Kurdistan Islamic Union, a Successful Model of the Islamic-Liberals

Kurdishaspect.com - By Dana Newzer Ali

15 years ago, on 6 February 2009, Kurdistan Islamic Union was announced. Party leaders insist on the word “announced”, because they say that their history as an organized group is much older than their actual announcement as a party on the ground. Kurdistan Islamic Union was not only a number added to the tremendous number of the announced parties in Kurdistan, but it was really a required point view which was absent in the political and social fields in the region. This fact is the best reason to understand the burgeoning spread of the party among Kurdish society in a short time. It is highly questionable how a four-year-old party can be the third party in the region. This noticeable growth can be explained by reading the nature of the Kurdish society at that period of time.

After the Kurdish uprising in 1991 and establishing the safe zone, a different political, social and economical condition appeared. The two greatest parties, Kurdistan democratic party and patriotic union of Kurdistan, inherited the authority in the region and established the first Kurdish government after holding a parliamentary election in 1992. Elections results were not accepted due to the deep differences between the two parties about everything. It was clear that their previous desire for holding election was not originated from their belief in the democratic principles, and they were not ready to loss under any circumstances. They accepted the parliamentary election so as to prove that they are everything in the region, but it didn’t happen. The urgent and first aid solution was to establish a fifty-fifty government and share some other political parties. This fragile situation didn’t last very long and the historical mistake happened. PUK and PDK started a terrible civil war in 1994 which continued until 1994 when Talabani and Barzani met at Washington and signed an agreement to end the notorious civil war. During these four years of civil war, thousands were killed, injured and became homeless. The situation was catastrophic. It was at this time that KIU came and announced its Islamic reformist political project which was accepted widely by the people, young and women especially. KIU demonstrated a different option for the people who were looking forward to being rescued from that disastrous condition. The messiah was KIU and its new model of the political challenge. The first right decision made by KIU was to avoid any military activities and remain without any militia. This political farsightedness helped KIU get along with all of the different parties, groups and interests in the region. At that time, it was fairly unbelievable to have a party without militia and survive, but KIU was able to read the facts and the figures correctly and not to do the same mistake of the others. KIU general secretor, Salahuddin Muhammad Bahaadin in the answer of a Turkish journalist who had asked about the ability to survive without having militia said that their civilian nature is the secret of their success. Although this non-military nature of KIU helped the party to gain more support from the different sectors of the society, it is unfair to say that this just a periodic and tactical option and may change in any time, because KIU and on many different occasions proved that the party is honest with his claim of being liberal and democratic. KIU’s attitude towards war and military actions never changed, in spite of the involvement of the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan in the civil war. Islamic movement criticized KIU of being coward and easygoing with the secularist parties and lots of local quarrels happened between the supports of the both sides. KIU announced deliberately that the ongoing war in the region is not a battle between good and evil, or Muslims and disbelievers, but it is a political conflict which might end when the interests meet each other.  Finally KIU won the game as the warriors announced their regret and admitted that what they have done is nothing but a terrible mistake which will never happen again. Now, KIU officials are proud of their positive affect during the war as Ali Muhammad, a member in the leading staff and a minister in the prime minister Maliki’s government said, “ we might not have put on trigger against Saddam, but we are honourable that we had not put on trigger against any member of our society either.”

Kurdistan Islamic Union was a liberal and open-minded party from beginning. KIU’s influential member education and organized work notwithstanding, party’s members have a great deal of freedom and independent thinking.  This style of worked has helped KIU much more than expected, because members of this party feel free to express their opinions and share their ideas with their leadership, consequently, the number of the members who have left the party is very few and doesn’t reach hundreds of them. This principle is some thing rarely can be seen in the other parties in Kurdistan, even in the region. The common style of party here is the communist style which puts lots of restrictions on the freedom of thinking and the members are expected to accept everything from their leadership as undisputable facts that can’t be argued or questioned. The constructive diversity among Kurdistan Islamic Union members is interesting. Almost every member thinks differently and owns various opinions about the issues, but at the same time they have the same political agenda and clearly the same answer when they are asked. For example, in the last congress hold by the party last year, different social, political and even religious opinions presented and hot discussions hold between the members, but when they came out from the halls, they were speaking the same and telling the same story. The decisions in the leading staff of KIU are made by the majority after discussions about the subject. This term which is known as Shura in the Islamic political system, is another factor which has helped KIU a lot so as not to take wrong steps, and this is the reason why KIU’s political mistakes are very few.

