Arabern und Kurden umstritten. Am 15. November soll in der Provinz ein Referendum über den Anschluss an das Kurdengebiet abgehalten werden (5). Neben Niniveh (6) sind auch Kirkuk (5) und Diyala (4), eine Provinz an der Grenze zum Iran, wo viele schiitische Kurden leben, von dem Referendum betroffen. Daneben erheben die kurdischen Parteien, die derzeit die drei Provinzen Sulaimaniyya (1), Arbil (2) und Dahuk (3) formell kontrollieren, auch Ansprüche auf Teile der Provinzen Salah ad-Din (südwestlichlich von Kirkuk) und Wasit (südlich von Diyala).

Provinzen im Irak. Karte: Wikimedia Commons

In vielen der Abstimmungs- und Anspruchsgebiete üben die kurdischen Parteien derzeit eine informelle Kontrolle aus - einerseits über Peschmerga-Milizen, andererseits über dort stationierte reguläre Truppen, deren Loyalität nicht in erster Linie der Zentralregierung, sondern kurdischen Befehlshabern und Clanchefs gilt – was diese auch offen zugeben (6): Hamid Afandi (7), Peschmerga-Minister der Kurdenpartei KDP, sagte (8) amerikanischen Journalisten zur Frage der Angliederung an das Kurdengebiet: "Wenn wir das durch Reden lösen können – fein. Aber wenn nicht, dann werden wir es mit Kämpfen lösen."
Afandi gab zu, mindestens 10.000 Peschmerga in der irakischen Armee untergebracht zu haben, die alle im Nordirak stationiert sind: "Sie alle gehören nun der Zentralregierung – aber innerlich sind sie Kurden." Nach Afandi besteht die Zweite Division der irakischen Armee, die die Gebiete um Arbil und Mosul kontrolliert, zu mindestens 90 % aus Kurden. Eine Brigade in Mosul setzt sich aus drei fast ohne Veränderung in die irakische Armee transferierten Peschmerga-Batallionen zusammen.
Auch innerhalb der Truppe teilt man diese Auffassung: Leutnant Herish Namiq (9) zufolge werden die kurdischen Kräfte "die Grenzen Kurdistans durchsetzen, und das wird die befreiten Gebiete wie die kurdischen Teile Mosuls beinhalten." Oberst Sabar Saleem, gab nicht nur zu, den Befehlen der Peschmerga-Führung zu folgen, sondern empfahl (10) auch ein bemerkenswert eindeutiges Vorgehen gegen sunnitische Araber: "Alle Sunniten unterstützen die Terroristen [...] deshalb sollten auch sie getötet werden."

Bevölkerungsgruppen im Irak

Die Hauptstadt Ninivehs, Mosul, war bis in die 1950er Jahre eine überwiegend arabische Stadt, dann bildeten sich Vorstädte, in denen sich Kurden aus den naheliegenden Bergen ansiedelten (11). Die christliche Minderheit flüchtete nach 2003 zu einem großen Teil nach Syrien.

Durch den kurdischen Druck stieg auch die Gewaltbereitschaft der in der Stadt ansässigen sunnitischen Araber: So wurde Mosul "Hauptstadt" des im Dezember 2006 ausgerufenen "Islamischen Emirats Irak", dessen "Kriegsministerium" nicht nur Selbstmordattentate und Morde an Polizisten und Dolmetschern durchführte, sondern auch Gastwirte bedrohte, deren Speisen als "Haram" betrachtet wurden. Dazu mussten diese keinen Alkohol oder kein Schweinefleisch anbieten: Es reichten angeblich (12) Salate, in denen "weibliches" Gemüse wie Tomaten mit "männlichem" wie Gurken gemischt wurden. Diese strenggläubigen Islamisten betrachten Jesiden nicht nur als Heiden, sondern als "Teufelsanbeter".
Doch auch bei sunnitischen und schiitischen Kurden ist die Sekte nicht überall wohl gelitten. Vor allem, wenn man mit in Betracht zieht, dass der Terrorakt keine kurdischen Moslems traf, aber durch die nationale und internationale Empörung der schleppend verlaufenden "Rücksiedlung" (13) von Arabern in Kirkuk Rückenwind verleihen könnte, ist auch eine Täterschaft aus dieser Richtung denkbar.


SOITM    February 2, 2008

“Kerkuk Issue - unification of Turkmen message and project”
Workshop, 2nd February 2008 in al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad

Iraqi Turkmen Islamic Union organize a workshop entitled “Kerkuk Issue - unification of Turkmen message and project” for all Turkmen political groups (Islamic and national groups) on 2nd February 2008 in al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad to discuss the Kerkuk Issue and formulate a convention for co-operation.

About 50 Turkmen politicians from different ideologues are invited: from the Iraqi cabinet, the Iraqi parliament, the Turkmen cities councils, the political parties, the civil society organizations, the writers and the intellectuals.

Under four headings the Turkmen organizations are going to discuss the article 140 and the suggested Turkmen solutions for Kerkuk problem to prepare a common convention and work plan accordingly. The Kerkuk convention is going to institute the bases for the activities of all the Iraqi Turkmen organizations to find a peaceful solution for Kerkuk problem. The dimensions of the workshop:

I. Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution
The relation between article 58 of the Iraqi Transitional Administrative Law and the article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution.
The article 140 after 31.12.2007
The article 131 and 140
The orderliness and seriatim of article 140
The administrative boundaries of Kerkuk province in the present and the past Kerkuk city as a central district and Kerkuk province as an administrative unit
Is all Kerkuk considered, or certain districts of the province?
The conventional and  juridical aspects of the prolongation of the article 140
The role of the United Nations and the international arbitration.
The article 140 and the difference between humanistic normalization process and the political desire to annex the province
Is the article 140 constitute a fair and equiponderant solution  for Kerkuk problem
Justification of survival of the commission of article 140 and complains of the unilateral procedures.

II. The project for resolving of Kerkuk problem
An independent Kerkuk province project
Formulations and regulations
The headlines of the constitution of the Kerkuk province
The mechanisms of distribution of the major posts
The relation between Kerkuk province and the other Turkmen regions
The article 119 and the constitutional bases to institute Kerkuk province
The proposal of individual estate for Kerkuk province: the frame and the formation
Kerkuk province and decentralization administration in Iraq
The characteristics and future of the province and the percentages of representation – Kerkuk as a federal region.
The local administration of the Turkmen regions in Iraq and the article 125 of the Iraqi constitution

III. The bases of the united Turkmen message for solution of Kerkuk problem
The Turkmen and Kerkuk in the past, present and future.
Kerkuk is a national Iraqi Issue
Kerkuk is an address for the Turkmen Issue and rights in the Iraq
The Turkmen Nature of Kerkuk: the proves and the facts
Kerkuk in the programs of the Turkmen authorities: parties and other organizations
Kerkuk: unified or multiple identities.
Kerkuk and the peace in Iraq and the region
Kerkuk: the model of coexistence and the national unity of the different components of the Iraqi community
Kerkuk and the future of the democratic process in Iraq
The important of the Kerkuk in defining the relation of Turkmen with the others
Kerkuk and the political alliances in Iraqi Turkmen Human Rights Research Foundation
The harmony between the components of the Kerkuk people and the appropriate solution

IV. The mechanism and the work plans to introduce the Kerkuk Issue
Institution of coordination centre for Turkmen political groups
Institution of Kerkuk political and information center
The project of Kerkuk convention
Documentation of the Kerkuk history, protection of its historical and cultural characteristics and prevention of demographical changes.
The characteristics of the unified Iraqi Turkmen Information and Kerkuk Issue
Plans of the Turkmen campaign in the national, regional and international fields.
The international and the regional organizations and Kerkuk Issue
The reports of the international authorities about Kerkuk: the report of Baker-Hamilton and International Crisis Group.
The mechanisms to maintain continuous contact with the Arabic media
Internationalisation of the Kerkuk problem: the favourable and unfavourable aspects. The present models of the co-operative administration (Brussels Model). The Turkmen Diaspora and its contribution to in defending of the Turkmen view on Kerkuk.
Organization of activities, conferences and panels inside and outside Iraq

Translated from Arabic by SOITM

SOITM    2 February 2008
Kerkuk convention
Turkmen political parties and organizations of different ideologies who participated in the workshop “Kerkuk Issue - unification of Turkmen message and project” on 2 February 2008 published a treaty which clarifies the current Turkmen policy and activities in dealing with Kerkuk Issues. The following is the text of the convention:
In the name of God most gracious most Merciful

Kerkuk is the only Iraqi province with a peculiar specialty for its economical importance, historical complexity, strategically geography and multiplicity of its ethnicities and sects. This acquired the province its national, regional and international importance. Kerkuk province is much important for the Turkmen which symbolize their past, present and future. Kerkuk province refers also to the identity the Turkmen and their existence. Therefore, the participants in the workshop “Kerkuk Issue - unification of Turkmen message and project” on 2 February 2008 in al-Rashid Hotel in Baghdad agreed on several basic principles and considered it as a convention and pledged to work accordingly.

The convention

Kerkuk is address of the Turkmen identity and Rights they will never relinquish or renounce. The unfair approach to the Kerkuk case will be considered the violation of the basic Turkmen rights.

Working by the all peaceful means to find a rightful and unbiased solution for the Kerkuk problem which preserve its identity, multiplicity and enhance the peaceful cohabitation

Defending Kerkuk society and to avoid the sectarianism, racism, expiation and to strengthen its social inborn coherent characteristics.

Kerkuk is for all its peoples from all the ethnicities and components; they themselves are responsible to preserve the unity, structure and multiplicity.

Kerkuk is the factor of unity and collaboration between the Turkmen powers, parties and intellectuals as it is the sign of unity and coherence of the Turkmen community.

 Any solution for Kerkuk problem should be through the compliance of the representatives of the its major components

Participation in any negotiations to resolve Kerkuk problem and to find a fair solution should be through a common consensus between the Turkmen actors and by the unified Turkmen view. No group allowed being preferred to the other.

Promising to protect the administrative idiosyncrasy, ethnical multiplicity and cultural diversity of Kerkuk

Adoption of the project of an independent Kerkuk region (Province) and waging campaigns to introduce and defend the Turkmen view in the international arena

Kerkuk Issues should be the leading issue and fore mostly treated in any activity of all the Turkmen political and civil society organizations

Working to treat the damages to which the Turkmen in Kerkuk have been exposed and halt the oppression

Intensifying all the activities in all fields to prevent the attempts to change demography of Kerkuk

Emphasizing that Kerkuk administration should include a fair and balanced proportions of the Kerkuk’s different communities until an impartial census and election organized by the United Nations and under the inspection of the independent international observers.

The Turkmen should play a central and basic role in all the aspects of Kerkuk administration; they should hold major posts and their percentage should be not less that 32%

Unification of the Turkmen information facilities and direction of all the activities toward Kerkuk Issues

Assertion and declaration that Kerkuk is an Iraqi city which concerns all the Iraqis; the Iraqi citizens are the only owner of Kerkuk’s underground wealth. Kerkuk problem is a native issue which influences directly the safety and the unity of the Iraqi sovereignty. It is necessary to cooperate with the National Unity Government which supports the fair resolution for Kerkuk problem.

The Turkmen representatives should participate in every governmental or non-governmental interlocutions and negotiations which draft the administrative boundaries of Kerkuk

Acquiring Kerkuk peculiar status in the Iraqi Constitution as it was mentioned in article 53 of the Iraqi Transitional Administrative Law

Institution of a conjoint working committee from all the Turkmen political groups to unify the Turkmen message and policy about Kerkuk Issue and to establish the basic the strategies and provide the solutions

Unification of the national, regional and international activities and campaigns of the Turkmen political parties about Kerkuk issue

Turkmen news office
Translated from Arabic by SOITM and reviewed for language by M. Kelenchy

SOITM   15 March 2008
Dear Madams / Sirs,    Please find attached the Minute of the negotiations between the Turkmen and the Kurdish representatives in the Council of Kerkuk City    Sincerely    Sheth Jerjis
Iraqi Turkmen Human Rights Research Foundation (SOITM)
Kan Pelsstraat 56              6525 VZ Nijmegen               The Netherlands
Tel/fax: +31 (0) 24 844 14 14    Mobile: +31-616262586
Minute of the negotiations between the Turkmen and
the Kurdish representatives in the Council of Kerkuk City

              At 31 January 2008 and during his visit to Kerkuk city, the Iraqi president met the Turkmen group in the Kerkuk city council. The reasons why the Turkmen group protests meetings of the Kerkuk city council was discussed. The Turkmen group presented the seven rightful demands to the president which all were found acceptable by him.

