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Who is responsible for implementing democracy in Kurdistan?

By Ayoub Barzani.

“As long as the world shall last, there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever.” - Clarence Darrow

The recent report of the Human Rights Watch should not come to the surprise of any one, except those who believe naively in the propaganda of the Kurdish political groups. It is interesting to see that some members of the Kurdish political leadership, after the publication of the report, attempted to detached themselves from the reported human rights violations.
The realities in Kurdistan differ drastically from this partisan propaganda. The leaders are undeniably corrupt and giving extensive powers to their extended family members. They are in charge of expanding a wide network of illegal commercial interests and marketing operations. As they are not accountable to any body and cannot be audited, no one can tell the size of their funds or their involvement in the commercial operations. They have turned the Kurdistan Parliament into a subservient body to perpetuate the interests of the ruling elite. And yet keep narrow nationalist rhetoric and pretending to be the champions of human rights and democracy in Kurdistan.
The finance and power in Kurdistan is controlled by a handful of clans. Take the KDP’s ‘top triangle’, for example. Mr. Massoud Barzani, his son Mr. Masrour Barzani, and the son-in-law Mr. Nechervan Barzani, are occupying respectively the key posts of the President of the KRG, responsible of the security and Prime Minister of the KRG. The PUK is not a better shape; they also controlled by a small group of clans.
The behaviour of the Asayish (Kurdistan Security Service), as described by the Human Rights Watch, reflects the mentality of the ruling elite.
However, keeping a clean human rights record is intertwined with the implementation of democracy and rule of law. Indeed, it was for achieving a democratic political system and liberating Iraq form despotism, the USA justified the invasion of Iraq, risking the lives of tens of thousands of its soldiers.
The international community in common with the Iraqi people, including Kurds, expected the USA administration to work fervently to bring people into the democratic building process in Kurdistan. Instead, the USA left the process of democratisation to small ruling masters of the political groups, who had no experience in democracy, mostly accustomed to hereditary feudal rule, reprisal, assassination of the opponents or imposes their will through their fearful militia.
An oppressed people for centuries, like the Kurds, who lived in constant fear, cannot have their own will, but follow strictly the orders of party masters. All elections in Kurdistan under the ruling KDP and PUK were, to a great extent, fraudulent. The USA authority, albeit well aware, closed its eyes on ill-performance of KDP and PUK. Presently, to serve better elite’s interest, the KDP and PUK agreed upon a single list for future elections. A prominent member of the Kurdish parliament recently stated, “The two parties [PUK and KDP] with a single list means the assassination of democracy in Kurdistan.”
Meanwhile the USA is conducting daily operations to root out terrorist forces in central and southern parts of Iraq. It has no program or a plan for democratisation of the country. In the government controlled areas, the US administration may find a pretext, namely the security vacuum, for not working to build a democratic system and implement the rule of law. However, there is no room for such a pretext as Kurdistan enjoys stability, which is chiefly due to the peaceful nature and tolerance of the Kurdistan’s population, and not the magic touch of the Kurdistan authorities as they wish to claim.
The circumstances in Kurdistan are totally different from those in Iraq. People of Kurdistan are longing for democracy and with the direct help from the USA, Kurds will participate actively in the process, which may gravely impact on the rest of the country and even the region. But the US administration, not only left the people of Kurdistan to the aggression of the two ruling groups to robe its people from their rights, but also for the threats of thousands of Turkish troops across its borders and for the bombardments of Iran and Turkey.
The Americans intention in Iraq and Kurdistan cannot escape questions. The US administration could have achieved a great deal for democracy in Kurdistan, if it has involved in the process of implementing the basis of democratic life. This would have not cost American lives as it is the case in military operations.
Throughout Kurdistan, there is no a single USA bureau where people of Kurdistan can present their grievances. No USA centre to follow up violations of democratic principles. No USA assembly or committee to detect what is wrong or what is right for democracy in Kurdistan. The ruling elites in Kurdistan feel free to do what they like, with no fear of the consequences of their acts. On the contrary, the Kurdish political groups, PUK and KDP, represent the backing of the US administration as strength to themselves and to oppress any emerging democratic forces even further. When good natured people of Kurdistan see the backing of the US administration to the PUK and KDP, they give up hope to pursue improving human rights and implanting the rule of law.
In order to proof that it is up to its promises, the USA must be a gallant and direct involvement in the process of democratisation of Kurdistan, bringing into the process a new blood. Thousands of Kurdish intellectuals are excluded from the socio-political process due to the dominance of feudal mentality in Kurdistan. With a sustainable program under the banner of ‘Democracy Now for Kurdistan’ the USA and the Kurdish people, including the new Kurdish intelligentsia, will succeed, providing good example of real democracy. That will represent the only strong attractive example for other nations in the Middle East to follow the path. The USA administration must distinguish between costly military operations and peaceful democratic process. To ignore democracy building map road, is a fatal mistake.
We hope that the US administration will turn its attention to what people of Kurdistan is expecting from them. Serving the cause of democracy in Kurdistan doesn’t need military operations; it is much easier than pacification of central and southern parts of Iraq. All it required is a solid will and a program for democracy under the auspice of the USA. Only then, Human Rights Watch will have a different report on Kurdistan.
Human Rights Watch Report, July 2007, volume 19. No 2 (E) Cought in the Whirlwind, Torture and Denial of Due Process by Kurdistan Security Forces