April 6, 2011
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Kurdistan’s Genie is Out of the Bottle! - By Dr. Goran Abdulla

The political scene in Kurdistan is becoming clearer. Two sides of a political conflict are now materializing. The opposition parties rallied behind a specific demand that is calling on the government to resign and for an interim government to prepare for early elections. The ruling coalition on the other hand is clinging by nails and teeth to a government that is loosing popular support as the demonstration gain more persistence driven legitimacy.

One day after the interim committee of the freedom square in Sulaimaiah raised the levels of its demands to call on the government, the president of the region and the speaker of the parliament to resign, the opposition followed suit by an announcement just shy of those demands. The fitter opposition that seams to be closer to the people in the streets and one that did its homework, runs closely behind the intellectuals, civil society activists and religious leaders in the streets of Sulaimaniah. The fatty, lazy, corrupt and distant government lags way behind and on occasions seams to run backward.

The train of the governance practice by the ruling coalition in Kurdistan endured so far painful hits by the opposition, civil society and independent media. It is not clear whether the coalition will bow to the mounting pressures and will make a U turn before the train crushes in the next elections or it drive the region into the black hole of a civil war. The ball is clearly in the government’s field and it cannot continue offering nothing apart from lip services, threats, intimidation and torture.

The ruling parties in Kurdistan (KDP and PUK) are in a status of confusion. Some of their leaders showed some flexibility in terms of approving as legitimate the demands of the people. But they also presented evidence of ignorance in the basics of the democratic political games and defined as illegitimate the adoption of those same demands by opposition parties. They committed a suicide by not being quick to respond to some straightforward requests by the demonstrators to respect the rule of the law through handing in those who committed atrocities and shot bullets at peaceful civilians and private citizens. As the coalition continues to drag its feet on those demands and depend on classical Kurdish politics of crises management, the scope, size and demands of the demonstrators will increase and it threaten the expansion of the demonstrations to Erbil and other relatively quite Kurdish cities and towns all over the region. The ruling coalition would have been in a better situation, if it would have responded to the demands of the people before the opposition parties organized themselves and adopted the demands of the people as theirs. Now the coalition has no choice but introducing changes that be counted as political gains for the opposition.

But it would be naïve to assume that the KDP and PUK will not resist any pressure for change. The presidents of Iraq and Kurdistan just had a meeting today that was covered under a veil of secrecy. No announcements were issued after the meeting. The next few days will show whether the coalition will continue its iron fist policy toward the demonstrators and for that matter the opposition parties and groups or it will commit sweeping reforms in the government and its policies.

One would be less optimistic considering the continued violation of human rights in Kurdistan. Scores of youths are tortured by the security forces, religious leaders are continued to be harassed and arrested (a leading mullah in Koya was arrested today), leading politicians continue to regard the government as sacred and the authorities in Erbil continue to disenfranchise the people of the city from their right of assembly and free speech. 

The ruling coalition should know by now that it is difficult for the genie to go back the bottle after enjoying so many days out in Kurdistan’s spring.


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