under construction
Youth matters


23 Apr 12    President Barzani ‘agrees’ to changes proposed by Awene editor, The Kurdistan Tribune, MESOP, Shwan Muhamad
21 Apr 12    In Uprooting of Kurds, Iraq Tests a Fragile National Unity, NYT, TIM ARANGO
28 May 11   Dear friends of the Mosul Vilayet, Anton Keller
20 Mar 11   Educated, Unemployed and Frustrated, NYT, MATTHEW C. KLEIN
18 Mar 11   Respect for the Dead, Respect for the Living, UN workshop, Anton Keller



Respect for the Dead, Respect for the Living
by Anton Keller, Secretary of the Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers
statement delivered at the 23th Halabja Commemoration held at the UN Geneva Office, March 18, 2011
Human Rights Situation in Iraq, Missing Persons & Victim Compensation
 sponsored by Al-Hakim Foundation, CHAK, RADDHO, Interfaith International

Mr. Chairman, Your Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We have just seen a film on the victims of Saddam's use of chemical weapons against the civilian population of Halabja on March 16/17, 1988. And our Austrian colleague, Dr.Gerhard Freilinger, has followed up with medical reports on his experiences with Iranian soldiers who, during the Iraq-Iran war, fell also victim to Saddam's mostly foreign-supplied chemical weapons of mass-destruction.

I am impressed by these showings. In fact, I find myself compelled to deviate from my prepared statement not least in light of yesterday's adoption of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 against another surviving small Saddam who - hélas - reportedly still has some five tons of Mustard gas with which to terrorise his own people and to blackmail the world. But when considering these events, we also should take into account the well-hidden but credibly reported use of these barbaric terror weapons by British pilots who sought to put down the Kurdish uprising of 1920 (www.solami.com/britishgas.htm#Folly). And our leaders and we, as sovereign citizens and observers, should remember and be remembered of things past. For, as the saying goes, those who do not know where they come from, risk not to really know even where they want to go, much less how to positively influence the course of events.

The ultimate fate of each of us is death. And whether it occurs as a result of an accident, or by intent of one-self or of others, for those around us, for our families and friends, it is always a catastrophe. As is the case with the uncertainties associated with missing persons, such as the still-festering politically motivated kidnapping in 2006 of the son of our co-panelist Sheik Salar Al-Hafeed(.../sarwar.htm). That characteristic does not change when death occurs in multiples; but it can then adversely influence the psyche, the eventual willingness and survival capacity of the affected survivors. Thus, numbers do matter - in as much as they affect and harm us more deeply, more fundamentally, and more lastingly. But, as I said, for the individual loved ones, the catastrophe of any singular death remains an individually surmountable challenge. And thus, I may take this commemoration opportunity to focus on the living, on the fortunate survivors, and on their needs and legitimate aspirations.

When some members of our lawmaker group visited the memorial and museum in Halabja, the villagers welcomed us. And the local power holders also spoke of the past horrors. I for one didn't notice any anormal discontent either. Yet, shortly thereafter, in a widely-noted demonstration directed against the regional government's alleged corruption, this hallmark of Kurdish history was sacked and burnt (www.juancole.com/2006/03/halabja-riot-against-america-kurds-in.html ¦ www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HdM7qi8ZaE). In retrospect, it seems that Halabja's current residents found themselves exploited by the new powers, with their basic needs and legitimate aspirations remaining largely off the regional government's radar screen.

Which brings me to an even more fundamental mechanism at work in that part of the world, too. I'm talking about the respect for the living, and I'm thinking in particular about the respect for our own brethren, for the members of one's own ethnic, cultural or religious group. It is a mechanism which is also at the root of the biblical Yeshua's saying: "A prophet is not respected in his own country." (John 4.44: www.biblestudytools.com/cjb/john/4-44.html). And it does not only apply to relations between the members of different ethnic, cultural and religious communities, but - importantly - also between members of the very same community. As a matter of fact, in the last 20 years of intense work on Mideastern issues, I have not met many persons from that region who recognised another of their own brethren to have good ideas or to be able and willing to do good things. Showing off, blustering and seeking to impress others preferably by denigrating others seems to be standard procedure and the modus operandi not least in leadership circles. As if the only alternative to being oppressed is seeking to keep out or oppress all others.