       FIRST SESSION – 25 February 2008
       The demands of the Turkmen group are as follows:
1)      Appointment of Turkmen in one of the 3 higher posts in the province; Governor, the deputy governor or president of the city council.
2)      According to the Iraqi constitution the Turkmen language should be made an official language beside the Arabic and Kurdish in the province. Starting from adding of the Turkmen language into the all signboards of the city beside the Arabic and Kurdish.
3)      Starting from the directors of the governmental offices the shared administration should be put into force. This was approved by all the components of Kerkuk peoples: 32% from the Turkmen, the Arab and the Kurds and 4% from the Christians of Kerkuk.
4)      To stop the illegal buildings on the lands of the Turkmen and of the municipality and government and return those lands which were taken away.
5)       Rebuilding of the Turkmen neighborhoods inside Kerkuk city (Tisin, Kala and Arasa … etc) and the villages in the other districts of the Kerkuk province (Kifri, Bashir, Yaychi … etc) which was demolished by the Ba’ath regime and fully substitution of the owners.
6)       De-politicization of the development projects in the province and prevention of the monopolization in favor of single ethnic group.
7)       Discontinuation of intimidation of the Turkmen staffs, particularly, the relatively few number of Turkmen directors. If the first item can not be realized at the time being, we would temporarily hold the second assistant of the governor, the second deputy of president of the council, additionally the decisions should be made by accord. If the usurpation of the lands continued, the responsibilities should be put on the regional government.

       The reply of Kurdish group:
-   That the Turkmen group formerly did not accept the post of second assistant of the governor. In our contract with the Arabic group, we have agreed on only one assistant for the governor, therefore, the realization of this demand is not possible at the time being. We should discuss it with the Arabic group. This can be possible when the new city council legislation come into force.
-   Regarding the Turkmen language, the constitution is not clear; the constitutional court should present clarification. (Worth noting that the first version of the final Iraqi constitution was stating that the Turkmen language is going to be official language in the regions were the Turkmen people live. This has most probably been consciously changed to a vague expression: the Turkmen language is going to be official language in the regions were the Turkmen density is found)
-   The decisions can not be made by the accord. (In this case, all the decisions will be made by the  Kurdish group)
-   The second deputy of the president of the council was given to the Islamist Kurds as part of political agreement.  This should be discussed with them.
-   Regarding the usurped lands, a commission will be constituted and you will have a representative their. (The vast Turkmen lands were confiscated by Ba’ath regime in Kerkuk province were given to the Arabs, therefore, the Arabs in the commission will not vote for returning of Turkmen lands. On the other hand, the vast Turkmen and governmental lands were usurped after occupation by the Kurds, as a result the Kurds in the commission is going also vote against returning of the lands)
-   Regarding the percentages of the shared administration, we have addressed to the ministers council and we are waiting their reply.
-   Let us to sign the issues on which we agreed and meet for the other issue later on. When the Turkmen group said that we would sign after agreement on all the issues, the Kurdish group changed the mind and said that they should discuss with the Arabic group.
       The conference was postponed.

       SECOND SESSION – 2 March 2008
       In this session the Kurdish group said:
-   That we might sign the issues on which we are accord.
-   We have benefited from the authority vacuum in the beginning and wrote the Kurdish signboards on the signboards, later on, the Kurdish became an official language. We are not against making the Turkmen an official language, we have written to the constitutional court and we will be enlightened about the word density in the constitution.
-   Regarding the posts in the province, all are occupied; the only post which is vacant is the post of president of the district council. We are not against giving the second assistant of the governor to the Turkmen, but the Arabic group don’t want share the second assistant of the government with others. You may have the second assistant of the governor, when the new city council legislation comes into force.
-   The census is going to prove who are the majority in the province is. (the Kurds dominate the administration in Kerkuk province, the huge manipulations which took place in the preceding two Iraqi general elections and referendum on the constitution is surely going to occur in any upcoming election)
       Without agreement the meeting was postponed.

       THIRD SESSION – 9 March 2008
       In the beginning of the meeting, the Kurdish representatives wished that the meeting will be successful, but they said that:
-   They have an agreement with the Arabic group and the Arabic group refuses creation of the second assistant of the governor.
-   The Turkmen have already enjoyed the rights of education and press and they practice their cultural rights, for the further rights we should have information from the constitutional court.
-   There is a sort of distrustfulness between us, which should be removed. We agree principals, but we disagree on the details.
-   It is important that the Turkmen group return to the city council.  As an encouraging behavior from the Turkmen group, they agreed to sign if the Kurdish group accepted that the Turkmen should be an official language in the province. The USA consul considered this idea a positive behavior which will support co-operation and increase the trustfulness.
              The Turkmen group also said that the agreement between the Kurdish and the Arabic groups will restrict themselves and not the Turkmen group. This is a method of delay policy.
       The meeting was postponed without agreement.    31/01/2011 00:00:00

Current Situation in Kurdistan – Iraq
Statement by Gorran Movement of January 29, 2011 (source:

Proud Citizens of Kurdistan

We are witnessing historic events unfolding throughout the world that herald the end of dictatorships in the majority of the closed and oppressed countries. A wave of protest has galvanised the people in many part of the world in pursuit of freedom and equality. The determined masses have poured into the streets demanding their freedom and justice and struck terror in the heart of the oppressors. The international support for these democratic changes has been echoed in all the major capitals in the world and dictators and oppressors are being roundly condemned by them.

While we, in Kurdistan, welcome this wave of change and eagerly anticipating the positive developments as they unfold, we regard, with disappointment, the apathy and indifference of the current authorities of Kurdistan towards the demand of the people. They have failed to take any serious measure to democratise the system of government, to achieve social justice or to provide the services that the people of Kurdistan need in their daily life. The people of Kurdistan were aspiring that the in the wake of the 1991 uprising, a democratic system of government would be established that would become a beacon of democratic change and social justice in the region that would compel the people in the rest of the region to follow suit. But the reality that emerged since then has dashed all of these aspirations. Not only Kurdistan failed to establish the democracy that others would follow, instead, we ended up with a governing system of oppressive partisanship autocracy that has copied other failed modules.

The emergence of the Parliamentary opposition, almost two years ago, raised real hopes within the people of Kurdistan that the region’s authority would revise their attitude and take the opportunity of the emerging opposition as an occasion to democratise the government, establish a real parliamentary democracy, improve the living standards, create work opportunities and development schemes for the youth, to nationalise the region’s defences and security apparatus and separate the party-political authority from the government authority. Instead, contrary to the people’s expectations, the ruling elite are implementing carefully drawn plans to desolate our national institutions, first and foremost Kurdistan Parliament, which has totally lost its’ ability to hold the government to account. The current parliament has failed in the past 18 months to question any official from the authority of the region. Even the regional government does not recognise the Parliament, from which it acquires its legitimacy, and refuses to answer any question raised by the members.

Gorran movement have frequently raised these concerns in our vocal and written presentations, through our representatives in Kurdistan and Baghdad (Iraq) Parliaments, to the ruling elites from both ruling parties, and have repeatedly drawn their attentions to the potential dangers of the situation. But time and again we were faced with more apathy and indifference from them. Therefore, now it is the time for our movement to submit these demands forthrightly and publically to the ruling elites and all of the political parties of Kurdistan as a genuine solution to end the system of partisanship autocracy and establish new principals of government that enjoy your support and in which we all can take pride:

1- To prohibit the leadership of KDP and PUK from any kind of interference in the affairs of the Government, statutory bodies, the Parliament, judiciary, security services and Peshmerga (armed forces).
2- To prohibit the Security Services, Zanyary (PUK intelligent Services), Parastin (KDP intelligent Services) and Peshmerga from any kind of interference in the political activities of individuals and groups. We demand that the directors of these apparatus to be replaced by independent professional individuals.
3- The dissolution of the current PUK-KDP partisan government and the formation of a transitional apolitical technocratic administration.
4- The dissolution of the current Parliament.
5- The preparations for an authentic election free from rigging for a new Kurdistan Parliament within 3 months.
6- The return to their rightful owners of all properties of the government and individuals that were sequestered by the political parties and their officials.
7- To withdraw the draft constitution of the region and all of the legislations that are pertinent to the system of government of the country and pass it on to the oncoming Parliament.

As we submit these demands of the people;
We ask all political parties of Kurdistan to express their support,
We ask Kurdistan rulers to shoulder their historic responsibility and implement it.

Gorran Movement
29th January 2011

Zawya    23 Feb 2011

Goran reiterates call for Kurdish govt. resignation
By Hazhar Mohammed

Erbil - The president of the Kurdistan Regional parliament stressed parties should stop calling protesters "anarchist" and the major opposition party, the Goran (Change) Movement restated the call for withdrawing confidence from the current Kurdish government.

One week after a public protest in Sulaimaniya, the second largest city in Kurdistan, the Kurdish Regional parliament assembled for an urgent session Wednesday. On the second day of a series of protest rallies in the city, the security forces clashed with the protesters, security with gunfire and the protesters mostly with stones.

Since the onset of tensions Feb.17 three people, including two underage, have been killed and 166 were wounded not only in Sulaimaniya but in some towns within Sulaimaniya province, 364 km northeast of Baghdad.

Kamal Kirkuki, the parliament speaker urged the government to protect both the public and the Kurdish security, while he called on the parties to stop labeling the protesters "anarchists."

The Kurdistan Region Premier Barham Salih and some other top official openly suggested "a hand is behind the public incitement". They described the protests as "sedition and anarchy." The label was even passed to the media of the major parties, in response to which the protesters urged the government to listen to them and stop calling them "vandals or anarchist."

During Wednesday's urgent session the head of Goran faction also read his party statement, whereby the party replicated its earlier call for government resignation.

Goran issued a statement Jan.29 where it postulated the Kurdish government resignation and parliament disband among the seven terms for its reform project. The protest began 19 days after the announcement, which was sternly attacked by the major parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

The head of the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), Omar Abdul-Aziz also urged parliament to "prove its sincerity to the public," adding "we were wrong" by giving confidence to a legislative body which has been so far "unsuccessful, incapable of questioning a minister."

The KIU deputy warned if the provincial elections are not run as soon as possible, the electricity shortage is not solved, the fate of the missing people during the civil war is not revealed, and the revenues of Kurdistan oil and gas contracts are not disclosed, parliament "should question its intent by giving confidence to such a government."

Only Goran has openly voiced support for the protesters. While the two other opposition factions, the KIU and the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) seem to take quite observant strides, confining themselves to mediating for peaceful talks between opposition and the major parties.

Tens went missing during the civil war between the PUK and KDP in 1990s. The two have domineered power in Kurdistan since 1991.

The Kurdistan oil contracts have been always a source of dispute between Goran and ruling parties.

The three provinces in the Kurdistan Region are run by the provincial councils whose tenure has been extended by parliament for more than one year. The Kurdish government is yet to set a date for the provincial voting.

The protesters demand the Kurdish government and parliament resign to give way for "early transparent elections". They complain about "monopolizing the economic and political authority," by the two major parties of Kurdistan. Many observe allegiance to either of the two ruling patties a must to get employed and hence were deprived of the right. As with the rest of Iraq, Kurdistan suffers from electric power deficiency but after almost 20 years of semi autonomy.

