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To Avoid Political Recycling

Those who have the privilege to know, have the duty to act.
Albert Einstein

Hishyar Barzani


The concept of “Habitus” has been used as early as Aristotole (384BC – 322BC) but in present day usage was introduced by Marcel Mauss and later re-elaborated by the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu ( 1 August 1930 – 23 January 2002).1

The concept of “Habitus” is in its simplest usage could be defined as a structure of the mind, characterized by a set of acquired schemata (= A structured cluster of pre-conceived ideas) sensibilities, dispositions and taste.). The particular contents of the “Habitus” are the result of the objectification of social structure at the level of individual subjectivity. Hence, the “Habitus” is by definition, isomorphic with the structural conditions in which it emerged.

Recently the Kurdish press has indicated to a significant change far from traditional petrified norms of political apathy. The heads of the two dominant parties KDP and PUK have been greatly alarmed by the new political trend, they feel that their hegemony and privileges are now limited and may be forced to cede for a new political organization.

Changes in the Kurdish society are slow, political visionary is weak and the ruling despotic elite, with strong tribal affinities, is indeed represents a great hindrance in the path of socio-political changes.

The case of the Arab World shows that, the dictators have learned methods of mass manipulation; the slogans of the opposition and its discourse are re-adopted by the ruling corrupt regimes and recycled in the official media, pretending that there are changes in the field of democratic life; freedom of expression, transparency and accountability. The ruling family of the KDP and later on by PUK, practiced such devious method long ago.

What is clear, in the Arab World, also in Kurdistan, is that the family dictatorial rule - though repressive and corrupt -, is the norm of governance in Kurdistan and not the exception.

There are ample evidences of popular discontent in the Kurdish society; the Gorran movement provided the required means for channeling such discontent and enabling the disadvantaged masses to make their voices heard through voting procedures.

Now we look at the different cultural areas in Kurdistan. The partisan culture is the dominant one since early 1960s, as the armed parties, mainly KDP & PUK, impose it, such culture generates loyalty and obedience to the current dictators of the two dominant families.

These two cultural areas under family control are different in many ways; the area dominated by Mr.Talebani is Sulaimani province, has traditions of being independent culturally even under the Baath rule. Neither the Iraqi governments nor KDP or recently PUK, could impose a cultural domination on an important number of long urbanized intelligentsia. Mr. Massoud the head of the KDP in 1996 tried with the help of Saddam Hussein to dominate the city, but failed militarily and culturally. The city has safeguarded its free culture up to our day.

Though the city is under the control of PUK, its flourishing independent culture has escaped partisan domination. There are many newspapers in Sulaimani province free from partisans influence and never yielded to the cruelty of the party secret services. The relation between the dominant PUK and the independent press has been always tense, independent journalists were aggressed and trialed. The Kurdish press has accused the KDP ruling family for having sent its agents to the province to assassinate or punish free journalists. Human Rights Organizations have sufficiently mentioned the above facts.

When we come to the city of Erbil, which is controlled by the KDP rulers, since the joint military operation between Saddam Hussein and Mr. Massoud of the KDP in 1996, cultural activities are exclusively party affaires, with newspapers and magazines financed and directed through party political police. KDP rulers have learned important lessons from Saddam’s regime in stifling the free will of the discontent masses.

Meanwhile, Dohuk province which is dominated by Massoud’s tribal kinship; its culture is party nourished one, with strong tribal and paternal discourse, glorifying the incumbent family rule. The culture of resistance has not yet taken roots in Badinan’s cultural space against the Kurdish party repressive rule; there is no space for critics or open complaining against the KDP administration.

What has become obvious in the light of the 7th March election, is the narrow spirit of the Kurdish rulers. The central issues, which consist of enhancing Kurdish people’s authority over historical Kurdistan land, and strengthening a federal, democratic Iraq, were relegated into secondary importance, far behind partisan gains in Baghdad, namely obtaining ministerial posts for relatives in the next Iraqi cabinet. There is the unmistakable character of the KDP & PUK leaders; they are Party representatives, and symbol of family interest rather than representatives of an oppressed nation.

Both, Mr. Jalal Talebani and Mr. Massoud have lost credibility because of their notorious misrule, corruption and intolerance for democracy, transparency and rejection of accountability principal. However, both claim to be members of the International Social Democrats, but no adherence to its principals.

Other three Islamic Parties claim to be Islamic. Does really the Kurdish society need such false diversity with the same ideology? When there are different approaches to the problems of the society, different political organizations are required, but when they belong to the same political brand, it becomes a source of confusion among the people. They cannot recognize the differences between three Islamic organizations, or three social Democrats. Therefore, in our analysis, we ignore the titles of the parties and tackle the question based on cultural affiliation. Claims and slogans in Kurdistan do not indicate to realities, but rather a recycling of the same old patterns under the banner of new slogans. The danger is that, elites claim for change may affect the appearance and leave the rotten core intact.

It is obvious that Kurdish society never before had attempted to make a radical change, within its internal political leadership, as far as the danger was imminent, coming from an external enemy. Kurdish people continued to struggle against the successive governments in Baghdad under the same Kurdish leadership, who have brought many national failures, even disasters to their people, such as the bloody intrinsic wars during the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s of the past century. The KDP leadership after the Algiers agreement of 1975, abandoned, after 14 years of armed struggle, the revolt and surrendered to the Iranian or Iraqi authorities, leaving Kurdish people facing their fate alone.