In the words of Thomas Friedman, published in his commendable New York Times column "Tribes With Flags" (3/23/11), it is as if "[d]emocratic rotations in power are impossible because each tribe lives by the motto 'rule or die' — either my tribe or sect is in power or we’re dead." And that society-permeating mindset seems to apply to both young and elderly people of any creed, religion or political affiliation, with Arabs, Assyrians, Kurds, Turkoman and Yezidis not exactly standing out as exceptions either. In fact, as a long-time student of architecture, my sense of harmony has always been stressed by the symptomatic - if unconscious - pompousness, arrogance and even recklessness of many Iraqi villas. In other words, the way and speed forward may ultimately - and to a decisive degree - be determined by the Iraqi citizens' own mindset, i.e. particularly by both their enhanced individual and communal willingness to genuinely recognise, respect and encourage their brethren as also capable to contribute their part to the common good. That, of course, is a long-term proposition where the family, the school and the spiritual leaders are called upon to provide the necessary impulses and guidance.

In 1991, at the beginning of my work on Iraqi minority and human rights issues, I had only my own cultural, educational and experience background to build on. I thought that Switzerland's culture of dialogue, consensus-building and cooperation might also be helpful, desirable and successfully aimed at in and around the birthplace of mankind. I was, of course, aware that this world-renoun - and seemingly unique - political and cultural success-formula has been built over some 700 years by Switzerland's religiously and linguistically diversified  communities. But I trusted that with the necessary goodwill and support from all of Northern Iraq's constituent communities and their friends abroad, it should be possible to set things on the right track within at most one generation. And that circumstances can be helped about in that direction, both from within and from without. Accordingly, I labored from the beginning to properly identify, strengthen and build on the roots of each constituent community, and to get their leaders to work out and formally agree to dialogue, consensus-building and cooperation formulas for equitable power- and fruit-sharing. The result is the Mosul Vilayet project, with its five fundamental declarations, three key programs, land-ownership study and Palestinians-in-exile program (www.solami.com/mvcindex.htm ¦ .../a31.htm ¦ .../UNGA.htm ¦ .../registrars.htm ¦.../PLATO.htm ¦ .../aldeeb08.htm ¦ .../gridlock.htm).

Today, some 20 years later, the upheavals currently gaining the Arab world, as well as the Mosul Vilayet project, seem to testify to the validity not only of Victor Hugo's saying: "No army in the world is strong enough to withstand the strength of an idea whose time has come." But also of the reverse side of the very same coin, i.e.: "No force is strong enough to push through an idea whose time has not yet come." Indeed, the International Crisis Group quotes a minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government as now favoring "a new Mosul vilayet" (.../iraqsplit.htm#ICG). And a growing number of Iraqi lawmakers, as well as party and community leaders, stand by their earlier commitments. Or they now come forward to add their voice for resolving the Kirkuk and other burning issues on the basis of the legal instruments underlying the Mosul Vilayet project. This is also evidenced by the resolutions which are currently under consideration in the European Parliament and the US Congress(.../140.htm ¦ .../ashureu.htm ¦ .../ashur.htm). On this history-inspired third road, the survivors of Halabja, of Saddam, and of depleated uranium weapons - i.e. Iraq's much abused youth and their parents - may thus finally and proudly build a future worthy of their great past.

*            *            *

Q & A session:  What can the UN do to help the Kurds and Kurdistan?
    Charles Graves, Chairman:    The UN is basically a members-only club where a politically effective dialogue is possible only among representatives of member nations. The UN's specialised agencies is the forum for scientific, technical and practical tasks in such common interest fields as health, labor, agriculture, telecommunications, refugees, etc. In all these areas, civil society is given at most an observer and consultative status, with strictly delimitated and supervised non-governmental organisations (NGOs) kept at an often frustrating, for ineffective distance. Strictly guarded communication channels are kept open notably at what is now the UN Human Rights Council. Thus it is not surprising that whistle-blowing and ground-breaking NGO reports and initiatives were only barely - if at all - taken up by the international media. They included reports submitted early on by Amnesty International, Interfaith International, Greenpeace, WWF and others on such horrowing stories like Halabja, Anfal and depleated urranium weapons. But mostly only much later, when it became politically expedient, did these reports make it into the official discourse of government representatives. So what we can do and achieve as NGOs remains mostly in the realm of writing well-documented papers and making appealing and resonance-capable statements reflecting our mandates, homework and insights - and hoping for the powers that be to take up the ball when it suits them.