The most significant motto of KIU during last 15 years was reform. KIU has accepted reform as a prophetic mission, “what I want is reform, as I could.”   Now reform is not just a beloved nice motto, but a social, economical and political necessity. Reform needs to be organized and generalized on every aspect of life, because corruption is has had been organized. But the most important qualification which must exist in the reformist is to be clean and not corrupted, because what can clean dirtiness are detergents not dirty things, and this is what exists in KIU to a high extent. All of the leadership members are know people for their clean past and come from healthy social backgrounds. This truth was appeared clearly during the case of the people who had worked with Saddam’s regime and betrayed their nation, non of the high ranking members of KIU were involved in such scandals, even according to the revealed reports, there were not any name of an active KIU member among those lists. It was a great testimony for the honesty of KIU. Another factor which enables KIU to play a great role in the reform process owns hundreds of suitable technocrats who have enough experience in the fields of working. These people had no chance in the past to prove themselves and show their abilities because of the limitless monopole of the jobs and opportunities by PUK and PDK. After few months, there will be a parliamentary election in Kurdistan, and it is clear that KIU wants to produce a change in the political scene of the region, the thing which will contrast with the political interests of PUK and KDP. In the last election, KIU decided to participate with a list of candidates different from the list of PUK and KDP, the consequences were very dangerous. In one day 6 buildings of the party were burnt by KDP members, 4 KIU members were killed during those attacks. One of them was Mushir Ahmed, the head of the KIU list for the elections in Duhok.

Many people criticize KIU for being silent, shy and inactive in front of the PUK and PDK dictatorships, and sometimes KIU is being accused of being looking for partial interests and personal advantages rather than welfare of the nation. Although it is a fact that political situation in Kurdistan is frustrating and disappointing, it is not right to put the responsibility on KIU, because what is clear is that there is no political volition in Kurdistan to accept the others whoever they are. PUK and PDK see power as a reward for what they have done for this country, and they are not ready at all to lose it under any situation. Their reaction to the KIU’s choice in the last elections was the best proof for their enmity with anything that may threaten their political and economical interests. PUK and PDK are not two parties with political agendas, but they are now two great companies which their priority is to sustain their needs and any effort to change and reform will face deaf ears. I think that KIU has to work on making a common sense of refusing corruption and avoiding being a part of its system. At the mean time, KIU must pay a great attention to media, which I think it is one of the weak points of KIU, so as to be able to speak directly with the people and prevent being presented with a confused image by the two parties.

Kurdistan Islamic Union was successful in keeping the balance between different sectors Kurdistan, Iraq and the region, and also had good relations with USA. The secretary general was chosen as a member of the Governing Council, the highest authority in Iraq after the Saddam’s regime. This was a sign for America’s deep knowledge of KIU and its effective role in both Kurdistan and Iraq. Few months ago, Mr. Salahuddin Muhammad was invited by the president Obama, who was a presidential nominee at that time, to the national congress of the Democratic Party. Mr.Salahuddin Muhammad was the only Kurdish person invited as a party to the congress, and this was read by most of the political analyzers as a change in the USA’s news policy in the Obama’s era toward the region. In the past, PUK and PDK were threatening people by reminding them if they vote to KIU, we will lose our friendship with America, because America doesn’t want Islamic parties to be in power, but after the AKP experience in Turkey, and those strong relations between KIU and USA, people became sure that America prefers a reformist liberal Islamic party to a corrupted entrusted secularist party. Another field of keeping balance is about Turkey and Kurdish problem. KIU basically believes in a fair solution for the Kurdish problem, but at the same time respects the countries in the neighborhood. Keeping this balance was not that easy in the past, especially in the case of Turkey where the leading government is originated from the same ideology as KIU’s. Many times, KIU has been compared to AK Party as examples of the new style of Islamic parties, and this comparison is in its place to a high extent. The problem is that Kurdish problem in Turkey has not been solved yet, which means there are still quarrels between the two sides. On the other side, AK party was in the same contrast, extremist nationalists’ demands on one side, and the European Union’s conditions on the other side. KIU tried to differentiate between what is done by the Turkish Government and Turkish Military; this implies that Turkish Government can’t prevent the generals from military responses, the thing which makes the mission more difficult. KIU succeeded in making this difference.

To sum up, Kurdistan Islamic union was a historical necessity for filling the gap made by the absence of a liberal and civil party. KIU because of its unique qualifications succeeded in being the future alternative for the present political circumstances. KIU passed many obstacles in the past years successfully, but it doesn’t mean that the work is over. There is still a long way ahead. The fact is that whoever is concerned with the safety and prosperity of the region, have to improve this kind of Islamic party, because they are nearer to their identity and soul of their communities. They know the language of their people and know how to deal with their problems. KIU is a suitable event to be searched, discovered and written about. I hope this will be an entrance for better evaluations in the future.


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February 15, 2008
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