The KDP is led by Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani and the PUK by the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani

openDemocracy  24 February 2011

Iraqi protests: aimed at changing the current regime?
Shatha Al Juburi

Iraqi protesters recently denounced the Islamisation of Iraqi society, demanded better working conditions, and protested the torture of prisoners. But ‘regime change’ has a different meaning in Iraq, and unlike Egypt and Tunisia, these protesters are asking for more support from the current government.
About the authorShatha Al Juburi is an Iraqi political analyst and researcher, who has worked for the Babylon Centre for Research and Strategic Studies Protest movements sweeping the Arab world have reached Iraq. In February, hundreds of Iraqis gathered in several spontaneous demonstrations across Iraq, in the cities of Baghdad, Diwaniya, Basra, Kut, Ramadi, Amara, and other cities. Most of the demonstrations took to the street to protest government corruption and lack of public services. These demonstrations came a day after Iraq's anti-corruption chief said ministers frequently covered up corruption in their departments.

The demonstration in Baghdad’s al-Mutanabi Street, which carried banners with slogans like ‘Baghdad will not be another Kandahar’, denounced the Islamisation of Iraqi society by provincial councils which are controlled by Islamist Shiite parties. Last month, Iraqi security forces raided the premises of the ‘Writer’s Union’ under the pretext that beverages had been sold by its social club.  In another demonstration, a group of employees from the Ministry of Industry denounced the 20% cuts to their pay.  In the northern city of Kirkuk, a multi-ethnic city, employees of the state’s North Oil Company protested their deteriorating working conditions and low salaries.

Fifty inmates at a prison in the city of Amara in southern Iraq have begun a hunger strike demanding that the government announce a general amnesty. They claimed they had made confessions under torture. In the capital around 500 people, mostly lawyers, called for the government to put so-called ‘secret prisons’ under scrutiny and give detainees access to legal counsel. Recently, both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said that Iraqi security forces operate secret prisons where torture is routine. In April 2010 and January 2011, the Los Angeles Times revealed abuse by Iraqi security forces at prisons under the direct control of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.  It reported on a secret prison run by the Baghdad Brigade at the Muthanna Airport in Baghdad, which allegedly held hundreds of Sunnis from Ninewa. Some of the prisoners were apparently tortured, raped, and abused in numerous ways.

Last weekend, a protest in the southern city of al-Hamza al-Sharqi gathered near a police station to protest shortages of power, food and jobs and corruption. Security officials opened fire on the demonstrators, killing one and wounding four others. Electricity shortages have been the major cause of discontent and protests in Iraq since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. In June last year, thousands of demonstrators took to the street in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city, to protest persistent shortages of electricity. The protesters clashed with the police, one person was killed when the police opened fire on the demonstrators, who were throwing rocks at the provincial headquarters in Basra.

In a bid to sooth the growing protests over electricity shortages, on Saturday, February 12, the electricity ministry said that it would now subsidise electrical power usage. Hussein al-Shahristani, Power Deputy Prime Minister and Acting Electricity Minister, promised that Iraqis would receive their first1000KWH-hours of electricity for free each month and consumers who use more than 1,000 KWH will pay for what they use over the exempted amount. But al-Sharistani said that the production capacities will stay below required level needed for next summer.

In response to these protests, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki announced on February 5 that he would not run for a third term, and that he supported a constitutional limit of two terms to the prime minister, a position which currently has no limit in Iraq. Maliki announced earlier that he was reducing his salary by 50% and that every Iraqi citizen would be provided with 15,000 Dinars (about 12 USD) monthly to make up in the current decrease in food rations.

More demonstrations and disturbances are predicted in other parts of Iraq with the news of the demonstrations widely covered in most of the Arab media, especially because several Imams in Iraq used their influential Friday sermons to denounce government corruption and the growing anger over the Iraqi government’s inability to provide the basic necessities of life and unemployment. Nonetheless, many observers have noted that the Iraqi demonstrations, unlike the ones in Egypt and Tunisia, might not lead to, and in general are not aimed at, ousting the current Iraqi regime, for several reasons. As mentioned earlier, the major demand of the Iraqi protesters is the provision of basic services. In addition, Iraq has a democratically elected government, though its last elections are said to have been rigged on at least a low scale. In addition, Iraq obviously has a mixed ethnic-sectarian population which is represented by parties participating in the political process.  While the waves of protest sweeping the Arab world are obviously inspiring Iraqis to re-ignite their calls for change and progress, after so many years of bloodshed, the message in Iraq seems to be: we need to work with the system we have, and make it truly workable.

Nonetheless, it is anticipated that the demonstrations to be held on February 25 will be joined by thousands of Iraqis from all the major cities of Iraq.  If these demonstrations are confronted by violence from Iraqi security forces accused of infiltration by criminals and militias, more demonstrations will definitely follow. Should this occur, slogans may well be raised that call for ousting the current Iraqi regime.

Zawya    27 Feb 2011

Kurdish ruling parties news statement on Kirkuk
By Sirwa Horami

Erbil - The political offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) issued on Saturday evening a joint memorandum to the leaders of political parties and blocs and Iraqi public opinion about the situation experienced by Kirkuk and its outskirts.

The official television of the two parties quoted what came in the note as saying that "we saw how the chauvinistic parties exploited Friday demonstrations on Friday 25 / 2 to attack government institutions in the province of Kirkuk, especially in the Hawija, Riyad, and Sulaiman Bek area holding the pictures of the former President and banners of illegal terrorists parties chanting slogans against the general democratic process in Iraq in general and the Kurds in particular."

"The application field showed clearly the existence of a coup plot" .. noting that "the emphasis on the rejection of the provisions of Article 140 of the Constitution indicates underestimating the law and canceling the provisions of the constitution where they and  before the implementation of Article 140 or a referendum or anything legal anticipated what is happening and decided that Kirkuk will remain subjected to their will and those who stand behind them, that in fact do not represent the Arab brothers, "according to the memorandum.

"The notorious demands included their demand of releasing all terrorists who have committed dozens of crimes against the citizens after the liberation of Iraq, and even now," .. pointing out that "these prohibitive demands show bad faith to implement suspicious plans to stir up sedition in the country."

The parties accused according to the note "the Arabic political council in Kirkuk for results of what will happen if our headquarters and governmental institutions in Kirkuk were attacked."

The Arabic political council in Kirkuk issued a statement yesterday that showed its concerns of the movement of the Peshmerga forces toward the outskirts of Kirkuk, demanding of the withdrawal of these troops and their heavy weapons outside the borders of the province, as the Council demanded the federal government to intervene to prevent any plans to annex Kirkuk to Kurdistan region and the military intervention in it to prevent that.

Zawya    27 Feb 2011

Kurdish top politicians head to Kirkuk to settle unrest
By Ashti Khurshid

Kirkuk - Shortly ago a high delegation of Kurdish political leaders arrived in Kirkuk city to discuss with the local administration the recent unrest that ripped through Kirkuk province.

Violence and public protest erupted Friday in many Iraqi provinces, including Kirkuk. The day was marked as national Day of Anger. The protesters allegedly demanded the end of corruption and unemployment as well as better public services. However, in the multiethnic Kirkuk some political slogans were also heard and some areas fell into the hands of the protesters completely.

The delegation was headed by Kosrat Rasul, the deputy general secretary for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Nechirvan Barzani, the vice president for the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). The two parties make up majority in the Kurdistan rule. There are fears that the aggression between the Arabs and Kurds in Kirkuk province break out, a fear leading the Kurdish government to expedite one of its most skilled military units, zeravani, to the province.

It is not only lack of electricity, water, and the unemployment that prompted Kirkuk public took into streets. The people are wandering what will be the destiny of their province, will it be attached to the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, in the north or will it remain with Baghdad government.

Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution is to settle such tenure disputes between Kurdistan and Baghdad, not only over Kirkuk but also Nineveh, Salahaddin and Diyala provinces.  In Friday protests, some demanded annulling the article- an article Kurds deem decisive for "restoration" of the Kurdish demography.

Zawya    27 Feb 2011

KDP second man in Kirkuk to cool down rage
By Sarwa Horami

Erbil - The Vice-President of Kurdistan Democratic Party , Nechirvan Barzani visited on Sunday Kirkuk to look closely at the situation and meet with officials from both the Democratic Party , the Patriotic Union , other parties and a number of government officials. According to the official television of the party "Barzani will meet with the party leaders and government officials in the province to discuss the recent situation and find a solution to the problems faced Kurds in recently."

The Arab political council in Kirkuk have issued a statement yesterday, expressing their concerns from the Peshmarga forces movement toward the outskirts of Kirkuk, demanding the withdrawal of those troops and their heavy weapons outside the borders of the province, as the Council demanded the federal government to intervene to prevent any plans to include Kirkuk to Kurdistan and the military intervention from it .

The political offices of Kurdistan Patriotic Union and Kurdistan Democratic Party issued yesterday a joint memorandum in response to the leaders of political parties and Iraqi blocs and Iraqi public opinion on the situation experienced by Kirkuk and its outskirts.The parties blamed according to the memorandum, "the Arab political council in Kirkuk for the results of what will happen if our headquarters and governmental institutions in Kirkuk were exposed to any attack or aggression."

Zawya    28 Feb 2011

Turkish minister: Kirkuk is the identity of Turkmans
By Hawar Baziyan

Erbil - Turkish foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu said his country deems the fate of Iraqis vital for Turkey, while stressing Kirkuk is the identity for Turkmans in Iraq, the Turkish Todays Zaman newspaper reported Sunday night.

Davutoglu's statement came during his meeting with a number of political leaders from the Iraqi Talafar, 469 km northwest of Baghdad.  The Turkman leaders were in Turkey to launch a peace initiative to end a long-standing dispute between the city's Shiite and Sunni Turkman groups.

Turkman population is concentrated in Kirkuk province. Iraqi Kurds have repeatedly claimed "restoration" of Kirkuk province along some other disputed areas to the Kurdistan Region, northern Iraq. They maintain the areas were originally Kurdish but the Arabization during the Saddam Hussein reign and even prior to his rule changed the demography of the "Kurdish" areas. In most of areas in dispute beside Arabs and Kurds, Turkmans reside.

"The entire Iraq is precious to us. The fate of the Iraqis is the fate of Turkey. We will not let any Iraqi citizen down," Davutoglu said, while he urged the leaders to promote peaceful coexistence of the peoples in Iraq, disregard of their religious orientation. "Kirkuk is the identity for Turkmans and Talafar is their fortress, which will never surrender," Davutolu said.

Tensions rose in the oil rich Kirkuk province, centered in Kirkuk city (255 km north of Baghdad), after a skirmish between the Turkmans and Arabs in a village in the province. Recent public protests across the province also deepened the crisis further. The protesters on Feb.25 demanded the government to provide improved living conditions, better and more public services, and more employment opportunities. Some even chanted slogans against article 140, designed to settle the tenure disagreements between Baghdad and Kurdistan over the disputed areas. This is while Kurds reiterated the article should be enforced fully.

After some parts of Kirkuk fell into the hands of the mainly Arab protesters in Kirkuk, Kurds deployed a professional Kurdish military unit, zeravani, is Kirkuk reportedly to confront with the local forces any potential attack on the governmental agencies and the public in the province.

Zawya    28 Feb 2011

Sadrists launch referendum on public services across Iraq
By Raman Brosk

Baghdad - A leader in the Sadrist Current headed by Muqtada al-Sadr announced on Monday that a seven-day public referendum entitled "People's Voice Week" begins today into the services provided to Iraqi citizens.

Speaking to an assembly of religious scholars at the party's Baghdad headquarters, Hazem al-Araji said that Sadrist Current offices across the country would be the polling booths for the referendum in which the Iraqi public has the opportunity to voice its opinions on the provision of public services.

Sadrist Current deputy Hazim al-Araji told AKnews last week that the week long referendum will begin on Monday by all offices of the Sadrist Current in Iraq including the Kurdistan region, adding that the objective of the referendum is to deliver the citizens' demands to the Iraqi government.