    Anton Keller:    To be sure, some NGOs also got streetwise and even managed to organise a politically critical mass at the UN Security Council. However, in the case of the Iraqi minorities issues, it is particularly galling to note how the successors of Saddam shot themselves into their own feet in the wake of Saddam's downfall. For when the powers that be finally were ready to reactivate the never-abrogated international minority protection and private property guarantees by way of mentioning the corresponding Iraqi Declaration of 1932 (.../UNGA.htm) in the Security Council Resolution 1546 of June 8, 2004, it was the Kurdish Iraqi Foreign Minister who vetoed that godsend as "colonial stuff", thus ignoring Iraq's own history and interest in favor of some influential flat-earth US ignoramuses who never got over their dislike of anything linked to the League of Nations. Which, of course, need not be the end of the story, as other, less US-subservient, more enlightened and visionary leaders may yet take the helm. Meanwhile, there are crucial lessons to be drawn from what the Chairman explained, and from the concrete experiences I just outlined:
1.    The UN is a powerful political vehicle only for governments; unless you have done your homework and lined up the votes there, you might as well "piss at a lamp post" for getting any action done, as Seth Lipsky, the former editor of the Wall Street Journal, once reminded me. That is the reason, why even the over 1 million signatures collected in 2004 among the Mosul Vilayet inhabitants in favor of separation from Iraq didn't make a dent anywhere and in fact couldn't even be officially received by the UN.
2.    The first order of business for any community who wishes to be recognised and taken seriously by the international community is to get its own house in order, to know who they are and where they want to go, to respect each other, and to speak with one voice firmly, reasonably and reliably. Since 1992, the signatories of the Mosul Vilayet project have probably come closer to these objectives than others have come to theirs (.../a31.htm#CORUM).
3.    To identify and develop practical vehicles and pathways for allies abroad to support that proposed objective which best meets the common interest of all communities concerned. Thereby inspiration may be drawn from some simple but crucial psychological and historical facts, namely: That the shortest way is not necessarily the most practical. That many problems cannot be resolved inside the box - as best illustrated with the nine-star puzzle (.../puzzle.htm). That a man who wants a child cannot do it alone but must invest and associate himself with a woman. That by availing their good offices for helping to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli gridlock, the inhabitants of the Mosul Vilayet might also benefit enormously on the educational, administrative and political fronts (.../gridlock.htm). That Christians have the highest resonance factor among the Western allies - for which reason the congressional and the EP resolutions I spoke about are focussed on the Assyrians. And that on the way to an eventual Kurdistan, Kurds and their brethren in the Mosul Vilayet might make most individual and common progress by seeking to develop and strengthen their multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and multi-religious society through genuinely mutual respect based on a deliberate culture of dialogue, consensus-building and power- and fruit-sharing.

    Charles Graves, Chairman:    Anton is quite right, and he has offered us some good advice. For he is a specialist on old and mostly forgotten but often still amazingly relevant treaties. Perhaps then our commemorative reflections of today will indeed go beyond the realm of the dead and be of real assistance to the living. For no lesser authority than Saddrudin Aga Khan, in his noted Sorbonne address of 1992 (.../Sorbonne.html), has already pointed out that:
"The League's international minority protection obligations were recognized as fundamental laws for countries concerned, i.e. inter alia, Turkey, Iraq, Serbia-Croatia-Slovenia.  They could not be altered without the consent of the League Council and were explicitly declared to take precedence over any existing and future national 'law, regulation or official action'."
As such and in the hands of visionary politicians, they could indeed now become powerful instruments for resolving the explosive Kirkuk issue in particular. For this reason we can only hope that Saddrudin's advice be promptly heeded when he said: "The argument is advanced that League obligations could be applied with respect to Iraq ...  It would be helpful if international law experts were to examine the validity of this proposal."
 





