April 28, 2011
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Kurdish Peshmerga being used to intimidate oppositions into selling out - By Shwan Zulal

The military force continues to dominate the Kurdish streets, as students and civil societies are becoming more defiant. The recent move by PUK(Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) to copy KDP(Kurdistan Democratic Party) style security clampdown in Slemani (Sulaimaniyah) have somewhat quelled the protests nevertheless, opinions are getting hardened and extreme elements within the protesters and opposition are filling the vacuum.

Meanwhile, one of the most unsavoury characters has surfaced online giving sermons, Mala Krekar, a convicted Islamist terrorist, who preaches hatred and bigotry. People like him are using the tense situation and exploiting people’s anger to spread their venom in Kurdish society.

PUK and KDP have issued a statement today showing an inclination to enter into discussions with all the concerned parties. They say, situation is under control and the only way forward is dialogue. Oppositions on the other hand have already issued a joint statement yesterday asking for the withdrawal of all troops before considering taking part in any dialogue.
As the situation develops, PUK and KDP’s decision to resort to overwhelming force is becoming more clearer. Although bringing the forces have been controversial and a Public Relation disaster,   militarily the campaign have been successful in suppressing the protest.
Since the start of protests, incumbent parties have been on the back foot and always playing catch-up as events took over. This has made them look like fools and expose the level incompetence running through Kurdish authorities. Shooting protesters and the slow response by the government coupled with public anger brewing over two decades have placed

PUK and KDP in a very awkward situation. Oppositions on the other hand enjoyed a surge in popularity and a huge public approval for what they have been trying to advocate in term of reforms. This has given them a huge advantage over the ruling parties. They were now in a strong position and used their advantage to demand a complete overhaul of the political system including the dissolution of Kurdish government.

Having being disadvantaged in negotiations, the two militias have resorted to using force. It is apparent that the military deployments has been designed to intimidate the opposition into agreeing to have dialogue, on the incumbent terms. So far the oppositions have called PUK and KDP bluff and would only agree to dialogue if the forces withdrawn.

Nonetheless, the tactics have worked at some level because in the oppositions last statement, there were no mention of opposition 22 point proposal for reform. Only three weeks ago all three opposition parties have called for dialogue but said that they would not compromise on any proposed reforms, and wanted the government to be dissolved.

It all depends on timing because the situation still fluid and discontent is growing. Many loyal supporters of PUK and KDP are questioning their leaders and wondering whether the way they have dealt with the current situation is sustainable an ethical.

What PUK and KDP offer the opposition is not real reform because they are offering  senior government positions and other official posts as well as increasing party funding.  Although the offer sounds inclusive and multilateral, but taking part in a government which does not have any real powers and cannot even arrest party members shooting protesters and bring them to justice. This inclusive deal which has been proposed does not exactly put any members of the opposition in a position to drive forward reforms. Tinkering with the system would not satisfy the public and opposition supporters. Come next elections the opposition would be tarred with the same brush and would lose out to PUK and KDP.  

Some may call the opposition reckless and accuse them of stirring violence. But the fact is, if any opposition party agree to sell out to the incumbent for extra party funding and senior positions within the government without real and tangible reforms insight, it will not only make them lose credibility but they will jeopardise the Kurdish nation aspiration for better future.

Time will tell how the incumbent support will hold and whether the opposition have the resolve and nerves to hold on and demand comprehensive reform


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