In free and dynamic societies, such ruling elites similar to Kurdish one have no chance to remain in power even few days. To renew a forward energetic move, a break with the elites, responsible of the defeat becomes imperative. For long time, the Kurdish society remained elite’s hostage, the desire and the will for a political, psychological and cultural rupture with the Kurdish corrupt elite remained weak, though highly necessary.

Previously, the absence of an organized will for change in Iraqi Kurdistan is mainly due to two factors: The blockade imposed by the incumbent Kurdish elite and the global context, which was unfavorable.

Following the creation of the "security zone"2 and the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi Kurds, to an important degree, have begun to have their self-administration. However, strangely, within two decades of party domination, instead of applying the rule of law, social justice and economic development for all, we have witnessed, both horizontally and vertically the society has plagued by corruption and dangerous degradation of human values and culture. The nepotism, favoritism and the absence of total accountability are the strongest prevails. In a short period, certain ruling families become multi-millionaires and begun to transfer people’s money into western Banks.

I am inclined to the concept that the dominance of the same cultural product, though the name of the organization may change, will produce the same leaders as we have now.

We have to ask certain questions related to the nature of change: Who are those who work for the change and their past? Who finances them? Who is occupying the key posts? Is the movement has a new leadership which has sprung from the core of the discontent masses? In the last case, change can be promising; meanwhile the domination of the ancient guard may prove empty of substance.

The strong influence of mercenary culture, favoritism, greed and tribal nepotism of the two ruling families, self-interest dominates national interest. The mass discontent is deep rooted in the Kurdistan society, from which Gorran (Change) movement was born.

The widespread dissatisfaction of the Kurdish population – Peshmergha forces, peasants, workers, civil servants, even great number of party cadres - has recently incited an important segment of the Kurdish population in the parliamentary elections to vote twice for Gorran movement, in the last summer 2009 and again in March 2010. The votes obtained were mostly from the PUK dominated region, which itself is derived from the KDP. Gorran movement obtained 25 seats in Kurdish Parliament and 8 for Iraqi Parliament. This is an important step towards long awaited change.

When the majority of the leading members dissented from KDP and founded PUK, many thought that the real change has occurred, but with the passing time, frustration replaced hopes, as the Kurdish people have witnessed. The reason is that, the elite who have formed PUK belong to the same “Habitus”. Thus, they followed the same logic, which leads to corruption. Hence, real change needs new elite, with a different way of seeing, thinking and acting.

Bright slogans must not deceive us. The rulers, in many Middle East societies, have used and adopted new speeches and slogans, using fear, bribery and falsification of people’s will, in that they were successful. Whatever the substance and form of changes claimed by the 20 years long lasted rulers in Kurdistan, it cannot be but the recycling policy of the old corrupt pattern, which helps prolongation of the distrusted incumbent authority and enhancing the culture of corruption, which the Kurdish population is the main victim.

The elections of June 2009, in Kurdistan, where the Kurdistan Alliance list gained the majority votes -no doubt through large frauds -, has led to the following equation:

The same people = the same mentality = the same actions

The result is the recycling of the old prototype, in fact there is no change.
What the REAL CHANGE seeks is a knowledge-based society, which is difficult to flourish under corrupt authoritarian rule that has characterized the Kurdish society for decades, we need a society open to new ideas that develops a spirit of critics and enquiry, and has the courage to look at unwelcomed realities and addresses them.

An auto-critic is vital for having popular credibility, seminars, panels, lectures to familiarize people with the real change that will strengthen the ties between Change (Gorran) and the people of Kurdistan. Conduct a campaign against mercenary culture that has flourished among the ruling elites and down to their close cronies. Given “The Past” of the current Kurdish political elite, it is, difficult to qualify what is going on as a real change in the current situation, but certainly an important step forward.

We know that dictators are wholly interested in survival; they take extra care of people with guns. For the members of the dictator’s nomenclatura in Kurdistan, life is good and easy. They live in restricted housing complex whose inhabitants are also members of the same nomenclatura, with extra health care at European private hospitals, their children are enrolled in private schools, their family’s vacations at resorts in Europe and wives have access to expensive stores, briefly, they are highly privileged. Saddam Hussein ruled Iraq in just this way through the Baathist nomenclatura. It belongs to them to crush any revolution that might arise and save the dictatorial regime. REAL CHANGE should alter the basis on which dictatorial regime is based.

The change must guarantee that when a Kurdish dictator orders his military to shoot at the crowd, gathered in Erbil, Dohuk or Sulaimani, the armed chiefs should disobey. If the order to shoot rejected, then it is over.

This means, the armed forces, security and police institutions must be changed, and taken away from dictatorial exploitation. The armed forces in Kurdistan should conclude that shooting their children is a criminal act against their nation.

Kurdistan needs a revolutionary change through implementation of a “Cultural Renaissance Project”. The new elite must be the opposite of the current ruling groups and must be detached and disinterested in the notorious materialistic rapacity of the current Kurdish rulers.

New faces are necessary to bring about such a revolutionary change. New elite must come to the front of the political action for REAL CHANGE.

All changes made by the current political elite are artificial by nature. A REAL CHANGE needs a real break with the current establishment; the break must be socio-political, economical and psychological.

The new elite should have a history of opposition against the misuse of power by current leadership and the mercenary culture, accused of nepotism, corruption, and growing authoritarianism and creating a narrow-based political structure run by their own families and for their profit. Otherwise change remains cosmetic.

1- For more information see, La reproduction sociale, de Pierre Bourdieu et Jean-Claude Passeron
2- For more details on the subject see : L’émergence de la « "zone de sécurité au Kurdistan Irakien par l’ONU à la suite de la deuxième guerre du Golfe. " Hishyar Barzani.