Araji went on to attribute many of the shortcomings in public services to the damage caused by previous governments but added that "that some ministers in the current government don't have the ability to manage their ministries".

Hundreds of thousands of protestors took to the streets on Friday in Baghdad and cities across Iraq demanding improved public services, effective implementation of the ration card system, an end to administrative corruption and improved employment opportunities.

The protestors, inspired by the wave of rallies sweeping across the Arab world that have so far succeeded in overthrowing the long-standing leaders of both Tunisia and Egypt, were demanding the improved living conditions that they were promised by the political blocs during last year's electoral campaigns.

Iraq is suffers from a dilapidated infrastructure in all sectors resulting from long years of siege, war and economic sanctions over the last two decades of the last century.

Despite the passage of eight years since the former Iraqi regime was toppled, successive Iraqi governments have not been able to ensure basic public services to the country's citizens.

In many Iraqi provinces, national electricity supplies are limited to around six hours a day despite government reports that billions of dollars have been pumped into the country's electricity grid.

Protestors are also calling for greater administrative transparency amid a multitude of allegations of governmental corruption. One such demand is that the government explains the fate of the $6 billion allocated to the food-subsidizing ration-card system that in many cases failed to reach the Iraqi citizen.

Rising unemployment and the lack of decent employment opportunities that have left up to 25% of the nation's youth without work have further fuelled public anger.

The rallies in several cities became less peaceful on Friday, notably in Mosul where protestors set fire to the Nineveh provincial government headquarters and in Basra where the governorate was stormed. Violent clashes between security forces and the public were also reported in Baghdad, Kirkuk and Salahadin.

Reporters Without Borders    28/02/2011

Death threats and physical attacks on journalists on Iraqi Kurdistan

Reporters Without Borders wrote today to Massoud Barzani, the president of Iraqi Kurdistan, voicing deep concern about the deterioration in the situation of journalists in his autonomous region since 17 February.

HE Massoud Barzani
President of the Kurdistan Regional Government
Office of the President

Paris, 28 February 2011

Dear President Barzani,

In a report released on 3 November, Reporters Without Borders said there was more press freedom in Iraqi Kurdistan than in surrounding regions and that the situation had improved considerably in the past 10 years. However we would now like to share with you our deep concern about the deterioration in the situation of journalists in your autonomous region since 17 February.

During the past 10 days, our organization has registered many physical attacks by the security forces on journalists covering the current demonstrations. Many journalists have also told us that they have received explicit death threats. Please find enclosed a list of these incidents, which is not exhaustive.

As president of the autonomous regional government of Iraqi Kurdistan, Reporters Without Borders urges you to do everything in your power to end these media freedom violations and to ensure that the safety of all journalists is guaranteed. We would also like these incidents to be investigated, especially the arson attack on the privately-owned TV station NRT on 20 February.

We thank you in advance for the attention you give to our request.


Jean-François Julliard
Reporters Without Borders secretary-general

A non-exhaustive list of incidents targeting media personnel during the past 10 days

* 27 February – incidents at Erbil
- Allan Sahebqrran, a reporter for the newspaper Hawlati, was attacked by men in civilian dress, who slashed his face.
“I was outside the headquarters of the Erbil governorate with other journalists,” he said. “People in civilian dress ordered us to leave. At first they said they were police. Then they said they worked for the Asayesh [intelligence services]. We also saw their cards. We were then followed by 12 plainclothes members of the security forces. When we got to the centre of Erbil, they hit me. Some of them filmed what was happening while the others kept on hitting me. I filed a complaint and was able to recover my camera from the Asayesh a bit later but I did not get my mobile phone back. My neck still hurts.”
- Shwan Sidiq, a reporter for Civil Magazine, told Reporters Without Borders that a man in civilian dress prevented him from taking photos of a demonstrator who had been injured in Erbil.
- Garmiyani Hamay Pur, a journalist with the satellite TV station KNN, said KNN cameraman Rahman Nariman was attacked in Kalar by members of the security forces of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), one of the two main parties that form the coalition government. His camera was taken and shots were fired at him.
- Hemn Karim, the editor of Fshar, and Salman Kochari, a reporter for Standard Magazine, told Reporters Without Borders they had received death threats.

* 26 February, a series of incidents, above all at Kalar (100 km south of Sulaymaniyah)
- Garmiyani Hamay Pur, a KNN journalist based in Kalar, told Reporters Without Borders that the security forces banned him from filming. “I was told that the security forces had been ordered to hit journalists who covered the demonstrations. As a result, now only the partisan media can film during marches.”
- Kawa Garmiyani, a reporter for the newspaper Awene, was physically attacked by masked gunmen who seized his camera and recorder while covering clashes between police and demonstrators earlier in the day in Kalar.
- Speda TV journalist Sarkawt Salam and a photographer, Sangar Hamid, were attacked by gunmen. “We were attacked without any reason while covering the demonstration,” Salam told Reporters Without Borders.
- Hawlati reporter Soran Ahmed was accosted in Sulaymaniyah by members of the counter-terrorist forces led by Pavel Talabani, the son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who heads the other main ruling party in Kurdistan, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). “They confiscated my camera and mobile phone,” he told Reporters Without Borders. “They also took my press card and the card issued by the Union of Journalists.”
- Irfan Ahmed, Anwar Arab, Salam Haji and Nasih Abdulrahim were arrested by security forces while covering a demonstration in Halabja (80 km east of Sulaymaniyah). They were taken to the mayor’s office and were released an hour and a half later.
- Freelance journalist and writer Soran Omar said he had received many threatening SMS messages from different phone numbers after giving an interview on the TV station Payam. “I think even Sulaymaniyah is not a place for independent journalists,” he told Reporters Without Borders. He requested protection from the authorities and contacted the mobile phone company Asia Cell to request the identity of the owners of the SIM cards from which the threats were sent.
- Bestun Jallayi, the Speda TV bureau chief in Kalar, said he received a threatening SMS message in the evening. “Wait for death’s flood,” the SMS said.
- Someone hacked into the Facebook pages of two influential writers and intellectuals, Mariwan Wrya Qani and Aras Fatah, after they voiced support for the demonstrations. The news website was also blocked.

*25 February, many journalists report receiving death threats
- Niyaz Abdulla, an Erbil-based reporter for Radio Nawa, told Reporters Without Borders she was threatened by security forces while outside the Erbil governorate’s headquarters to cover a demonstration by young people in support of the Sulaymaniyah demonstrators. KDP supporters insulted her and threatened her with violence. When she left, she was followed by plainclothes officers until she found a taxi.
“Nowadays there is no point filing a complaint against the security forces,” she said. She also said that security forces confiscated a camera from a journalist working for the newspaper Rudaw.
- Latif Fatih Faraj, a journalist with PUK links who heads the Journalists Union in Kirkuk said: “I had just returned home after taking part in a live KNN programme on the demonstrations in Sulaymaniyah and other cities when I got a phone call. Describing himself as an important politician, the caller said he was going to kill me for criticising the KDP, which is led by Massoud Barzani, the autonomous Kurdistan region’s president. His number? 0770 39 705 98.”
The head of the KDP in Kirkuk denied that his party could be responsible for such threats. “So I called the PUK, the Asayesh and the police,” Faraj added. “The police offered to put me under the protection of bodyguards but I refused. My brothers and cousins are with me, to protect me if anything happens to me.”
- Members of a group of journalists based in Erbil were threatened after expressing support for the demonstrations in Sulaymaniyah. One of them, writer and political analyst Salah Mazen, wrote on Facebook: “Someone called me last night and clearly advised me not to participate in the demonstrations organized in Erbil. He said if I wanted to demonstrate, I should just go to Sulaymaniyah. He said, word for word: ‘If you value your life and love your children, stay quietly at home or leave Erbil for Sulaymaniyah.’”
- Shawqi Kanabi, the head of the KNN bureau in Erbil, told Reporters Without Borders he had been warned that the station’s bureau could be attacked if it filmed the demonstrations in Erbil.
- Freelance journalist Barzan Ali Hama was forced to leave Erbil after organizing a petition signed by a number of journalists that urged the region’s parliament to find a solution to the current crisis and to ensure that those responsible for shooting on demonstrators were brought to justice. Several of the signatories, who asked not to be identified, withdrew their support after receiving threats from KDP supporters.
- Kaywan Hawrani, a freelance journalist based in Halabja, has also had to flee. One of his friends said: “Kaywan was one of the organizers of the 23 February demonstration in Halabja during which a policeman was injured. Soon after the demonstration, the police began to arrest the organizers. Kaywan fled the town. The police are looking for him.”
- Meanwhile, a representative of the opposition party Goran said during a special parliamentary session on 23 February that six Peshmergas [Kurdish fighters] who were responsible for the arson attack on the privately-owned TV station NRT on 20 February were currently hospitalised because of the burns they sustained during the attack.
“We now know the people who were responsible for this attack but we have obtained no clear response from the interior ministry and intelligence services.” He said. According some rumours, two of the Peshmergas involved were sent to Turkey for treatment because of the gravity of their burns.

* Incidents already mentioned in a previous release

* 21 February
- Ageed Saleem, an NRT reporter in Duhok, said he was threatened by a leading KDP member.

* 20 February
- Criminal raid of Naliya Radio and Television (NRT), a new satellite TV station based in Sulaymaniyah.
- KNN reporter Bryar Namiq was badly injured by police and members of the Asayesh.
- KURDIU reporter Balen Othman was attacked and his camera was destroyed.
- Goran Othman, a journalist with the Islamic Group news website, was attacked.
- Shaswar Mama, an NRT reporter in Raniya, was accosted by members of the security forces.
- KURDIU reporter Mukhlis Ahmed was attacked in Raniya.
- Following its coverage of the previous day’s events in Sulaymaniyah, staff at the newspaper Hawlati received a threatening phone call saying they should evacuate their Erbil office.

* 19 February
Police prevented many journalists from covering protests at the University of Sulaymaniyah.
- Asayesh beat Hawlati reporter Ara Ibrahim using batons.
- Police attacked a KNN TV crew.
- Aras Muhammad, the head of Arasta magazine and Sound Radio, was injured by members of the Asayesh.
- Hardi Salami, a reporter for the satellite TV station Gali Kurdistani, sustained a leg injury.
- Payam reporter Wrya Ahmed sustained injuries to the hands and legs when he was attacked by police.
- The Sulaymaniyah security committee also demanded university academic and intellectual Faruq Rafeeq’s arrest after he said, while taking part in a demonstration in Sulaymaniyah on 17 February: “Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, should apologize for the incidents and deaths caused by members of his party. Those who fired the fatal shots and those who gave them their orders should be arrested and brought to justice. And finally, the Peshmergas should leave the city.”

* 18 February
- Lutfi Doski, a Duhok-based KNN reporter, was prevented from filming the premises of the Gorran party in Duhok.
- An NRT team was prevented from filming demonstrations.
- Reporters for the newspaper Chatr were forced to delete the photos they had taken of the demonstrations.
- Reporters for the newspaper Hawlati were prevented from filming incidents taking place in Sulaymaniyah.

* 17 February
- Radio Gorran was prevented from broadcasting.
- Police prevented KNN reporters from filming the incidents.
- Shwan Muhammad, the editor of the newspaper Awene, was insulted by Peshmergas.
- Rahman Gharib, the head of the press freedom organization METRO and a reporter for Sumariya News, was attacked.
- KNN programme director Namo Namiq was detained for several hours.
- Radio Nawa reporter Bilal Muhammad was attacked and prevented from covering the incidents.
- Saman Majed and Bwar Jalal, reporters for the PUK’s satellite TV station Gali Kurdistan, were attacked.
- Sherko Salayi, a reporter for CNN in Arabic, was attacked.
- Hemin Abdul Latif, reporter for the Destur news website, was badly injured while photographing demonstrators attacking the local headquarters of the KDP.
- The Erbil headquarters of the KNN TV and radio station were set on fire.
- Ari Muhammad, a photographer with the Metrography agency, was injured.

