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A statement as big as Korek * Mountain!

Ayoub Barzani

On September 4, 2007, the President of Kurdistan Regional Government, Mr. Massoud, delivered a speech in parliament in Hewler, which was published in a number of Kurdish news papers, including Xebat, the organ of the KDP. During this very parliamentary reunion, Mr. Osman Banimarani, who was the leader of the green bloc in the Parliament, i.e. the parliamentarians who represent PUK, asked Mr. Massoud a question about the possibility of merging the telecommunication services of the two separate regions.

Within the jurisdictions of PUK Asiacell is the only telecommunication service allowed to operate. At the beginning of its operations, Asiacell network coverage was primarily in Sulaimaniya, only to about 70,000 subscribers. Owned by Mr. Faruk Mustafa Rasool from PUK, the company currently has more than two million subscribers. Within the jurisdictions of KDP (Hewler and Duhok), Korek Telcom is the only service allowed to operate, and is owned by the ruling family of the President of the KRG Mr. Massoud. The service recently reported that it had an estimated 1.5 million subscribers.

With the abusive behaviour of KDP and PUK coupled with the lack of antitrust laws and the passive manner of the people, both owners are monopolizing the right of ownership to maximise their financial gains. Yet; they daily drumbeat the unification of their administrations, while services as important as telecommunications remain bifurcated.

This is a unique but scathing unification between leaders of the KDP and PUK. A “unificatoin” that maximizes financial gains becomes a sacred and national duty, while a unification that ends their monopolistic control of finance is a matter to be ignored. Though there are millions of impoverished citizens in both regions who enormously suffer from this partisan division of wireless communication in Kurdistan.

To be more unambiguous of the harmful affect of bifurcated telecommunication lines in Kurdistan, let us consider an example about this repressive, selfish and shameful policy:

Imagine a mother who is an Asiacell subscriber and lives in Sulaimani. Her son, a Korek subscriber, lives in Hewler. The mother and the son are unable to connect to ech other through local lines. If the mother calls her son or vise-versa, the charge per minitue is similar if they would call Washington, DC. Basically, an ordinary citizen is paying KDP or PUK tripple charges to have the access to all Kurdistan. Certainly the two incumbent parties and their close collaborators have no difficulty in using roaming calls, but the ordinary people are indeed burdened with this hated policy of the elites.

In September 1, 2007, Asiacell opened its office in Erbil, people were happy to see an end of the imposed communication network division, but few hours later, the Erbil Police closed Asiacell office. Mr. Faruk Mustafa Rasool, described the closing down of Asiacell as “illegal”, and wondered how the police can prevent us from operating without the previous knowledge of the government.

The example clearly demonstrates the false and hypocritical discourse of the rulers when selling people of Kurdistan their nationalistic rhetoric, patriotism and honesty. How is it possible for a leader who has real feelings of love to his people to ignore this harmful fact, burdening exclusively the poor class in Kurdish society, in order to accumulate wealth him self and his close family members? This control of communication lines permitted the elite to turn the country into a vast field of espionage against their own people.

The important question to be asked is: Why the people of Kurdistan have remained so submissive?

The answer may reside in the “ policy of fear”, explicitly telling people, if you move against our policy, the Turkish army or Iranian army or Baghdad will use the instability to end the federal statues of Kurdistan, and you will be back to the days of deportation and massacres!

Salaries paid to many thousands as non declared bribery to remain silent.

Money delivered by the USA authority in Iraq directly to the heads of the two parties, with no conditions of accountability.

The USA authority, have paid no attention to democracy process in Kurdistan, in fact it strengthened further the dictatorial behavior of the Kurdish political elites and their financial greed.

Also, elite’s propagated idea that any popular move against us will be faced with the hostility of the USA forces!

The attitude of the Kurdish intellectuals, who rallied behind PUK or PDK, created an environment of “political stagnation”, and has made political changes possible only through coercion.

The conclusion is that, the elites are free to do whatever they want, as their corrupt counterpart does in the Arab world.

This ultra self-centered commercial policy has been in action for years, and still the President of KRG Mr. Massoud openly alleged in his evasive shocking reply to Osman Banimarani on September 4: “I don’t know what are Korek and Asiacell and how they work”.

The “statement” is as big as KOREK Mountain. It increased the distrust on leader’s ethical integrity and deepened the acute crisis of confidence between the masses and the leadership.

Most people in Kurdistan; in rural areas and among city dwellers, are using either Asiacell or Korek, as they have no choice, they are fully aware that these two companies are considered as “Giant Companies” in Kurdistan, pocketing millions of dollars each month. So, how it would be possible that an ordinary citizen knows what are Asiacell and Korek, but the president of the KRG claim his lack of knowledge of both companies!

The statement of Mr. Massoud, the president of the KRG has drown the attention of many people inside and outside Kurdistan, the majority were indeed astonished, no one believed what has he said! But he said it, and worse, he said it in the Kurdistan Parliament! The obedient parliament!

In a fully competitive environment, on commercial grounds, different telecommunication must be permitted to operate in Kurdistan to avoid the selfish and monopolistic approach of the two parties.

The Kurdish leadership must be stopped from treating the people of Kurdistan as a milking cow.

*Korek is a famous mountain in Kurdistan.