Barzani and Kurdistan Region: An Open Letter to President Obama - By Kamal MIrawdeli

Dear President Obama,

Barzani and Kurdistan Region

The President of Kurdistan Region Masud Barzani declared in a meeting with representatives of Kurdish parties in Arbil on 27 March 2012 that he would visit the United States to meet your Excellency and he would also visit some European countries.

I deem it necessary that I should write to your Excellency again expressing my concerns and legitimate concerns of the Kurdish people about this visit which is similar to the President’s former visits to the US and Europe.

It is not clear to anyone in Kurdistan what kind of President Masud Barzani is, whose President he is, within what constitutional and legal structures and procedures he acts and takes decisions, to what democratic and judiciary body he is accountable, where his Presidential office is, where his financial resources come from, what his relationship to Kurdistan Parliament and Kurdistan Cabinet is, etc There has been however a spoken or silent consensus among all political parties and people that Barzani in spite of his formal position as Kurdistan Region President he is still a tribal warlord working as a supreme dictatorial for-life president of his family-based party. He is the president of his party not his people and uses his party to enhance and maintain his absolute totalitarian control over Kurdistan region’s land, property, resources and finances. Together with Talabani they have divided Kurdistan region into two fiefdoms and two business cartels. They consider themselves the sole landlords of Kurdistan with people being treated as tenants and serfs. They consider Kurdistan budget and revenues from Kurdistan oil and gas as their private accounts with no financial control, legal accountability, and transparency procedures. They run a totalitarian patronage system bereft of the role and rule of law, democracy, justice and morality.  Kurdistan region has no Constitution, parliament exists only as a name and a shameful game, with no teeth, function and impact and the Cabinet has no role apart from being a mechanism for managing the corrupt party system.

After 21 years of the party patronage system, there is no rule of law, no regulations, no functioning institutions, no economy, no economic policy and plans, no economic growth and production, no labour market, no financial and banking system, no equal opportunity and justice.  People can have property, business and jobs not on the basis of competence, qualifications, skills, competition and equality of opportunity, but on the basis of party loyalty and accepting the system of  ‘wage slavery’. The parties have turned even hospitals, medicine and medical services into private business, continuously importing tons of expired and poisonous medicine, which have dangerously increased the rate of diseases and deaths in Kurdistan region. In this modern patronage system women are completely excluded from the political and economic life, from any sort of production and thus from social and cultural activities, economic independence and jobs. That is why women and young men are the first victims of this slavery system. More than 16000 women have committed suicide, most by burning, or have been killed, and thousands of young men have left the region to exile. Yet still, there are no ‘equal opportunity laws, no laws against sexual harassment and abuse of women which are rife in all party-controlled aspects of life.

Although Kurdistan Region is not a monarchy and no one should be privileged by the virtue of birth, or if such privileges are necessary they should be sanctioned by a democratically established Constitution and regulated by law, Masud Barzani has illegally and dictatorially appointed his sons, his niece and hundreds of his clan members to various ‘government’ posts and security and military positions. They also monopolise most of the region’s resources, finances, businesses and external and internal commercial interests without any shred of legitimacy and even nominal accountability to anyone. By so doing they have created the most brutal discriminative and unjust regime which daily victimises people in various forms.

Dear Sir,

I trust that your Excellency must be very much aware of this state of affairs in Kurdistan because this happened exactly after the liberation of Iraq and your direct support and sponsorship of this crudely corrupt ‘emirate’ regime. It is not the first time I try to draw the US and British government’s attention to the sad fact that instead of supporting the development of Kurdistan region’s economic infrastructure, constitutional rule and democratic institutions and structures that guarantee sustainable economic growth, rule of law, human rights and citizenship freedoms, civil society development, social justice and equal opportunity for all its citizens, you have been trying irresponsibly and hypocritically to establish a corrupt ‘oil emirate’ based on family plutocracy, absence of transparency and accountability, and secrecy in political, business and commercial deals. (For example, see:

This is most conspicuously evident in the so called ‘oil contracts’ signed supposedly by Kurdistan Regional Government with Turkish, British and other foreign companies. Our people and the pitiful Parliament have no clue what these contracts are about, how they are processed and signed, who signs them on behalf of our people, who benefits from them, where do the revenues go, in what bank accounts are the income moneys deposited and for whose credit and interest? Doesn’t Your Excellency think that these are basic information that a nation is entitled to have about its most important economic assets, which are the property not only of one generation but of all future generations too?  The US government must also be aware that the oil and, now the gas products produced in Kurdistan are illegally smuggled to Iran and other dubious markets while thousands of families in the oil-producing areas, many survivals of Saddam’s genocide, are homeless, jobless and live in areas without minimum public services.

