The Iraqi Kurdistan election: Shameless leaders force their leadership through voting fraud
KurdishMedia.com - By Rauf Naqishbendi
Corruption on a grand scale in Kurdistan of Iraq initiated with the “No Fly Zone” declared by the United States and its Gulf War allies post first Gulf War. The oil-for-food program resolution by the United Nations became an instrument to further indulge Barzani into looting Iraqi Kurds. The Barzani family has been known for their self-asserted power, treating the Kurdish nation as their own property and exerting their dictatorial sentiment with no respect to national interest with their tribal loyalty and adherence to their own tribal greed for power, money, and prestige. When the oil-for-food program was declared by the UN, Barzani was able to tax Iraqi oil exports from Kirkuk through Turkey. Annually, billions of dollars have been collected from taxes, and that money was received by Masoud Barzani. He in turn deposited the money in his coffers, never disclosing the existence of such a fund to the general public and treating it like his family fund.
The second wave of corruption commenced as the former U.S. administration allotted about 20 percent of Iraq ’s oil proceeds to fund social programs in Kurdistan. That fund was divvied equally between Talabani and Barzani, who, according to Nosherwan Mustafa, received $35 billion since 2003, an amount of $17.5 billion to each of the two. Neither leader disclosed an account of these funds. Based on the facts on the ground, one can conclude that these two leaders have not disbursed even a fraction of that money to social programs. A conservative estimate is that each leader has stolen over $10 billion. This is the biggest looting and fraud in Kurdish history, not by Kurdish enemies, but by their own leaders.
Both Barzani and Talabani have surrounded themselves with unpopular figures and “YES” men and have created a corrupt and criminal mob organization, terrifying anyone who opposes their corrupted mentalities. Kurds are resentful and despise their leaders, but they are left as a powerless captive audience as the two leaders have at their disposal an armed militia of 100,000 to silence the opposition, that complemented with a powerful organization of secret mobs used as an iron fist to subdue their opposition. They are in control of every aspect of the people’s life including government, secret agencies, budget, parliament, the education system, militia armed forces, mass media, police forces, and their appointed members of parliaments. Additionally, they have looted the national budget and have used it to recruit their cronies and the thugs of society.
These two leaders have a history of rivalry, using the blood of their own people in the power struggle. But now, they are united in their love for money and power, against the well-being of the greater national interest. These two leaders are carrying with them dirty bags of betraying their nation. Both have been agents of Saddam, Turkey, and Iran in the past, and they fought the Kurdish liberation movement in both Turkey(PKK) and Iran. Both gave up their claim against a demographically altered Kurdish oil-rich region, Kirkuk , and the fate of its displaced Kurdish population. According to Nosherwan Mustafa, the Iraqi constitution, Article 140, which was intended to restore the rightful ownership of Kirkuk, has been compromised by Talabani and Barzani for a couple of black-hole, tiny oil fields in Zakho and Tag Tag. The combined revenue of these two oil fields is less than five percent of the Kirkuk revenue that was given up, let alone the fate of the displaced native Kurdish residents.
There are a few independent Kurdish news outlets in Kurdistan. They have been permitted to criticize authorities. Ironically, however, they are allowed to criticize anyone but the two Kurdish leaders. Any critical mention of these two leaders will end the free practice of these independent media. What is tragic about the corruption in Kurdistan and discouraging to the opposition is the fact that the corruption is from top down, not otherwise. Therefore, any meaningful change requires toppling the two Kurdish leaders. Given their power over people as mentioned earlier, that is not an easy task, at least for now. But time will eventually allow the will of good people to prevail over the wicked leadership.
Late last July the Kurds proudly held their parliamentary election. They expected transparency and took their national destiny, their future, and the future of their children to the voting boxes. But the voting ballot was soon targeted by Talabani and Barzani. First, to avoid double voting they stamped the hands of those who voted. But the two leaders recruited people by the thousands, in particular, their armed militia men, who are like a fast-traveling train so that no one dares to stand in their way. Throughout Kurdistan, thousands of these people marched to the voting places and voted as many times as they could, adulterating the result to benefit their bosses.
The voting places were to be closed to the public at the time agreed upon by all participants. However, the Talabani and Barzani organizations decided, without notice to the opposition, to extend the voting time by an hour. During that hour extension, Talabani and Barzani’s groups invaded the voting places and swarmed like ants from their colony, forging as many votes as they could to ensure their landslide victory. This action was no surprise, and Barzani and Talabani shamelessly celebrated their victory with the crowd of their cronies.
The corruption and looting of the Kurds by their leaders has been encouraged by the United States previous administration’s endorsements and policies. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the United States to remedy the travesty it has created by exerting pressure on both Masoud Barzani and Talabani to return the money stolen from their people and retire from leadership that they don’t deserve, a leadership that has brought national shame and economic hardship to the Kurds.
So far, the Kurdish leaders have been taking the peaceful sentiment of their people for granted. Given their selfishness, lack of care for the national interest, obsession with power, and insatiable aptitude for greed, this leadership can easily exhaust the people’s patience. When that happens, the most peaceful and secure region of Iraq will fall into bloody crisis, which in return will cascade throughout the country. Therefore, it is in the interest of all parties, including the U.S. to thwart this leadership’s injustice and wickedness toward their innocent and peaceful people.
Rauf Naqishbendi’s memoirs The Garden Of The Poets recently published(Unedited).
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