‘The Kurdish leaders are drunk with power and wealth’: Ayoub Barzani
Written on December 24, 2012 by Editor
The Kurdish independent newspaper Hawlati interviewed the Kurdish historian Mr. Ayoub Barzani about the political challenges facing Kurdistan. This is a KT translated summary.
During the interview, Mr. Barzani ruled out the possibility of uniting the regional armed and security forces. He suggested that concerns over security and survival determine the priorities of the PUK and KDP leaders. He said that “their struggle over power and the bloody factional war in the 1990s created a mistrust environment, which led the two leaders to strengthen their security institutions.” Accordingly, the KDP controls Parastin and Zerevani, and the PUK controls Dije-Terror and Zanyari. Also, both parties have separate Asayish agencies.
Later on, Mr. Barzani questioned that “even if such a force was established, then who will control it — the KDP or PUK?”
Mr. Barzani suggested that the KDP and PUK leaders have no will for reform. He said: “The flagrant corruption in the governance institutions is a chronic and self-inflicted disease. It has not come from outside. The leadership establishes and manages corruption and is in need of a tight security grip to protect itself. The same goes true with all other family rule in the Middle East. Corruption doesn’t start with low-ranking employees, but the lower-ranked ones copy those who are ranked higher in the hierarchy.”
In 2009, the regional elections created a parliamentary opposition, which created hope for change. However, Mr. Barzani offered another view. He argues that the opposition groups were armed with full popular support but failed to complete the journey. “They stopped half-way to start dialogue with the authority, which itself really mocks dialogue and advice.” Mr. Barzani believes that Kurdistan needs a more assertive and aggressive opposition that doesn’t halt in the middle of the path.
In a question, Hawlati complained that the opposition, independent press and parliament have all failed to meet the challenges facing the region, for example, the lack of political freedoms and rule of law and corruption.
Mr. Barzani responded by rehashing the background of the leading parties of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
He said: “It is important to note an important factor, which contributed to the failure of the opposition to establish a democratic balance in the Kurdish political arena. All the Kurdish parties, except the Islamic Parties, are cut from the same cloth.” Mr. Barzani argued that: “The PUK splintered from the KDP in 1960s. The Popular Democratic Party, which was led by the late Sami Abdurrahman, fissured from the KDP in the 1980s and later regrouped with the KDP in the 1990s, Gorran broke away from the PUK and so on. They all belong to the “autonomy” school. Depending on the developments facing the regions, they work together as partners or hold back as enemies.”
Mr. Barzani added that the Southern Kurdistan parties have failed to move on from their past: “therefore, it is difficult for them to abandon each other and take independent and decisive decisions. They have drained their energies in internal-conflicts and personal and family projects that have become disastrous for the democracy and the people of Kurdistan. It is the same parties who stand against the democratic process.”
’Journalism is the most dangerous job in Kurdistan’
Commenting on the challenges facing the freedom of press in Kurdistan, Mr. Barzani said: “The majority of the independent newspapers are centered in Sulaimani. They work in a harsh environment, facing financial hardship and psychological and physical harassment. The current Kurdish oligarchy persistently seeks to abort the journalists’ will to work and attempts to isolate them from people. But, fortunately, there are independent journalists who sense the historical and professional honor. I have no doubts that the most difficult and dangerous job in Kurdistan is of a journalist who seek to uncover facts for the people of Kurdistan.”
On the recent escalation of tension between the KRG and Baghdad, Mr. Barzani suggested that the essence of the disputes between the KRG President and Baghdad relates to the hydrocarbon sales and contracts with foreign companies. He added that: “the Iraqi constitution is disabled, which should be the authority to resolve the problems that arise within the conflicting parties. Article 140 is shelved. The other accusations relating to dictatorship are a matter of ridicule and laughter.”
Asked about his predictions on the future of Kurdistan region, Mr. Barzani said: “It is important to sit back and examine the twenty years self-rule of the Kurdish leaders. What have they achieved in terms of democracy, freedoms, social justice and foreign policy? After twenty years Kurdistan still lacks a modern constitution. Instead, we are witnessing a parliament that serves factional interests, a politicized judiciary and failure to reverse Saddam’s dangerous policies that targeted the Kurdish identity. The leaders are drunk with power and wealth. Because of wealth, they fought bloody and barbaric wars and, because of wealth, they united to shut down the democratic path. They assassinated journalists and stepped on human rights.”
“The record of the past twenty years of self-rule does not suggest optimism. However, we are noticing a major gap between the absolute family rule and the people. Divorce is inevitable. But it can be violent or rational.”
Mr. Barzani concluded the debate by saying that “Mr. Masoud and Mr. Jalal’s era is that of missed opportunities.”
Ayoub Barzani is a Kurdish writer, historian and critic. He is the son of Babo Barzani, Ahmed Barzani‘s nephew and the first-cousin of Massoud Barzani, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan. He took refuge in Iran after the collapse of the Kurdish movement in 1975. He was arrested and intimidated by the Iranian secret service, the (SAVAK). He left Iran at the end of 1976 and sought asylum in the UK. Ayoub Barzani currently resides in Switzerland, where he is a co-founder of an organisation known as Kurdistan Democratic Alliance. He is very outspoken about human rights breaches and corruption in South Kurdistan. He has published three books on the Kurdish Movement. His latest book, ‘The Kurdish Liberation Movement and the Conflict of the Regional and International Powers’, was published in 2011.