March 20, 2011

Educated, Unemployed and Frustrated
By MATTHEW C. KLEIN

WE all enjoy speculating about which Arab regime will be toppled next, but maybe we should  be looking closer to home. High unemployment? Check. Out-of-touch elites? Check. Frustrated young people? As a 24-year-old American, I can testify that this rich democracy has plenty of those too.

About one-fourth of Egyptian workers under 25 are unemployed, a statistic that is often cited as a reason for the revolution there. In the United States, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in January an official unemployment rate of 21 percent for workers ages 16 to 24.

My generation was taught that all we needed to succeed was an education and hard work. Tell that to my friend from high school who studied Chinese and international relations at a top-tier college. He had the misfortune to graduate in the class of 2009, and could find paid work only as a lifeguard and a personal trainer.  Unpaid internships at research institutes led to nothing.  After more than a year he moved back in with his parents.

Millions of college graduates in rich nations could tell similar stories. In Italy, Portugal and Spain, about one-fourth of college graduates under the age of 25 are unemployed. In the United States, the official unemployment rate for this group is 11.2 percent, but for college graduates 25 and over it is only 4.5 percent.

The true unemployment rate for young graduates is most likely even higher because it fails to account for those who went to graduate school in an attempt to ride out the economic storm or fled the country to teach English overseas. It would be higher still if it accounted for all of those young graduates who have given up looking for full-time work, and are working part time for lack of any alternative.

The cost of youth unemployment is not only financial, but also emotional. Having a job is supposed to be the reward for hours of SAT prep, evenings spent on homework instead of with friends and countless all-nighters writing papers. The millions of young people who cannot get jobs or who take work that does not require a college education are in danger of losing their faith in the future. They are indefinitely postponing the life they wanted and prepared for; all that matters is finding rent money. Even if the job market becomes as robust as it was in 2007 — something economists say could take more than a decade — my generation will have lost years of career-building experience.

It was simple to blame Hosni Mubarak for the frustrations of Egypt’s young people — he had been in power longer than they had been alive. Barack Obama is not such an easy target; besides his democratic legitimacy, he is far from the only one responsible for the weakness of the recovery. In the absence of someone specific to blame, the frustration simply builds.

As governments across the developed world balance their budgets, I fear that the young will bear the brunt of the pain: taxes on workers will be raised and spending on education will be cut while mortgage subsidies and entitlements for the elderly are untouchable. At least the Saudis and Kuwaitis are trying to bribe their younger subjects.

The uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa are a warning for the developed world. Even if an Egyptian-style revolution breaking out in a rich democracy is unthinkable, it is easy to recognize the frustration of a generation that lacks opportunity. Indeed, the “desperate generation” in Portugal got tens of thousands of people to participate in nationwide protests on March 12. How much longer until the rest of the rich world follows their lead?

Matthew C. Klein is a research associate at the Council on Foreign Relations.




GOGEL    28th May 2011

Dear friend of the Mosul Vilayet,

    Thank you for attending this meeting, and thanks to Sheik Salar, Ekopolitik and others who made it possible. That includes Dilshad Barzani, the KRG Representative to Germany, who ordered the greatly appreciated reference letter of April 15, 2011, which facilitated the some 40 preparatory meetings with the following encouraging words:
    "Mr.Anton Keller, Swiss citizen, ... is visiting the Kurdistan Region on behalf of the 'Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers'.
His visit is welcome in the Kurdistan Region. ... I would highly appreciate any assistance given to him when traveling to, and in the Region, and in any instances where he would require assistance."

