November 14 2004
The recent news leaked by Hawlati, the weekly kurdish news paper (issue 196, 20 October, 2004,) regarding the plenary session of the PUK politburo, Hawlati acknowledged that a serious debate, is taking place, this debate is related to the introduction of wide range of politico- socio-economic reforms and reshuffle of the posts in the PUK politburo. The discussion was focused on abnormality of the PUK management and how to face challenges, turning PUK into a more democratic organization, collective in decision-making process and respect the principle of accountability.
Though we do not know the details of this unusual event, which is – we have to admit – rare in Kurdish political life as well as in the entire region of the Middle East. The event is very significant, and it may have positive consequences in Kurdish political life, that is characterized with stagnation and hypocrisy.
Kurdish political parties, specially the two ruling parties, the KDP and the PUK, have many dangerous shortcomings, which hitherto spared from being exposed to criticism and accountability. These accumulated shortcomings are great threat to the normal functioning and development of the Kurdish civil society towards democracy. More dangerous is the long silence observed by the intellectuals, the political elites, writers and the Kurdish masses, leading to a phase where the “Law of silence” is the dominant law.
The main question is who can and how to change and eliminate the “Law of silence” imposed by authoritarian deeds.?
The change may come from within, from the top to the base or vice-versa. The changes which have been brought by the elites have different consequences than changes brought by the masses. When a people revolts, he may destroy all symbols of the authority and bring about a profound political, socio- economic changes and rebuild a new society. Meanwhile, changes, which are introduced by elite, can be gradual and spare wide destruction of the deposed regime’s apparatus. Also changes may come by a mutual co-operation between the masses and the elite in a specific society.
Presently, there are cases for foreign intervention, the USA and Europe, have imposed changes, through military means, e.g.: Afghanistan. The USA and Britain have forced regime change in Iraq. In other cases, economic and psychological pressures are used for changing regimes in the Middle East. Foreign intervention becomes necessary when the concerned nations are crippled from within, lost capacity, courage and desire to fight back their national despots.
Let us ask this question, why the demand of change has manifested itself within PUK, who control Sulaimaniya? Why not within PDK who control Hewler and Badinan.?
The answer may lay in the different historical developement of the Sulaimaniya and Badinan.
Historically, Sulaimani is the brilliant cultural centre of south Kurdistan. It was the capital of Baban principality. During the first half of the 19th century, was the centre of the two main Sofi orders: Quaderi and Nequeshbendi, before it become the centre of Kurdish nationalism.
Creation of an “Independent Kurdistan” was the main demand of Sheikh Mahmoud and not autonomy or federalism. He launched several revolts, fought himself for it, in a battle of liberation, he was injured and taken prisoner by the British occupiers.
The city intellectuals, including those from Kirkuk and Hewler, were active in introducing new ideas and have promoted Kurdish nationalism, Mulla Mustafa himself, the President of the KDP took most of his nationalist education from Sulaimani during the years of exile in 1933-1943.
The city cultural elite, to a great degree, was free from tribal culture and modern in their political outlook. The Arab culture could not penetrate as it did elsewhere in other parts of Kurdistan. The city has its Kurdish schools, colleges and University. Kurdish is the dominant language of education.
All the inhabitants of the towns and agglomerations surroundings Sulaimani, consider the city as their cultural and commercial capital.
The upheaval of 1991 did start in Betwata. The population of Sulaimani joined it quickly and then, the revolt spread north west, covering Badinan.
Meanwhile, historical developements for Badinan, took a different shape. Nearly a decade after the 1st WW the region of Badinan was cut off from its normal northern cultural sources, mainly from Botan, Diyarbekir and Urfa. When the dispute on the fate of Mosoul Wilayet was settled between Britain and Turkey, a number of local feudals has decided for the whole population of Badinan, they imposed Arabic language as a language of education instead of Kurdish. Since the 30s, the Arabic language is used in schools in Badinan as it is the case in the rest of Iraq.
Moreover, the city of Moseul become the centre of economic activities for Badinan, fruits, vegetables, cereals, tobacco, dairy product, honey and great quantities of various animal meat found its way to Moseulit merchants. A mutual economic interest between Moseul and the Aghas in Badinan has developed rapidly. The result was that, Arab culture penetrated on two wheels, culturally and economically.
It is only recently that the children of Badinan have access to education in their mother tongue. During a visit to Kurdistan in the summer of 1993, with Dr. Ismet Sherif Vanly, during a reunion in Duhok, with an important number of intellectuals, the question of introducing Kurmanci as a language of education, was strongly advocated. Ismet Sherif asked: “How can you abandon the language of Mele Cizire and of Ahmede Khane. It is time to press for this fundamental right.”
Feudalism and tribalism have been protected in Badinan, supported by both, the governments in Baghdad and the KDP leadership. The later considers Badinan as its bastion, and presently the ancient mercenaries or those with mercenary background are integrated into the KDP leadership. The hybridized KDP, makes changes towards democracy extremely difficult.
The strong mutual interest(1), established between the KDP leadership with Saddam’s regime, (1992-2003) needed maintenance and protection from both sides. Hence curbing the population in Badinan and Hewler through fashioning their national sentiments. The city of Hewler, is the capital of the Kurdistan Provisional Government, was occupied by Saddam’s army in 1996, and handed over to the KDP leadership.
Also, as a hereditary leadership, the propaganda machine of the party, enhances family rule, putting it into the centre of everything, control history and memory, erasing any trace of a dissenting memory parallel with the party one. In order to exert this absolute control on collective memory, it was forbidden to remember and commemorate anything other than this official memory. (2) Imposing the “Law of silence”.
The KDP Politburo members, unlike the PUK, were mostly nominated. Kinship, nepotism and favouritism are the base for choosing posts. Hence, the total absence of courage, no one dares questioning the family rule. Therefore, there is no expectation of political change from within. One of the present politburo member told me frankly, that “the KDP is the party of Aghas, including mercenaries, but if I oppose this policy, either I am dead or I have to leave Kurdistan definitely.”
The 1991 upheaval was contagious; it spread soon to all parts of south Kurdistan. Let us hope that soon what happened within the PUK will happen within the KDP politburo.
No doubt, the population of Hewler and Badinan are longing for democratic changes, civilized administration and a real parliament. We hope that the KDP leadership will have the wisdom for real radical changes, before it is too late. Cosmetic changes don’t help.
1- Plan of Attack. Bob Woodward. Page 141. Simon& Schuster.2004.
2- The book titled (Kurdish Resistance to Occupation, 1914-1958) is forbidden in the region controlled by the KDP.