Source: Death threats and targeted physical attacks in journalists on Iraqi Kurdistan

openDemocracy    2 March 2011

Pro-democracy demonstrations in northern Iraq/south Kurdistan
Kamal Chomani and Jake Hess

The winds of rebellion have reached the Kurdistan autonomous region in northern Iraq, where a series of demonstrations have broken out to demand greater democracy, improved social services, and an end to corruption. In this interview, a prominent journalist and democracy advocate discusses the origins of the protests and the wider political situation in the Kurdish region
Jake Hess: What are the major causes of the current wave of demonstrations in south Kurdistan?
Kamal Chomani: The demonstrations are rooted in many sorts of problems in Kurdish society. The causes are different from place to place, and different for various Kurdish classes and communities.
For common people, nepotism, corruption, financial corruption, poverty, the difference between their lives and 'high rank' people, public services, electricity, lack of health insurance, the failure of the cabinet to solve unemployement, and tens of other problems are the main causes. But for intellectuals and journalists, writers and opposition politicians, adding to the problems I mentioned, human rights violations against journalists, limitations on freedom of speech, the daily harassment of journalists, Kurdish-dominated parties' will towards dictatorship and pushing the Kurdish system toward authoritarianism, are main causes as well.
In brief, the gathering of all budgets and all powers in the hands of two dominant parties and families – that of Barzani (KDP) and Talabani (PUK) are the main cause for protest.People who are not KDP and PUK members can’t get any important positions. All things are in [the parties'] hands. People have struggled for freedom and equality, but these two concepts have become meaningless concepts in the hands of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Kurdish leadership has failed in international and regional affairs, too. Kurdish relations with regional countries and policymakers are not based on mutual respect and interests, but on two families’ interests. Relations between the KRG and the Iraqi central government are the worst they've ever been.

JH: What are the protesters demanding? How are the protests being organized, and who is organizing them?
KC: The protesters’ demands have been simple from the beginning: a radical reform in people’ lives and solving the problems even parliament and the political parties have identified. But because the political leadership has not taken meaningful steps to address these problems, now people are trying to topple the whole system. Protesters are asking for equality and an end to corruption. They demand that those who opened fire on protesters during the first days of demonstrations – when three protesters were killed and tens of others wounded - be put on trial. They are demanding an end to the separation of armed forces between the KDP and PUK and unification under one national Peshmerge force; an end to external interference in the KRG; freedom of speech for all; an end to partisan media; that parliament should play its role; that national laws be approved by agreement between the factions, not the simple majority of the parliament, as they were with the Demonstration Law; that the Kurdish constitution be amended and approved by all factions in parliament, instead of by simple majority; and that there are other demands for public services and ending corruption, nepotism and so on.

JH: Which social and political sectors have played the biggest role in the demonstrations?  Have women been involved?  What about political parties and Islamist groups?
KC: All social sectors have played their part, from workers to politicians and intellectuals and Islamic scholars as well. But young people have been the main players, of course. In the first two days, no women attended the demonstrations, but they started joining once one woman gave a speech in Freedom Square asking all women to come out.  Since then, women have been playing a vital role: they've supported the protesters in huge numbers. I saw elderly women chanting with protesters on TV. Young female students have also been visible in big numbers at the protests. Now, the spokesperson of the demonstrators is a woman, an intellectual named Nask Qadr. We also should not forget the influential role of students in the protests.
Islamist groups have of course participated. Their media have also played a vital role. One of the senior leaders of the Islamic Union (Yekgirtu) has continuously participated since the first day of the protests. An arrest warrant has been ordered by the police for him, but has not been implemented yet.
Kurdish intellectuals have also played a role. From Europe to America, all round the world, they have sent letters of support. It is very important to note the attendance of Kurdish writers, intellectuals, journalists, singers, and poets.

JH: According to press reports, the current wave of demonstrations began Feb. 16 when people gathered in front of KDP headquarters in Sulaymaniyah to denounce corruption, call for democratic reform, and demand better living conditions.  Yet, Sulaymaniyah has historically been a stronghold of the PUK and Goran; KDP is not responsible for governance there, leading some people to wonder why KDP headquarters was chosen as the site of protest. What happened there that day?
KC: The gathering was in Sara, the center of Sulaymaniyah, just to support the Tunisian people and the Egyptians' great revolution. After the gathering ended, some youths went to Salm Street, which is known as the main boulevard in Sulaymaniyah. In most ceremonies and events people gather there. When the youths headed to Salm Street, the first party building they encountered on their route was the local KDP branch.
It is true that Sulaymaniyah is not KDP’s stronghold, but it was a natural focal point: since the unification of the PUK’s Sulaymaniyah administration and KDP’s Arbil administration, the KDP has been mainly responsible for all things that happen in Kurdistan. Masoud Barzani has been president of Kurdistan for about 5 years. Nechirvan Barzani was prime minister for about 4 years. In Iraq, the KDP has monopolized most positions. KDP has collected millions of dollars. KDP has monopolized the media, higher education, the market.
Most social fields are in the hands of KDP. For the PUK it's the same. In the KDP’s region, freedom of speech is limited. Parliament is in the hands of KDP. These are all actors in the people’s protest against the KDP.

JH: From afar it seems that most of the protests have taken place in Sulaymaniyah.  Is that true?  Is anything happening in Hewler/Arbil, the KDP stronghold and capital of the Kurdistan Federal Region?
KC: The protests have appeared only in Sulaymaniyah province, or we can say, the former Sulaymaniyah administrative region. Sulaymaniyah is culturally, historically and politically different from Arbil. It has always been more political. Most intellectuals and revolutionists have appeared in Sulaymaniyah. The free media is located there. Most independent journalists and elite intellectuals are in Sulaymaniyah. The Islamic Union, Yekgirtu, is stronger than the KDP in Sulaymaniyah. But the KDP is using its media and all sorts of social division to frighten people. Let me give you a very funny example.  In a recent horoscope, the KDP’s daily newspaper, Hawler, wrote “do not protest against the authorities. Stay close to the authorities. If you don’t, your destiny will be in danger.”
So, by making such threats even in horoscopes, the KDP tries to shut all mouths. The day before the 'day of rage' on Feb. 25, some KDP supporters announced that if anyone protested in Arbil, they would not stop their violence against them. This was reported in a group on Facebook. The KDP also dispatched thousands of security people around the streets and all the gathering points in Arbil.

JH: On the broader political landscape in south Kurdistan.  In modern times, politics, civil society, and just about everything else in the region have been dominated by the KDP and PUK.  Cracks in their power seem to be appearing, however, with the emergence of opposition parties like Goran and critical, independent media outlets such as Livin magazine and Awane newspaper.  Do you think the ongoing demonstrations in the region represent the emergence of a mass democratic movement independent of the PUK and KDP?
KC: A democratic mass movement has emerged, but it has not reached Arbil; it's still in Sulaymaniyah. These people need organization; fortunately, intellectuals are going to organize them and will lead them in peaceful ways. Southern Kurdistan’s structure of power needs to be changed. The political system here is more tribal than democratic or systematic. The presidency, which is occupied by KDP leader Massoud Barzani, is a partisan establishment. He has not been successful in distinguishing his presidency from partisan interests. He has no deputy now thanks to  political battles with the PUK. The government, which is now headed by Dr. Barham Salih of the PUK, is a corrupt cabinet. The KDP and PUK between them have destroyed credible government through their interference. The interior, Peshmerge and financial ministries are not unified yet, despite the fact that these ministries are key to any successful cabinet. We have two Peshmerge forces. These forces are not national forces but partisan forces. Intelligence agencies are responsible to the government. Parastn, (Protection Agency) is connected to the KDP and Zaniyari (Information Establishment) is connected to the PUK.  The Anti- Terror unit is a PUK force as well.  We do not have national security, but two family securities. Then with regard to the draft constitution and law on demonstrations, the KDP and PUK didn’t listen to public and opposition lists in the parliament. The speaker of parliament, who is a KDP man, doesn’t think that he is the president of a parliament for all people; he deals with opposition MPs as if they are his enemies. The KDP and PUK have also distributed all positions in and outside Kurdistan equally between them. All KRG representatives around the world are KDP or PUK members. And they have appointed their sons as KRG representatives in the most powerful countries, as we see in US, where Qubad Talabani, Jalal Talabani’s son, is the KRG's representative in Washington.
I should also mention the judicial system.  The judiciary is not neutral, thanks to KDP and PUK interference. People can’t believe in a democracy where the judiciary is constantly under political pressure.

JH: How have the KDP, PUK, and various opposition parties reacted to the demonstrations so far?  Are you confident that they will introduce meaningful reforms?
KC: The KDP has reacted to the protesters harshly, as we saw in Sulaymaniyah. In their media, they call the protesters 'troublemakers' and 'those who do not love Kurdistan.' The PUK also opened fire against protesters, but it was more to frighten them. The PUK has not killed any, but wounded some. Opposition parties have not entered the demonstrations formally, but they are supporting them via their media. The MPs of opposition parties have taken part with protesters and also delivered speeches to support them.
I am not confident that they will introduce meaningful reforms. They have promised to carry out reforms since 2003 but nothing has changed. The structure of the political system and parties altogether has to be radically changed. Without changing the political system, we'll never see a meaningful reform. If the status-quo continues, I am afraid we're heading toward an authoritarian system.
I think our real democracy will start only if the political parties listen to the protesters' demands. The demands are not for collapsing the system, but to strengthen the system and build the first proper foundations of our nation-state. With the current strategy, we will never progress. The wave of collapsing dictators and corrupt governments in the world is, I believe, a non-stop wave. Arab countries are turning into democracies, so we musn't be late.
Nothing can stop the protesters short of implementing their demands. The KDP and PUK have used all the techniques they can think of to try and stop the demonstrations, but each technique has only made the protesters become more serious in advancing their demands, which are becoming more ambitious by the day. The KDP and PUK had better listen to their modest demands today, as they will be bigger and perhaps impossible to implement tomorrow. At that time, mere reforms will be meaningless.
We've seen what's happened to three dictators recently, Bin Al-Abidin, Mubarak, and Qadhafi. All of them used different ways to crush the demonstrators. But peoples’ will power is greater than the states’ armies. Qadhafi has used the harshest methods and killed hundreds, but now we see that more than 75% of the country is controlled by protesters. These people are supporters of freedom and equality, not 'troublemakers.'  This new movement is the start of a new era. They are the real democracy supporters, and their only weapon is the streets.

About the authors Kamal Chomani writes for Awene, south Kurdistan's major independent newspaper, sits on the editorial board of Lvin magazine, a leading trimonthly, and works with Reporters Without Borders. He's based in northern Iraq. Jake Hess is a freelance writer based in Washington, DC.

openDemocracy    2 March 2011

The tragedy that is Iraq
 Issa Khalaf

Totalitarian rule, war, sanctions, invasion, destruction, sectarian suspicions, western manipulation all have brought Iraq to its knees. Any formula that relies on a basic regrouping and reshuffling of a corrupt regime in control of state resources will collapse in violence.
Iraq is missing from the euphoria and hope surrounding the popular bottom-up revolts and pressures for democratic change in the Arab world.  This once prime contender for pan-Arab leadership seems to have fallen off the Arab geo-political map.  It is strange, the silence, from a country that, because of its size, oil wealth and strategic location on the frontiers of two ethno-cultural/geographic regions, Arab and Persian, has aspired to a leading position in the Arab world. The heir to the great ancient river valley civilizations, center of that marvelous multicultural, multiethnic Arab Abbasid Empire, a state whose twentieth century regimes have imagined Iraq as the Arab nationalist Prussia, now seems to have become a backwater of violence, instability, and fragility, ever on the brink of collapse.