The US and UK’s unconditional wrong support to the corrupt autocratic patronage system in Kurdistan region has only encouraged and emboldened Barzani-Talabani cartels to behave in a more self-centred tyrannical ways. All minimum basic freedoms that are taken for granted in any society have disappeared in Kurdistan region.  Equal right to jobs, and to have a business, right to establish an independent voluntary organisation, right to demonstrate and protest, do not exist even on paper. Social problems which have been defined so far merely as one involving the killing of women, have exacerbated to gradually erupt in increasing incidents of inter-personal and tribal killings, robbery, theft and various forms of social and family conflicts created by the reality of injustice, impoverishment of large sections of sosciety, absence of law, discrimination and lack of a functioning independent objective legal system.  Law in Kurdistan is what party officials think and decide in their interests. Thus although the absence of ‘conflict of interest’ must naturally be one of the most basic principles and pillars of the theory and practice of law, Kurdistan is managed exactly by the all pervasive practice of conflict of interest. Law is what supports, protects and perpetuates the interest of the veteran warlords, their families and party mafias who have remained immune from any sort of accountability, penalty and sanctions whatever crimes of treason, murder, theft, illegal appropriation of land, property and resources, criminal discrimination against people, control of media, education and universities, illegal monopolization of a all aspects of life they have perpetrated and continue to commit. In fact, law is used adversely and oppressively, to ‘punish’ those people who are victims of this brutal injustice including murder, rape, land usurpation and expression of political protest. In other words ‘law’, as the exercise of conflict of interest, is used to intimidate, deter and punish the victims of crime not the perpetrators of crime. The American Consulate in Arbil should be aware of tens of abhorrent examples of this fact. I will just give few current ad most recent examples: 

1. Sardasht Osman was a final-year university student at Salahaddin University who was kidnapped on 4 May 2010 outside the College of Arts in Arbil where he studied, and was murdered a day later. Instead of justice for the victim, and bringing the criminals, thought to be KDP’s Parastin, to trial, KDP authorities in Arbil have been treating the victim’s brothers and family as ‘criminals’. Even this week, prior to Barzani’s trip abroad, they were summoned by KDP ‘courts’ as ‘criminals’, as his brother has revealed in a press statement.

2. Barzani’s cousin Abdulmusawwar Barzani, who participated in July 2009 elections as an independent group, was kidnapped, beaten, tortured and threatened with death, in Arbil on Tuesday 22 March, allegedly for his criticisms for Barzani and his family.

3. Mr. Ibrahim Kaka Hama, a well-known Kurdish patriot, was shot and wounded by PUK militia in Halabja on 23 March 2011.  His guilt was that as a known personality in the town he was trying to defend the right of people of Halabja to demonstrate and protect the demonstrators. I was in the town myself the day he was shot. But instead of bringing the aggressors to justice, Ibrahim Kaka Hama has been put in jail by PUK authorities in Sulaymaniyah without trial for over 6 months although there have been local and international campaign for his release including an appeal by 24 Swedish MPs.

4. The official organisers of the demonstration of 17 February 2011, who had formally applied and granted permission to hold a meeting, have been summoned by courts on charges of encouraging violence, while the KDP militias who randomly and wildly shot and killed demonstrators, have been promoted and rewarded.

5. Last month after the new Speaker of parliament , who is from PUK, took down Mustafa Barzani’s picture in his office, the homes of 5 PUK MPs  in Arbil were burgled in one night .  This suspicious incident, which is thought to be politically-motivated, has still not been sorted out. 


Dear Sir,

Masud Barzani is the face ad factor of this injustice and corruption in Kurdistan. He has no regard for Parliament, law or any democratic accountability and responsibility, social justice, equality and citizenship rights.  Barzani, his son and his nephew are among the ten top corrupt Iraqi officials registered by Forbes magazine.  Talabani and his son are two others.

Barzani is supposed to be at the top of the legal system, with power to approve and initiate laws to systematise and legalise the government and justice in Kurdistan. But he has never shown any regard or even understanding of his ‘legal’ role and the legal instruments, which he is supposed to apply to discharge his responsibilities. He rather behaves as a divine Monarch, a despotic Warlord or a Tribal Chief. In the day he travelled abroad on his present mysterious trip, he had a meeting with leaders of political parties whom he can wilfully fund or de-fund, and thus treat them as obedient clients. But he never consults, let alone feels responsible to, his Parliament. He even refuses to meet the present Speaker of Parliament (who is from PUK), who was not invited to the President’s meeting, because he has removed his father Mustafa Barzani’s picture from his office and replaced it with the official Talabani-Barzani duo photo. Since last February 2011 demonstrations in Sulaymaniyah, Barzani has made several empty promises and emptier ‘reform’ initiatives which have started and ended with himself. He set up a special committee outside Parliament and executive system to carry out his reform plan. He was the only one knowing or thinking to know what he was doing and wanted from his reforms.  The factuality of these so-called reforms is too trivial to deserve a discussion. But it is worth explaining the President’s methodology. As the President of the Region Barzani could consult widely with all sections of the Kurdish society, with opposition parties, with intellectuals and media, with whatever civil society exists before taking any single isolationist exclusive initiative to reform. He should have created a popular consensus and will to reform. He should have used external independent experts to review all aspects of administration and activity in Kurdistan. He should have asked his Parliament to initiate, debate and approve a comprehensive time-limited programme of reform with strict aims, objectives, targets, deadlines and monitoring and review processes and enact necessary legislation to ensure its implementation. He should also, as I stressed in an interview then, started his reform with himself, his post, and his family to make it credible and serious. Also like all his previous visits, no one knows the real reason and aim of his present visit. Is it really something to do with Kurdish affairs? Is it for holiday and relaxation in the Bulgarian sun? Is it for taking care of his family business in US and Europe? Is it to discuss the issue of Kurdistan’s independence with Mr Obama, as his party ridiculously propagates?  Is it to escape from the responsibility of attending the Baghdad national summit among Iraqi political parties and his sudden escalated quarrel with Maliki? No one knows for certain. Whatever the purpose, shouldn’t the President be responsible to a formal body to at leas officially explain the reasons of his visit, the time it might take, the budget allocated to it and the person who would replace him and discharge the tasks of his post in his absence?  But now it is left to some local newspapers to guess the secret of his secret visit. For example Hawlati suggests that the President is visiting the US to sort up the dispute around the ExxonMobil Corporation’s oil contracts with KRG. (Hawalti, 31 March 2012)