    On May 15, in a summary email to all discussion partners, and in response to the general acceptance of the proposal to hold a dialogue meeting at the end of May - which several KRG representatives had explicitly and repeatedly welcomed and promised to support -, I stated inter alia:
    "Between April 15-25, I was privileged to meet again old friends and acquaintances in Arbil, Dokan, Sulaimanyia, and Kirkuk. They included governing and opposition party leaders and members of the organising committee of the protest movement. Sheik Salar Al Hafeed, my colleagues from the Turkish think tank Ekopolitik (www.solami.com/rebirth.htm) and I were thus able to present our background and plans for one or more possible follow-up meetings aimed at regionally stabilizing steps and mutually helpful road-holding measures based on existing national and international minority and private property protection guarantees and obligations. And we learned from you first-hand
-    how government representatives and opposition politicians and demonstration leaders analyse the evolving political situation,
-    which key demands have been formulated, upheld and responded to, and which are yet to be received,
-    what is now expected from the current power holders and what are they prepared to discuss,
-    how things may play out in which time frame, and
-    what you expect from us in our capacity as desinterested neutral outsiders and NGOs."
    I also noted: "We've continued to reflect on the highly appreciated different inputs from your side - and have actually incorporated most of the material we became aware of in our bibliography (www.solami.com/iraqsecurity.htm) and, notably in our ... draft declaration for resolving in particular the burning Kirkuk issue [e.g.] by way of the proposed Mosul Vilayet Senate (.../senate.doc)."
    And, of course, I expressed my concern for "the fate notably of these [eventually] still arrested leaders of and participants in the protest movement" whom we have met and whom we have understood to be an indispensable part of the evolving political solution.

    Yet, KRG's letter to the co-organising Turkish institute Ekopolitik of May 16, formally stated: "The KRG would like to inform you that due to previously scheduled commitments, we cannot accept your invitation to take part in this event [of May 28/29 in Erbil]. We suggest contacting local civil society organizations to assist you in further organizing this event." My repeated requests for clarifications have yet to draw the courtesy of a reply - perhaps reflecting unfounded fears of loss of power to positively influence the future course of events. But it added to an atmosphere which has been less than reassuring. Indeed, reports by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Reporters Without Borders, CSI, and other civil society organisations continue to cause concern. The shocking violent death notably of Salah Jmor, Sardasht Osman, Rezhwan Ali Ahmed, Sherzad Taha Abdulrahman, Surkew Zahir Mahmud, Garmian Ahmed Fars, Omed Jalal Karim, Bilal Ahmed Aabdullah, Rashid Muhamad Murad, Hardi Faruq Othman, Ali Rasul (peshmerga), and Sarkar Hama Saeed (policeman) have yet to be elucidated. As is the case with the inadmissable kidnapping notably of Sarwar Al Hafeed. And while dialogue meetings may help overcome some barriers, we still miss the precondition for fruitful discussions, i.e. the minimum genuine respect for each other which I called for in my statement at the Halabja commemoration recently held at the UN in Geneva (.../youth.htm). To be sure - appreciatively - a confidant of us reported on May 21: "I could not find any people who are still in the prisons ..." Yet, he added anxiously: "... but there are still some people under threat, even death threat, specifically journalists."

    In light of this mixed bag, I wish all of you well but, regrettably am unable to participate in such meetings. That is:
1.   until the responsible Iraqi authorities will no longer be impeded - e.g. by "previously scheduled commitments" -  to participate in the shaping of Iraq's future, and instead will act more fully in line with their pledges and obligations;
2.   until the death or disappearance of demonstrators, journalists etc. will be elucidated & all prisoners accounted for;
3.   until communications with Mosul Vilayet residents in particular will no longer be censured, hacked or impeded;
4.   until, e.g., Transparency International will be given credible opportunities to investigate corruption charges; and
5.   until the research results and recommendations concerning the Mosul Vilayet - made, a.o., by the United Nations and its predecessor, as well as by the International Crisis Group, the International Committee for European Security and Co-operation and the Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers in particular - will no longer, like anno 1992, be attempted to be misappropriated by anyone for partisan ends on the back of Iraq's other constitutive communities.

    Indeed, there are opportunities now for bona fide efforts to identify, develop and eventually implement practical and road-holding solutions which will be equitably and genuinely beneficial and acceptable to all constitutive communities of the Mosul Vilayet in particular. Accordingly, I shall recommend to the powers that be, as well as to interested lawmakers in Iraq and abroad - notably to members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, of the European Parliament and of the Swiss and other national parliaments - to encourage and lend their support to both the KRG and the opposition forces. Notably in as much as they wish and genuinely pursue the realisation of Iraq's national and international minority and private property protection guarantees and obligations - peacefully, in good faith, and with reliable assurances particularly with regard to all meeting participants' safety, welfare, and due respect for them.

Salve!