The American promise of a stable, prosperous democratic Iraq has instead given rise to persisting civil conflict based on sectarian and ethno-linguistic divisions of Sunni and Shi’a, Kurd and Arab.  The American-constructed post-Saddam Hussein system has managed to institutionalize these vertical and factional divisions in Iraqi society; the US essentially ensconced the Shi’a and Kurdish groups and their political parties.  Its system of government quotas based on such socio-cultural divisions has put Iraq back decades, its power-hungry ethnic and sectarian factional blocs in Parliament concerned with their narrow interests rather than the Iraqi nation.  Iraq’s system is reminiscent of Lebanon’s “confessional” socio-political system established by the French in 1943.  The factions have little incentive to cooperate and more incentive to feel they cannot compromise lest the other side wins.  Washington’s touted pullout is a mirage: 50,000 US troops remaining indefinitely is no small number; the largest embassy in the world was not just built to be abandoned.  Iraqi politicians and elites today are there because of American power.   To leave them, to leave Iraq, may reignite the civil war.

The US invaded Iraq to consolidate strategic control over the Persian Gulf, secure the southern flank to Central Asia’s hydrocarbons, and for Israel.  Iraq’s travails did not begin with the Americans, but with the British, who in the early 1920s cobbled together its three Ottoman provinces to create the modern state of Iraq complete with a Hashemite king.  The British too, were concerned with geo-politics and modern Iraq’s territorial consolidation for its oil.

As with the region, however, Iraq’s problems are both external and internal in nature and causes.  The Arab states, monarchical or “republican,” had 50-75 years to transform their divided societies into more cohesive nations.  However, while the republican regimes talked up a strong, mobilized unified, developed state, the monarchies tried to locate their legitimacy in the politics of divine right through vague connections to a caliphate.  While the republican regimes, in the name of national unity, play the politics of coercion and cooptation with either their ethnic and sectarian, or dissident opposition, groups - the monarchies talk national unity while actually according recognition and patronage to the various ethnic, tribal, sectarian groups in exchange for not challenging the king’s rule.

Arab states have failed to integrate their societies and in fact used social cleavages to divide and rule.  Instead of utilizing civil society, open public space, and education to overcome group identities, these were manipulated and reinforced.  Former republican Iraq and current Syria were always in particularly difficult straits ruling over diverse societies.  Their Ba’ath regimes, with small popular basis, relied on secretive party cadres rather than on a mass-based party, while fusing the military with the state.  Leader, party, state, bureaucracy, and police became one.  Both regimes also relied on their “home” basis for recruitment and support, Syria on the Shi’a Alawite minority, Iraq under Saddam on his Sunni Tikriti clan base.  Both sought broader alliances including with other, “protected” minorities such as the Christians.  Both, like Qadhafi in Libya, were personal regimes, though unlike Libya, they had developed institutions.  Compared to the more pragmatic Syrian regime, the Saddam regime became an especially fearsome totalitarian state where a cult of personality pervaded every aspect of the terrorized citizens’ lives.

Unlike monarchy, the purported glue of the state, these profoundly illiberal republican regimes relied on pan-Arab nationalism and its attendant anti-imperialism and anti-colonialism to maintain their legitimacy, which slipped away as the years passed.  Ironically, these modernist, secular regimes did much to improve their societies.  Saddam’s Iraq prior to the wars became a comparatively socially and economically developed country with equal rights for women.  But his idiotic adventures in Kuwait, on the heels of his enormously destructive war with Iran, gave an excuse to the ruling neoconservatives in Washington to finish off what was left of Iraq.

If Saddam’s brutality and wars weakened the liberal, cosmopolitan middle class, including the professionals and intellectuals, US-British sanctions in the 1990s accelerated their demise, causing Saddam to court religious and traditional, tribal elements.  Twenty-three years of war and savage sanctions by 2003 had decimated civil society causing the reassertion of sectarian and ethnic identities.  The American war to oust Saddam not only targeted Iraq’s infrastructure but also the ensuing occupation and civil war created some 1.5 million Iraqi refugees, the vast majority Sunni, and an equal number of internally displaced persons.  Most of the external refugees constituted the great urban, cosmopolitan Iraqi middle and upper classes who gave Iraq its coherence and who were the greatest hope for a liberal, democratic Iraqi state.  Among other consequences, the American invasion aggravated Sunni-Shi’a identities and opened the door for potential Kurdish secession.

Today, the Shi’a-Kurdish alliance’s main goal is to keep the Sunnis - champions of a unified secular state who are, however, to the Shi’a, the mainstay of the Sunni regime that violently repressed them - from regaining power, while the Kurds will work with any party or faction that doesn’t question or challenge their autonomy-cum-independence.  And neither appears interested in the return of the Sunni Arab refugees. The Shi’a-dominated regime is less than a pseudo-democracy, having elections without liberal guarantees, constitutionalism and rule of law, not to mention increasing differences of wealth and ever present resentment against the US presence.  It is permeated with nepotism, targeted assassinations, torture, and murder.

Thanks to the fast-track neo-liberal economic model imposed on Iraq, unemployment is very high, electricity is intermittent, food shortages widespread and food prices are rising, not to mention oil production is in the hands of foreign companies.  The recent Iraqi “Day of Rage” brought tens of thousands of Iraqis to the streets—including journalists, intellectuals, professionals, artists.  They were met with trigger-happy Iraqi security forces that killed at least 30 people and detained hundreds, many of whom were beaten and tortured.  Protesting against the dire economic conditions and corruption, the protestors did not specifically call for the overthrow of the al-Maliki government, but for freedom from repression and misery, liberty, transparency and accountability.

As a plurality elite previously in control of the state, the Sunni position naturally flowed from an Arab national identity as the unifying element of Iraqi society.  In the post-American invasion era, the idea, the definition of Iraq is dangerously contested.  The dominant Shi’a parties aren’t fond of a secular state, while they emphasize that Iraq is really not a nation and not an Arab one, divided by sect, ethnicity, geography, and tribe.  This position leaves, or would leave, the Shi’a, if not in control of the state, certainly autonomous in some future, more decentralized arrangement.  Some Shi’a argue that Iraqi society’s tribes, ethnicities, religions, and sects represent parts of other nations and lack a pluralist, multicultural tradition and institutions to accommodate this diversity.  The Iraqi Shi’a predilection for religious sociopolitical institutions, its “culture of dissent” and opposition, its emphasis on political authority’s lineage to the Prophet’s grandsons, contrasts with the Iraqi Sunni secular one.

Iraq may well be evolving towards an authoritarian state hidden by the façade of democracy, dominated by corrupt cliques and families, maintaining the Shi’a ascendancy, drifting towards Kurdish independence, supporting itself by oil revenues with the US backing its legal existence and security.  Sectarian and ethnic identity politics with an emphasis on autonomous diversity barely held together by a weak center, cannot sustain the unity of Iraq.  It’s not clear what percentage of Iraqis, Sunni and Shi’a, are already sick and tired of the sectarian divide and violence, but I suspect a substantial number.

Totalitarian rule, war, sanctions, invasion, destruction, sectarian suspicions, Western manipulation all have brought Iraq to its knees.  The Iraqi people have suffered horrendously and for far too long.  My contention is that any sociopolitical formula that legitimizes and institutionalizes Iraq’s diversity on other than secular grounds will not succeed—unless Iraq divides into sectarian and ethnic region-states, but even here, its diverse groups are too geographically mixed.  Just as the Ba’ath regime caused parochial tension, resentment and conflict, the current regime has gone one better: it has institutionalized the resurfaced sectarian identities and discourse.  One is a Kurd, Shi’a, Sunni, or Christian, but not Iraqi.

Any formula that relies on a basic regrouping and reshuffling of a corrupt regime in control of state resources will collapse in violence.  If not a unifying Arab identity, then an Iraqi one in which Iraq must reconstitute itself on a liberal, legally equal, constitutional, human rights protected, citizenship-based state in which the only rights are those of the individual.  This sort of social contract is the only guarantee of stable pluralism.  This is after all what the Arab revolts in the region are demanding.  This is what most Iraqis want, as well as the integrity of their nation.

About the author Issa Khalaf, a Palestinian-American, has a D. Phil. in Politics and Middle East Studies from Oxford University

Zawya    3 Mar 2011

Barham Saleh says ready to resign to solve problems

ARBIL: Prime Minister of Iraq's Kurdistan region, Barham Saleh, on Wednesday expressed his government's readiness to step down if this would solve problems in the region.

"I will not hesitate to present my resignation if this would solve the recent problems in the region," Saleh said in an interview with a Kurd newspaper.

"Despite the government spent only one year, we managed to achieve serious progress in reforms and reconstruction fields," he added.

Thousands of protesters went to street last Thursday (Feb. 17) calling for better services and living conditions and fighting corruption.

Zawya    5 Mar 2011

Official: Maliki hasn't order to withdraw Kurdish troops from Kirkuk
By Karzan Bamandi

Erbil - The spokesman for Kurdistan Peshmarga (armed forces) Ministry said  the Iraqi Prime Minister has not ordered to withdraw peshmarga from the outskirts of Kirkuk city, 255 km north of Baghdad.

Following some public protests across Kirkuk province Feb.25, which served the demonstrators to take over the tenure of some areas in the province, Kurdish authority in northern Iraq expedited its forces to around Kirkuk.  During the nationwide Day of Anger, Feb.25, some other provinces as Diyala, Baghdad and Nineveh also witnessed violent protests.

The remark by the Kurdish official came in response to a news report by Reuters which cited an Iraqi official as saying the PM Nouri al-Maliki has ordered to pull out Kurdish troops and their heavy weaponry from the area around Kirkuk city since the Iraqi side, not the Kurdish military, is responsible for protecting the disputed areas including Kirkuk.

Speaking to AKnews, Jabbar Yawar refuted the report; saying under a deal, the Iraqi army, peshmarga and the 4th brigade of the U.S. army are to protect the disputed areas.

The multiethnic Kirkuk province, centered in Kirkuk city, as well as some other areas in Salahaddin, Nineveh and Diyala provinces are the territories whose tenure is in dispute between the Kurdish semi-autonomous authority and the Baghdad government.

Yawar reiterated peshmarga is recognized as a constituent of the Iraqi federal armed forces and Maliki as the PM and the chief of staff may order for its withdrawal, but so far he has not.

Such an order is subject to prior talks with the Kurdistan Region president or premier, under a deal signed between the Iraqi and the Kurdish sides, Yawar explained.

The Kurdish official explained the 4th brigade of the peshmarga has been deployed around "not inside" Kirkuk city and Khanaqin in Diyala province and some other disputed towns.

Peshmarga's expedition to those areas was not for "occupation but protection of the civilians against the terrorist plots," Yawar emphasized.

Zawya    7 Mar 2011

Iraqi govt. has few options to improve economy
By Laith Hadi

Baghdad - The Undersecretary of a Ministry, a government adviser and two economists said Monday that the Iraqi government has few options and need to put developing economic policies in the public and private sectors to confront all the difficulties that hinder the progress of although the latter put policies and strategic plans to improve the Iraqi economy in all sectors in an effort to create an improvement that face all challenges.

The adviser of the Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdullah Hussein Al-Ankabi told AKnews that the available options for the government to improve the economic situation are few as a result of the presence of four million government employees in the country which includes 31 million people.

He pointed out to some of the procedures taken by the Government this year, represented by increasing the financial allocations of the ration card from three to six billion dollars, noting that it will be reflected positively on the quantity and quality of food items on the citizens.

"The investment factor is the only available option for the Iraqi government to improve the economic situation," stressing on the need to protect completely the investors and investments and to facilitate the process of granting licenses and the allocation of lands in order to improve the investment and construction in the country that are capable of ensuring a lot of working opportunities and improve their living conditions."

"The investment opportunities in Iraq that may improve the economic situation are not big, especially since most of the general budget of the sate is operational consumable," stressing on "the need for economic reforms by the government represented by transfering allocations and granting powers to the provinces to get rid of the centralism that increases the routine in the implementation of required projects."