To be governable Kurdistan region needs clear and complete separation of legislative, judiciary and executive powers. And to make this possible it needs a democratic Constitution and a democratic society. It needs a democratically elected President with well-defined responsibilities and accountabilities, an efficient skilled executive, and a truly representative active and effective Parliament of people.

Dear President Obama

I would have been happy and proud if you had received Barzani as a true representative of Kurdish people, as someone who had consulted and carried the message of his Parliament and people to you, as someone who, like your Excellency, worked for his people and country and not for himself ad his family.

Dear President Obama.

Please imagine just for a moment: That You Barack Hussein Obama and your wife and children own all America. You are the sole for-life leader and private owner of the Democratic Party because your have inherited it from your father; you control all your country’s lands, property and natural resources and no one can have a business with your country without having contract and deal with you; no one can be appointed to any job unless he is affiliated to your party which is your own property too; no one can have business unless you agree and guarantee the biggest share in the profit; no one can have freedom to express anything unless they risk being beaten, kidnapped and tortured. No meetings, protests and demonstration in your feudal realm are allowed. Your children, nephews and cousins control the country’s main armed and security forces. You can speak, travel, order, buy, and deal at will without bothering about any one and anything apart from your own whims. Your family controls all the media and can, using the country’s bottomless budget which is your private purse, set up a TV channel every week and in every town and let your Security agencies and party centres produce hundreds of newspapers, magazines and publication to flood the market and trivialize not only the idea of freedom of expression but the very noble practice of reading and learning through words.  You can, using your power and wealth, turn the Congress and Senate, into pathetic useless robots. You sign away America’s resources with dubious foreign companies without letting Congress or the public know anything about anything and even you claim that you don’t know anything about anything; you stop every sort of agricultural and economic activity and production in your country to make sure everyone is reduced to an idle big stomach and spends his or her slavery wage for buying expired imported food and medicine imported with the blessing of your foreign accomplices to ensure the flow of billions of profit dollars to your family and foreign companies.

Dear Sir,

This is a tip of the iceberg of our model region, which you have helped to promote and preserve. I hope this will give you a better idea to understand the virtues of our system, which might make you feel jealous of Barzani when you will meet him at your home kitchen in the White House and be tempted to copy him in your dreams.

I hope your Excellency would stop any deals by ExxonMobil Corporation and other American oil companies with any family or party businessmen disguising as KRG unless the whole process is totally legitimate and transparent, with full knowledge, involvement, discussion and approval of Kurdistan parliament and in case of large long-term contracts, such contracts should be approved by our people in a referendum. Our people, whenever they will be able to have Constitutional democratic representative government that represents their interests, will consider all oil and gas contracts which have been or will be carried out behind parliament and people, as illegitimate, illegal, fraudulent and aggressive criminal conspiracies for robbing and squandering our resources and enslaving our people.

The US had a golden opportunity to leave an enduring and endearing honourable legacy in Iraq and Kurdistan. Unfortunately it squandered this opportunity because of  ill-managed self-interest, arrogance, ignorance, the policy of double standards and the basically racist and Orientalist attitude towards the Other: that they are not humans like us and do not deserve  democratic government, democratic and the same civil rights that the American people have.  Otherwise, how could you receive Masud Barzani?

I am aware that as a result of such disastrous policies, the American influence is waning.  But, when you meet Barzani, your Excellency will still have a chance to try to correct some of the wrongs by advising and encouraging Barzani to return the land, property and wealth his family has usurped to people, to establish a democratic Constitution for our region, to ask parliament to pass a comprehensive law of equal opportunities and to resign his post and allow free and fair democratic elections for a new parliament and presidency.

Please accept my regards, Sir.

Kamal Mirawdeli

Legitimate President-elect of Kurdistan Region

31 March 201


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April 1, 2012
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