Anton Keller, Secretary, Good Offices Group of European Lawmakers
+4122-7400362    +4179-6047707 swissbit@solami.com(url: www.solami.com/erbil.htm)






April 21, 2012

In Uprooting of Kurds, Iraq Tests a Fragile National Unity
By TIM ARANGO

KHANAQIN, Iraq — In January, the dismembered body of Wisam Jumai, a Kurdish intelligence officer, was discovered in a field in Sadiyah, a small town in northeastern Iraq. Soon his family and friends, one after another, received text messages offering a choice: leave or be killed.

Kurds in northern Diyala Province have faced a campaign of terror. In Jalawla, a Kurdish official’s home was bombed. In Sadiyah, Rasmiya Ahmed’s son, an intelligence officer, was killed. Ayman Oghanna for The New York Times

“Wisam has been killed,” read one message sent to a cousin. “Wait for your turn. If you want your life, leave Sadiyah.”

After Mr. Jumai’s killing, nearly three dozen Kurdish families fled their homes and moved here, according to local officials, to the sanctuary of a city that is claimed by the government in Baghdad but patrolled by Kurdish forces. Other Kurds from the area have come here after being pushed out over property disputes that can be traced to Saddam Hussein’s policy in the 1970s of expelling Kurds and resettling Arabs.

Whether by terrorism or judicial order, the continuing displacement of Iraq’s Kurdish minority lays bare the unfinished business of reconciliation in the wake of the American military’s withdrawal, and it is a symptom of the rapidly deteriorating relationship between the semiautonomous Kurdish government based in Erbil and the central government in Baghdad.

The schism, which is most immediately over sharing oil wealth but is more deeply about historical grievances and Kurdish aspirations for independence, raises serious questions about the future of a unified Iraq. The crisis, American officials say, is far more grave than the political tensions between the Shiite-dominated government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and the country’s Sunni Arab minority set off by an arrest warrant on terrorism charges issued in December for Tariq al-Hashimi, the Sunni vice president.

The Kurds, unlike the Sunnis, have their own security forces, oil reserves, ports of entry and even their own de facto foreign policy, with envoys operating in other countries. This could eventually lead them to seek more independence from Baghdad.

“Fearing a resurgence of a strong central state, Kurdish leaders want to leave Iraq, and they appear to believe their moment to do so may soon arrive,” wrote Joost Hiltermann, an analyst at the International Crisis Group, in a recent report.

In the latest chapter of a long-simmering dispute, Kurdish authorities have shut off their oil exports, claiming that Baghdad is behind on payments to oil companies working in the Kurdish region. Officials in Baghdad, angered by this and by Kurdistan’s oil deal with Exxon Mobil that bypasses the central government, in turn threatened to cut off billions of dollars that flow to Kurdistan from the Iraqi budget. Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdish regional government, has called Mr. Maliki a dictator and expressed fears that Baghdad might use American-supplied F-16 warplanes against the Kurds. Both sides have accused the other of smuggling oil and siphoning off profits.

“I cannot respect myself, working with the people in Baghdad,” said Mohammed Ihsan, the Kurdish government’s representative in Baghdad, who is calling for a referendum in Kurdistan on independence, something he acknowledged was unfeasible in the short term because of Western opposition. “But a lot of people are thinking that way,” he said.

American officials are concerned that Kurdish leaders are considering seeking a deal to sell oil to Turkey, in an effort to become economically self-sufficient. Such a pact would probably be illegal and unlikely before 2014, when Kurdistan is expected to complete its own oil pipeline.

“The Kurds hope, however, that Turkey’s thirst for oil and gas will align with their own thirst for statehood,” Mr. Hiltermann wrote in his report.

Kurds are captive to the painful memories of repression under Hussein; like the Sunni and Shiite Arabs, who fought a brutal sectarian war, the Kurds, too, cling to a narrow identity, theirs defined by ethnicity, rather than national citizenship.

“How can we forget?” said Bakir Karim, a member of the Kurdish Parliament in Erbil who described Iraq as a “fake state” created by the British after World War I that, he said, has only “harmed us and tortured us.”

He added, “If you ask any Kurd if he wants independence from Iraq, without hesitation he will say yes.”

Khanaqin, a few miles from the Iranian border, lies at the end of a belt of rugged land in northern Diyala Province that runs from Sadiyah through Jalawla, another disputed town. It is also a place of ethnic rivalry, where Arabs and Kurds are trying the soft ways of democracy to settle feuds that nevertheless can still end in bloodshed.

