June 13, 2010

Democracy in Kurdistan, under a serious question - By Mardin Ibrahim

Who regards Kurdistan as a democratic region? There are some people who genuinely believe this, but in actual fact they have a problem with understanding the term of ‘democracy’. Also the Kurdish ruling parties, by focusing on democracy as though it were a fact, intend to mislead the outside world on the one hand and hypnotise the people of Kurdistan, on the other hand by persistent use of the term rather than application of the democratic practice. Above all there are some Western writers who claim the Kurdish political system is a democratic one, but whether or not they are aware of it they could be described as racists. These people have a very low expectation of the people of that region if what actually took place is used a measure for democracy. There was massive fraud in the elections; people were pressurised to vote for a certain party and not for another, public money was misused for political gain by PUK and PDK, and people were threatened and terrorised in broad daylight. Generally it may be said that the election process took place in a very unhealthy atmosphere and whole political factions in Kurdistan did not have the same opportunity to engage in the process of expressing their ideas and clarifying their manifesto. Democracy is not only about allowing people to cast their vote once every four years. It includes creating an equal opportunity for all parties to practise their civil rights, creating a healthy condition in which free press can breathe, strengthening civil society, creating an atmosphere in which the courts and legal firm may practise properly and independently, and also neutralising army forces in such a way that they would be unable to interfere in favour of one single party. These steps are the precondition for the election process itself. Have we taken these steps in Kurdistan? Is our elections met these conditions? Obviously, not. So, allowing people to cast their vote does not mean that the government is accountable, for the entire process should take place fairly and freely. In that respect the legitimacy of the Kurdish government and also the legitimacy of Mr Barzani as president of Kurdistan is highly questionable.

Mr Barzani’s continuous claim that he gained 70% of Kurdish votes is not convincing at all. Gaining a certain number of votes is not the main issue; but rather how the process is being done, under what conditions, and the general atmosphere around the election process; these factors, yes, these factors are what matter.

The president of the Kurdistan Region has mentioned on more than one occasion that freedom of expression, democracy and civil rights in Kurdistan should be minimised, while the organizations and bodies concerned with human rights are adopting a totally different view point. In their annual reports Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, American officials and some NGOs have criticised the Kurdish authorities for violating human rights. The murder of a young journalist recently shed more light on that issue and also put the claims of Mr Barzani (Kurdistan is oasis of freedom) under serious question.

It has to be mentioned that killing political activists and journalists who are not in agreement with the Kurdish authorities’ propaganda is not a new phenomenon in Kurdistan. None of us has forgotten the cowardly killing of Nazir Omer (a communist activist), in Zaxo, Rauf Kamil and Renas (socialist activists) in Dhok, Soran Mama Hama and Shekh Star in Kirkuk, and finally Srdasht Osman in Hawler. All these killings were politically motivated, and each of these figures in one way or another was involved with criticising the Kurdish government’s performance in general and the KDP in particular. The motivations behind the killing, the timing and the targets indicate that all these killings were committed by one of the main political parties in Kurdistan.

It is a question worth asking whether freedom in Kurdistan has been achieved in the way Mr Barzani has described. The irony is we have never heard similar claims from the leaders of truly democratic countries, while we  heard such claims from Ahmadi Najad, Ghazafi, Zain Al-abidin and last, but not least Mr Barzani himself.

In reality the Kurdistan Regional Government has a very poor record of human rights and the reports of human rights organizations have shed a clear light on that aspect. To the present day still people missing from the time of conflicts between PUK and PDK, torturing detainees is a daily routine in Kurdish prisons, dismissing civil servants, teachers, nurses and ‘soldiers’ from their work happens widely as a result of their alliance with certain parties, and Dr Barham Salih the Kurdish Prime Minister has not denied that. All Kurdish civil society groups, free presses and independent organizations and personnel in Kurdistan are demanding more freedom, openness, freedom of expression and the press, transparency and the respecting of basic human rights, while the Kurdistan President is asking for them to be curtailed even more. The Kurdish authorities are requesting that people do not politicise the killing of a young journalist, but the murder of Sardasht was purely politically motivated. He had been kidnapped by armed men in the city of Hawler in front of government security men who were supposed to protect people. Sardash was killed simply because in his three previous articles he criticised Mr Barzani in a satirical way. So to accuse Kurdish activists of politicising the issue is illogical as the killing of Sardasht itself is political.
Here it could be asked why all these protests took place regarding the murder of Sardasht Osman, while there were few protests after the other terror acts? What has happened? Is there anything new?

To answer these questions we could say that, the killing is not a new act itself, but yes, we are facing a totally new situation. These protests are the new indication of birth a new political consciousness among Kurdish people in general and among Kurdish new generation in particular. During the last eight years the free press, pressure groups, the developing and expansion of Civil Society groups and above all the emerging Change Movement has given people in Kurdistan more confidence, courage and hope to fight for their rights. The Kurdish political atmosphere does not need to be pressurised, freedom in Kurdistan is not in need of being minimised as Mr Barzani claims. Rather the political system in Kurdistan needs to be reformed and may be need to be changed radically, if the new generation who are eager for freedom, desperately seeking a better life, a more transparent system, and a fairer government are to be given a better chance. The new generations in Kurdistan should enjoy more freedom and their rights and ambitions should be respected more, if not, today they raise their shoes in front of the Kurdistan Parliament; they might tomorrow throw them at all who are protecting this corrupt and out-of-date system.


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