The Iraqi governments are facing since 2003 challenges in the economic sector, most notably the confusion that occur in the development of annual budgets described by economists as great, but the areas of exchange in it don't go to investment but to the operational area which suffers from administrative and financial corruption that affected the high incidence of poverty, unemployment and poor services in the country.

On the other hand Ali al-Shummari, the economic expert and member of the Arab Council for economic and academic policies at Petra Jordanian University called the government to pledge the citizens to make optimal use of economic resources and determine the size of government in the economy which is measured by government spending to National Production so that it does not exceed 15-25%.

"The government should put an end for the poor distribution of financial allocations through reviewing the financial allocations for the three presidencies (the Republic and parliament and cabinet), where they exceed the allocations of service ministries."

"The government must face the low efficiency of use of financial resources to focus its impact on economic growth and social development in the state," pointing out that the latest growth indications of the Iraqi economy shows the high proportion of administrative and financial corruption in the institutions and departments, and thus decrease the effectiveness of public spending and purpose towards economic reform and raise the level of social development."
"The government must promote and strengthen and activate the exchange controls through the monthly reports that focus on the performance of the development plan and on all ministries, in addition to preparing annual reports to accounting the defaulting ministries in their work, as well as the need to form an advisory economic council that include in its membership a group of economists in order to raise the recommendations and advice to the government so that it will be obliged to apply them."

While Samir Alwan, the financial expert and former member of the Baghdad Commerce Chamber stresses on the need to pursue a policy of fiscal discipline in order to avoid the risk of entering Iraq in financial chaos that lead him to enter into the economic crisis tunnel.

Alwan told AKnews that the policy of fiscal discipline is achieved in the adoption of precautionary oil price policy where the rate of oil prices for the last three years will be less than the expected global oil prices by 15 dollars."

He also stressed on the need to "establish sovereign wealth fund which capital is made from the difference between the precautionary price of oil from its global level, in addition to the establishment of similar funds which resources come from the petro-dollar allocated to the oil producing provinces."

"The petro-dollar funds will be the safety valve of the Iraqi economy from changes in world oil prices and can also provide capital investment in the future."

The head of the Central Agency for Statistics and the Deputy Minister of Planning and Development Cooperation Mahdi al-Allak believes that the Iraqi economy needs to achieve goals and concepts and theorical foundations that will develop its situation, especially with the great challenges facing the country at this time.

About the most prominent obstacles that face the Iraqi economy, Allak said that the weak production and the elements of empowerment and declining industries and agriculture are the main reasons behind slower economic growth in Iraq," stressing on "the importance of these sectors in supporting the local production."

"There is a risk in relying entirely on the profit-taking economy, and relying on oil imports assuring that "the key steps to improve the economic situation is represented by improving both the agricultural and industrial sectors and energy saving."

The value of the 2011 Iraqi budget passed by the parliament on Feb. 20 is estimated with 82,006,000,000 U.S. Dollars, based on the $76.50 for one barrel of oil and export of 2.2 million barrels per day.

The budget deficiency for 2011 was estimated to be around $13.4 billion at a time Iraq depends on oil exports by about 95 % to support the budget, in the presence of the dilapidated infrastructure in all sectors in the country as a result of long years of siege and war during the last two decades of the last century.

Zawya    7 Mar 2011

Talabani: opposition is necessary for progress of Kurdistan
By Sarwa Hawrami

Erbil - Iraq's president and the secretary-general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Jalal Talabani said on Monday that an opposition is necessary for progress and development of Kurdistan, noting that his party has decided with the Kurdistan Democratic Party to make reforms in the region.

Talabani said in a speech during a ceremony held in Sulaimaniyah to the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of March uprising in the nineties of the last century that "the opposition has to maintain the unity and integrity of the people, as their presence is essential for the progress of Kurdistan, we believe in different opinions and ideas."

"We support and work to achieve the demands made by the demonstrators and work to improve the living conditions of society."

The Kurdish people has a mass uprising against the former regime in the spring of 1991, including local people in cities and towns as well as Kurdish Peshmarga forces, which led to the liberation of most of the provinces and cities in Kurdistan from the grip of the former Iraqi regime.

"We support this kind such as the protest that took place in Sulaimaniyah and demonstrate peacefully, this is a legitimate right of every society which is contained in the permanent Iraqi constitution as well as in the Constitution of Kurdistan."

" we hope that these demonstrations are peaceful and the demonstrators would deal in a civilized way with the security forces and we condemn any kind of violence and murder if it was by the demonstrators or security forces ".
 Sulaimaniyah the second largest city of Kurdistan is experiencing since Thursday of 17 of last February several protests that demand to fight against corruption and provide jobs for the unemployed and political reforms, but it transferred into clashes between demonstrators and security forces that killed and injured a number of people.

Kurdistan Parliament issued a resolution last week about the situation in the region, which included 17 points, and called representatives of the political blocs in parliament to listen to the demands of the demonstrators, and support the results of the national dialogue between political parties and political blocs represented by the members of parliament.

Kurdistan is witnessing mobility internally among the various political parties in an effort to calm the situation after Sulaimaniyah experienced tension on the background of the demonstrations.

Kurdistan region's President , Massoud Barzani demanded on Thursday the need to address the situation in the region, , also stressed at the same time the absence of the President for life in the region.

Zawya    7 Mar 2011

Najaf Council members vote for semi-autonomy
By Salah al-Khuzaei

Najaf - The head of the Legal Committee in Najaf provincial council said on Sunday that 12 members out of 28 have voted for the province to become a semi-autonomous region similar to Kurdistan in the north of Iraq which attained semi-autonomy in the early 1990s.

Farouk al-Ghazali told AKnews that the number of council members in favor of the scheme exceeds the one-third threshold that the law demands, and that a formal request will be submitted to the presidency of the provincial council on Tuesday which can then be passed on to the Iraqi Prime Minister.

"Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki will then ask, according to the law, the Electoral Commission to hold a referendum in the province that includes at least 50% of its constituents," Ghazali explained, "...and if the request receives more than a 50% majority of the participating votes, Najaf will become a (semi-autonomous) region."

As a supporter of the scheme, Ghazali said that the aim behind it is to improve the provision of services to Najaf citizens, adding that there is no underlying political agenda.

The scheme, he said, "came from members belonging to different blocs, not only one".

"If Najaf was a (semi-autonomous) region, it would have received three times what was allocated to it in the 2011 budget," he said, add
ing that "...what it did receive is not suitable for a province".

"The request was signed by members of all political blocs in the provincial council," he said, "...which include the Ahrar Party belonging to the Sadrist Current, the Mihrab Martyr Party that belongs to the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), the State of Law Coalition (SLC) led by PM Maliki, the Reform Movement led by Jaafari and the Najaf Fidelity Bloc".

Containing the shrine of Imam Ali, Shiite Islam's first Imam, Najaf is considered to be one of the most important religious centers in Iraq and the world. The province receives hundreds of thousands of visitors form other Iraqi provinces and abroad each year.

Although the Iraqi constitution allows for the establishment of semi-autonomous regions according to specific legal mechanisms, only the northern Kurdistan Region composed of Erbil, Sulaimaniya and Dohuk provinces has so far attained this status.

Zawya    8 Mar 2011

Kurdistan ruling parties may reconsider running for elections jointly
By Dilshad Saifaddin

Sulaimaniya - Leaders from both ruling parties in the Kurdistan Region say their parties are yet to decide whether to run for elections under a single list.

After some public protests in Kurdistan, recently the Kurdish President Massoud Barzani suggested that the Kurdish parliament discuss early elections, as a measure to calm the anti-government protesters who are angered by high unemployment, economic and political corruption and lack of basic services.

A Kurdish weekly newspaper, Rudaw, had cited Arif Tayfur, a leader in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) saying his party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have discussed participating in the early elections under two separate lists not a joint one.

Under a pact in 2007, the two parties are strategic allies and pledge to enter any voting process jointly. However, in July 25 general elections in Kurdistan, where the lists were open, results suggested KDP had more supporters than the PUK.

Tayfur also noted the PUK is studying the choice and expected the two parties will eventually choose to separate for the inclusive voting so that "the real entity of each side is exposed."

Sadi Ahmed Pira, a leader from the PUK told AKnews the issue is yet to be discussed, anticipating it will be determined in the next meeting of the KDP and PUK politburos. However, he did not mention when such a meeting is to take place.

Another KDP leader, Faraydun Jwanroyi confirmed Pira's statement, saying the issue has not been discussed yet. He added it is "very soon to decide over this issue."

The PUK is led by the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the KDP by Barzani. The two have domineered ruling in Kurdistan since 1991.

Zawya    8 Mar 2011

Eight al-Iraqiya deputies announce split from bloc
By Abdullah Shames

Baghdad - Eight MPs from the al-Iraqiya list announced on Monday their withdrawal from the Sunni-dominated bloc and the formation of a new party, led by Hassan al-Allawi and the State Minister of Tribal, Affairs Jamal al-Battikh.

Heading the eight MPs, symbolically wearing white scarves, Hassan al-Allawi announced the split at a press conference in parliament today, the first anniversary of the 2010 general election, and declared the formation of the Iraqiya White Party.

The withdrawing MPs are Hasan al-Alawi, Jamal al-Battikh, Aliya Nassif, Kadhim al-Shummari, Aziz al-Mayyahi, Kutaiba al-Jabbouri, and Ahmed al-Oraibi.

Al-Iraqiya, led by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi came first in the March elections by securing 91 seats. The State of Law Coalition (SLC) led by PM Nouri al-Maliki came a narrow second with 89 seats.

Each of the two parties claimed it had the right to lead the future cabinet.

In late March, Iraq's Federal Supreme Court ruled that the bloc with the highest number of seats when parliament convenes would be entitled to form a government and not the party that won the highest number of seats in the election.

The court's decision meant al-Iraqiya was not automatically allowed to form the next government. This decision paved the way for larger coalitions and political maneuvering by the different blocs.

While the Iraqi National Alliance and the SLC, both Shia-dominated lists, merged in May to form the National Coalition (NC) in a bid to gain the necessary parliamentary majority, al-Iraqiya was unable to form an alliance with any other bloc.

During the press conference, Jamal al-Battikh read out a statement in which he attributed the split from al-Iraqiya and the National Accord Movement to the bloc's failure to implement the program that had been agreed upon by its members, and blaming its leaders for "missing historic opportunities".

"The leaders of al-Iraqiya missed the opportunity to ally with the SLC," Battikh complained, which was a chance to head the new government.

Following a nine-month political deadlock following the march elections, the political bloc leaders met in Erbil last December under the initiative of Kurdish president Massoud Barzani and signed agreements to form a national partnership government.

Under the agreements, Nouri al-Maliki retained the prime minister's office for another term and al-Iraqiya leader Ayad Allawi was assigned to head the National Council for Strategic Policies.

"Where is the principle of change that we promised our people?" Battikh asked at today's conference, "Is it accepting the National Council for Strategic Policies which is the title of the defeat?"

The newly formed White Iraqiya Party has named Qutaiba al-Jabbouri as its chairman in parliament.

Kurdistan Post March 9, 2011
The Voice of Kurdish People

Against corruption in Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Honorable President Barack Obama
U.S. Department of State
Washington D.C.

Honorable Hillary Clinton U.S Secretary of State

Your Excellency is aware that Kurdistan region of Iraq are controlled by two families of Barzani and Talabani. As your predecessor the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice once told Massoud Barzani that you are running Cowboy Government in Kurdistan.

Indeed both Barzani and Talabani are above the laws in Kurdistan. The US Government is supporting people in the Middle East, Asia and the World at large to achieve democratic system and rule of laws peacefully.

As we know the region of Kurdistan is part of Iraq and two mafia families are running all the affairs in the region and controlling every aspect of life. Demonstrations are spreading now in Iraqi Kurdistan, the same scenario of Egypt, Tunis, Libya and the region.

Now in the city of Suliamanya - Kurdistan and the region around it, where Jalal Talabani and his family are in control, people from every way of life are demonstrating against corruption, violence and dictatorship.

