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May 1, 2009
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Klawrojna 
An Independent Online Kurdish-English Newspaper

Elections in Kurdistan: To Have or not to Have the Right to Vote

Kurdishaspect.com - By Dr. Rashid Karadaghi

According to news reports, the Kurds living outside Kurdistan will not be allowed to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Kurdistan scheduled for a couple of months from now.

To put it mildly, this is a very undemocratic and unfair decision, uncharacteristic of any system that is worthy of being called a democracy. The Kurdish people didn’t fight Arab Iraqi dictatorial regimes for almost a century, with the untold sacrifices they made and the pain and suffering they endured, only to be denied their most basic right by their very own government. The Kurdish people have the right to expect more of their government.

Taking such a decision, which runs contrary to every democratic principle, shows just how far the arrogance of power can reach. When a government takes such a decision and assumes that it can escape the wrath of the people it governs, one can only conclude that it is taking the people it governs for granted. But history has shown that taking the governed for granted is a dangerous path to follow, for there comes a time when their patience runs out and no one can predict what will happen then.

Voting in an election is the most basic and important right of a citizen in a democracy. It is not a favor granted or taken away by the rulers according to their whims. When a government takes away this fundamental right from any segment of the electorate, let alone an important one, as it is happening in this case, it automatically forfeits the right to be called a democracy.

There is no justification for this arbitrary decision by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), logistical or monetary, for Iraqis abroad voted in the Iraqi parliamentary elections in 2005 and on the constitution in the same year. If the Iraqis abroad can vote in two elections in one year, why can’t the Kurds abroad vote in one election?  

By all accounts, the Kurds in the Diaspora have played a significant role in the Kurdish national liberation movement and increasingly so in the last two decades. For instance, the Kurds abroad played a pivotal role during and after the Kurdish mass exodus in the spring of 1991, following the Gulf War, in convincing the Western powers, specifically the US, France, and Britain, to establish the “safe heaven,” which became the incubator for most of what has been achieved in Kurdistan so far. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago when a perceptive observer of Kurdish affairs commented that the Kurdish movement rests on three legs, two of them are in Kurdistan and the third is the Kurds abroad.

To deny this important constituency the right to vote in the upcoming parliamentary elections in Kurdistan is a slap in the face of those who love their people and their country and have proven so. The Kurds abroad are not any less patriotic than the Kurds at home. They are not any less concerned about what happens in their homeland than the people living in Kurdistan. They love Kurdistan and feel as much a part of their people as the people living in Kurdistan, if not more. Moreover, some of them are more involved in their people’s struggle for freedom and independence than many who live in Kurdistan. So, on what basis are they being denied the right to vote in this important election?

How can we criticize the occupying governments of Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq for taking our people’s rights away if our own Kurdish government takes away our right to vote? If our government can take this important right away today, under any pretext whatsoever, what other rights will it take away tomorrow?

If the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) wants to keep faith with the people of Kurdistan, it must reverse its decision without delay and allow the Kurds abroad to exercise their right to vote. This is the only patriotic course of action. If it fails to do so, it will alienate an important segment of the Kurds and will lose their support completely, which would please our enemies. For the sake of Kurdistan and its people, let us hope that wiser heads will prevail.



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