Outside a Kurdish political office in Jalawla is a mural of three men, representing the area’s main ethnicities: Arab, Kurd and Turkmen. “We are all brothers,” it declares.

Inside, Khader Mohammed, who directs the office, waved an intelligence report he recently received from authorities in Baquba, Diyala’s capital. It claimed that the Islamic State of Iraq, an umbrella group of militants, would “attempt a number of attacks to destabilize the security situation in the province.” Among the targets: Mr. Mohammed.

“I’m not afraid,” he said. “This is my duty. I have to do my work.”

Karim Ali, 60, is among those who may soon leave. Like many Kurds here, Mr. Ali was forced out in the mid-1970s as part of the Hussein government’s “Arabization” policy, which aimed to dilute ethnic opposition. He resettled in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar Province, but reclaimed his old home in 2003 as some Arabs, fearing revenge from the Kurds, decided to return to their original homes in other regions.

Though a court was set up to handle claims stemming from the Arabization policy, Kurds say that property records that would verify their ownership claims were destroyed. As a result, Arabs are now reclaiming homes that were seized from Kurdish families in the Hussein years.

This, Mr. Ali said, is what happened to him. “This belonged to my father,” he said, standing outside his home. “In 20 days, I have to evacuate my house.” He said he was taken to a police station in handcuffs several months ago and forced to sign papers turning the property over to an Arab who held the deed from 1975 to 2003.

“It’s the same as during Saddam,” Mr. Ali said. “It’s even worse now because I was young then, and now I’m old.”

Local officials say nearly 400 houses in Jalawla are being turned over in a similar fashion. Mr. Ihsan, the Kurdish representative in Baghdad, is also involved in matters related to these disputed areas. He said the process was rife with corruption: “We have the most corrupted judicial system in the world.” (A 2009 report on internal displacement in Iraq by the Brookings Institution and the University of Bern called the process one of “incomprehension” and “frustration.”)

“It’s getting worse,” Mr. Ihsan said. “The Americans left without finishing the job. We are worried that history is going to repeat itself.”

For their part, Arabs in the area say that they are also targets of terrorist attacks, and that the property transfers are the result of a fair and legal process.

On a recent afternoon, Rasmiya Ahmed, the mother of Mr. Jumai, the murdered officer, unzipped a blue nylon pouch and out tumbled the strips of pills that provide her with a measure of relief from her sleeplessness and anxiety. Another son, a soldier, was killed last year. “I don’t have anyone now,” she said.

The Kurds may be free from the Baath Party’s brutality, but for Ms. Ahmed things were better then, because, she said, “at least I had my boys.”

Duraid Adnan contributed reporting from Khanaqin, and employees of The New York Times from Diyala and Erbil Provinces.




The Kurdistan Tribune, MESOP    April 23, 2012

President Barzani ‘agrees’ to changes proposed by Awene editor
By  Shwan Muhamad

President Barzani was left almost speechless on Sunday night when, back from Turkey, he invited the editors of local papers to meet him at his Salahadin residence. Almost every paper was represented, except for Livin Magazine, whose editor was detained by the authorities last year. Unusually, Barzani invited journalists to ask questions and he was taken aback by the brave intervention of Shwan Muhamad, editor of Awene Weekly.

In summary, Shwan put the following points to the president:

If you are sincere about reform you need to return to the promises you made in February 2011. You need to talk to the people and sit down with the opposition.

You are supposed to have a strategic agreement with the PUK but you and Talabani, the president of Iraq, keep making contradictory statements. This disappoints the Kurdish street which expects unity.

You need to do something about the corrupt Kurdish officials in Baghdad. The Iraq prime minister holds incriminating files on them. They are not up to the job and they have failed to protect Kurds under threat in Diyala and elsewhere.

Why have the opposition parties no offices in Erbil, Zakho and Dohuk? – Sometimes you talk about independence for Kurdistan but, if you want to take the nation forward, you need to act on all these points. You need to unite your own house and must come down and talk to everyone.

In front of TV cameras the president reddened and briefly replied: “I can add nothing to this. I’m agreed”.