So far over 200 people are killed and wounded during these demonstrations since February 17th, 2011.

With regard to the city of Erbil - Kurdistan, Massud Barzani and his family are using iron feast to control the population. His militia of Barzani family is terrifying the civilian in the city. In this city they are not allowing anybody to come out for demonstration peacefully against them. And they are going to arrest them right away or killing them the same way Libyan leader Mummer Khadafy does.

Both Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and Kurdistan Parliament are not functioning anymore and they are just two tools for the interests of both Massud Barzani and Jalal Talabani's families.

As the Kurdish people understand that the US Government is responsible according to the charter of UN mandate with regard to Iraqi People protections. The US Government is fully responsible in Iraq, including Kurdistan region as well. So we are asking you to intervene to stop the killing, arresting and harassing people in our region by Barzani and Talabani militia. The sad things is that both Talabani and Barzani families have a special force called anti-terror and supported by USA administration and US army had trained them in the fight against terrorists, but they are using these forces against unarmed Kurdish civilian people. And they are intimating and kidnapping civilian people and also these forces had burned two independent TV stations(Nalia TV and KNN TV) and two independent radio stations (Goran Radio and Dang Radio) so far and threatening other radio stations such Nawa and Garmyan radio station and other independent newspapers.

While these criminals acts have done by anti-terror force of Jalal Talabani and Massud Barzani and supported by USA and US tax payers. The US were paying them 5 million dollars a month until the end of 2008.

Now Kurdish people are wondering while President Obama supporting people of Egypt, Tunis, Libya and another countries in the region, for their freedom and democracy, but he is silent to these two mafia families in Iraqi Kurdistan as they are suppressing our people every day.

We ,the Kurdish people, are urging your administration to send your envoy to Iraqi Kurdistan to get familiar what is going on there and ask your Government to put pressure on both Talabani and Barzani and their militiamen to stop harassing, kidnapping and killing innocent people and allowing them to express their voice and their human right freely in Kurdistan.

We are waiting for your action and you have moral responsibility to help Kurdish people and save them from both mafia families.

Kurdistan Post on behalf Kurdish people

Zawya 9 Mar 2011

Opposition locked in Kurdish parliament after objection
By Hevidar Ahmed

Erbil - A lawmaker form the opposition in the Kurdistan Regional parliament said the parliament speaker ordered to lock the opposition deputies inside parliament while armed forces stormed in the building. The speaker rejects the allegation of expediting forces into the building.

Kwestan Mohammed from the Goran (Change) Movement told AKnews in response to repetitive rescheduling of the urgent session for discussing the report about Sulaimaniya protesters' demands, the opposition refused Tuesday evening to leave parliament.

Tuesday marked the 20th day of a public protest in the province against the government. The protesters demand uprooting corruption and monopoly, creation of more job opportunities and provision of basic services.

The parliament has since the eruption of protests met twice. It formed a committee from deputies to report the demonstrator's specific requests and also agreed on a 17-point decision to calm the tensions. However, in the second assembly violations of the decision by the executive power were spotlighted. The third urgent meeting has been reset three times.

Mohammed, the deputy from the largest opposition group, added they were locked in upon an order by the parliament speaker for half an hour while a "sizable" armed force was deployed inside parliament. She noted only when some deputies from the majority bloc interfered, they were released.

For his part, the Parliament Speaker Kamal Kirkuki issued a statement, ruling out the allegation about positioning armed forces in parliament.

 After some lawmakers intended to stage commotion inside parliament, the parliament speaker deemed it his responsibility to avoid any "illegal behavior" and calm the tensions by ordering to lock the gates temporary, the statement read.

No force was in parliament during the event except for the guards of parliament, Kirkuk said.

Opposition backs the public rallies and in some ways represents itself as the voice of the protesters. The protests has so far claimed seven lives and wounded over 200 people. Tens have also been arrested.

Zawya      9 Mar 2011

80 Iraqi MPs threaten to suspend membership in parliament
By Fulaih al-Jawari

Baghdad - An MP from State of Law Coalition (SLC) which belongs to National Coalition (NC) said Tuesday that the Iraqi parliament must not change its path and supervise the government performance, indicating that 80 MPs had threatened to suspend their membership in the parliament.

Mohammed Mahdi al-Nassiri said at a news conference held at Mina Palace conferences that more than 80 MPs believe that the parliament has turned into a platform for speeches and statements that made it change its legislative path, stressing on that there are hundreds of decisions and laws from the time of the former regime that need to be canceled.

"The Iraqi people and investment need to enact laws that suit the new situation in Iraq. This call is the first warning," he said threatening to "suspend the membership until the parliament returns to its main tasks."

The members are MPs of Nasiriya, and other provinces that he did not name.

The Iraqi parliament held its session on Tuesday in the presence of 240 MPs under the chairmanship of the Parliament Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi and his deputies Aref Tayfur and Qusay al-Suhail to complete the reports of the MPs of the provinces about the demonstrations and vote for the membership of the MPs objected to them as well as the second reading of the Federal Court law.

A number of Iraqi cities witnessed a wave of protests since the fifth of last month that reached their maximum last Friday, when the protests spread to the majority of the Iraqi provinces where about 10 people were killed in clashes with security forces.

The protest were done against the poor services and financial and administrative corruption in government institutions and demand of better living conditions for Iraqis and the provision of services and employment opportunities in accordance with the promises, which were launched before the parliamentary elections last year.

The protests prompted the Iraqi government to take practical steps to calm down the Iraqi street, and the first was represented by giving the Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his ministers a period that does not exceed 100 days, to improve the performance of the ministry.

Zawya     14 Mar 2011
Campaigners demand president's apology for Kirkuk comments
By Bradost Lawin and Fadi al-Issa
Baghdad - Iraqi journalists and academics gathered in the Iraqi capital today demanding an apology from President Jalal Talabani for describing the disputed province of Kirkuk as "Kurdistan's Quds (Jerusalem)".

The campaigners, calling themselves the February 15 Movement threatened to stage mass public rallies calling for Talabani to step down if he fails to meet their demand.

Talabani's controversial comments were made during last week's commemoration ceremony of Sulaimaniya's 1991 uprising against the former Iraqi regime.

The Iraqi President, himself a Kurd and the leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), said: "We must not forget that there are areas not reunited with the (Kurdistan) region such as Kirkuk, the Jerusalem of Kurdistan," adding that, "we need a common struggle".

February 15 movement is an independent group of journalists, media professionals and academics that emerged in conjunction with the public demonstrations that swept across Iraq in February.

The group gathered in Baghdad's Tahrir Square in a show of force and to collect signatures on a petition demanding the president's apology.

Banners were raised with the words "We don't want you Mr. President" and photos of Talabani were held up with his face crossed out.
February 15 leader Hassan Juma told AKnews that the group was taking the matter very seriously.

"If these demands are not taken into account, the movement will hold a mass demonstration in Baghdad, demanding the president's resignation," he said.

Fellow campaigner, the journalist and academic Ali Hussein, told our reporter:  "The remarks of Talabani are dangerous and controversial," and that, "The movement will deal the in same way with any political error in order to redress the democratic political process in Iraq and to preserve it".

Talabani's remarks on March 7 drew the attention of the Arab media and sparked criticism from the Arabs and Turkmen of Kirkuk who said that Talabani, as president of Iraq, should not have said that and demanded an explanation.

"What we heard from Talabani about Kirkuk being the heart or Jerusalem of Kurdistan should be reconsidered," said an Arab member of the Kirkuk provincial council, Mohammed Khalil al-Jubouri at the time, " president of the country, he should be impartial."

The oil-rich province of Kirkuk, 250 km north of Baghdad is one of the most hotly disputed territories between the Kurdistan regional government and the federal government. It is populated by a mixture of Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs and Christians.
The Kurds are seeking to integrate the province into the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region claiming it to be historically Kurdish.
The solution to the issue of Kirkuk and other disputed areas is outlined in the Iraqi constitution's article 140; however, the article has not been implemented despite being originally scheduled for 2007.
Article 140 outlines a three-stage process which involves a period of normalization - whereby the security environment is stabilized - followed by the restoration of the original demographic balance (distorted by the former Iraqi regime's 'Arabization' policies), and culminates in a referendum, which will enable local people to decide the constitutional status of these areas

Zawya     15 Mar 2011
Overriding desire for democracy tops Arab youth agenda
in ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey
Young people in Middle East continue to prioritise living in democracy, according to poll of 2,000 young Arabs in 10 countries
Additional poll of 500 Arab youth in five countries reveals strong support for protests balanced with desire for stability
Top concerns: High cost of living, unemployment, human rights, gap between rich and poor
Dubai, UAE; March 15, 2011: The single greatest priority for young people in the Middle East remains living a democratic country, according to the findings of the 2010 ASDA'A Burson-Marstelle Arab Youth Survey, the largest study of its kind of the region's largest demographic. This finding echoes the results of the 2009 survey - conducted well over a year before the start of recent regional unrest - which similarly identified the yearning for greater political participation as the defining characteristic of Arab youth.

This is the key finding of the 10-country survey unveiled today in Dubai and New York. Conducted by leading international polling firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), the Third Annual ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey included 2,000 face-to-face interviews with Arab nationals and Arab expatriates between the ages of 18-24 in the six Gulf Cooperation Council nations (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE), as well as in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq. These interviews were conducted in December 2010 and January 2011.

In February and March of this year, in the wake of protests across the region, PSB conducted an additional poll of 500 young people in five countries, including Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. These findings reveal that, while the importance of democracy is even more pronounced, it is balanced by a desire for stability. Support of the protests is high among this group, and so is the belief in the positive impact of these movements. However, young people in these countries are markedly less confident that their own countries are moving in the right direction than they were just a few months earlier.

"During this period of seismic change across much of the Arab world, it is more important than ever that we understand the hopes, fears and aspirations of the region's youth," said Mark Penn, Worldwide CEO of Burson-Marsteller. "As our 2009 survey showed, and as this year's report further validates, the highest priority for young people in the region remains participation and representation in the political life of their country of residence. Recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and elsewhere are the manifestation of this fundamental truth: Arab youth have a deep and enduring desire for democracy."

"In a region where two-thirds of the population is under the age of 30, policymakers, business leaders, marketers and the media need to understand the priorities of our young people," said Joseph Ghossoub, Chairman and CEO of the MENACOM Group, regional parent of ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller

 Arab Youth Survey should be required reading for everyone who has a stake in the future of this diverse and rapidly evolving region."

"We are proud to produce, on an annual basis, the largest survey of young people in the Arab world, which reflects our commitment to evidence-based communication," said Sunil John, CEO of ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller the Middle East's leading public relations consultancy. "From political beliefs to personal values, from online trends to educational aspirations, the ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey covers an unmatched array of key issues informing the future direction of the Arab world."

Other key findings of the Third Annual ASDA'A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey include the following insights:

•The high cost of living is perceived as the most significant challenge, followed by unemployment; in both instances, the level of concern is much higher among youth in non-Gulf states than in Gulf states

•Arab youth are significantly more concerned about the gap between the rich and poor than they were in 2009, especially in Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia

•While 63% of GCC youth say they expect to pursue further education, just 14% of non-GCC youth believe the same

•Arab youth prefer to work in the private sector (47%), rather than the public sector (40%), although Saudi youth (79%) strongly prefer to work for government; more than half of all regional youth say that they intend to start their own business in the next five years

•80% of Arab youth now say they use the Internet on a daily basis, up from 56% in 2009; social networking is also expanding dramatically

•Television remains by far both the most popular and most trusted source of news for youth across the region

•Arab youth say that traditional values are extremely important to them, especially youth in Iraq (94%) and Bahrain (91%)

•Young Arabs have increasingly favourable views of major global powers, although Gulf and non-Gulf youth have very different perceptions about the dominant powers in the East and West; youth across the region also say that the concept of global citizenship is increasingly important to them