Montag, 21. Mai 2012

A talk on the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan

A talk on the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan-17 April 2006 A World to Win News Service. Following are edited excerpts from a talk given live by Amir Hassan Pour last October in the Internet chat room Paltalk, following a visit to Palestine and Iraqi Kurdistan. It was published in issues 25 and 26 of Haghighat, the organ of Communist Party of Iran (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist). Hassan Pour is a veteran Iranian Kurdish revolutionary now living in Canada, where he is a university lecturer. These excerpts focus on the discussion of Iraqi Kurdistan in the questions and answers at the end of his talk, and a short reply on Palestine. The full talk is also available in Farsi at: Question: What is the attitude of the two nationalist Iraqi Kurdish parties toward Iraq’s draft constitution? Answer: The two main Iraqi Kurdish organisations, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP), have lots of differences on many issues. In the period before the war started and after it, under American pressure, they tried to put their differences aside, but everybody knows that the differences still exist. They include the relationship between the Kurdish government and the Iraqi national government and whether or not to remain part of the Iraqi state framework. For example, in the last few years the KDP has given greater emphasis to the question of Kurdistan, while the PUK has been emphasising Kurdish rights within the framework of a united Iraq. [PUK head Jalal Talabani is the US-sponsored president of Iraq.] In the territories under KDP, governmental buildings fly only the Kurdish flag, while in the areas under PUK control the Iraqi flag flies alongside the flag of Kurdistan. They both demanded some changes in the draft constitution. The most important one was the right of separation. This demand was basically accepted in these terms: If the federal government mobilises its forces against Kurdistan and starts massacring and killing and suppressing the Kurdish people, then they have the right to separate from the Iraqi state. The other demand was that the Kurdish government be given permanent control over all those areas it currently runs and some areas that remained under Saddam’s control after 1991. This was not accepted. A third demand was that Kirkuk be recognized as the capital of Kurdistan, and that all oil income from the major fields there be shared between Kurdistan and Iraq overall. A final demand was that the central government not concentrate financial and military power in its hands, since that would enable it to mobilize its resources against the Kurds and perhaps wage an ethnic cleansing campaign against them. In sum, they could not achieve their most important demands. As far as the ordinary people of Kurdistan are concerned, the people in the street, those not involved in intellectual and political party activities, are very dissatisfied with the Kurdish government. Their discontent is such that a few months ago the people rioted in Kalar, a city in the southern part of Iraqi Kurdistan, under PUK control. The PUK is very aware of the corruption and discontent. People are also unhappy about the US presence and are concerned about that. When I was interviewed by a Kurdish TV station called SAT, I criticized the present situation. Later I met many people who had seen the programme. They expressed their approval and thanked me for raising these questions. It is not true that the people see the US as their saviour. The ordinary people do not see the things this way. There is great discontent. Everyone clearly expresses their concern for the future of Iraq. They feel it is very uncertain. Can you tell us more about the growth of religious forces in Kurdistan? The Kurdish movement has never been a religious movement. When the theocrats seized power in Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran tried to strengthen religious sentiments rather than the national movements. Especially after 1986, the PUK and KDP both compromised with the Iranian Islamic regime. The KDP had relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran from the beginning. This was part of the IRI plan to strengthen the Islamic trend in Kurdistan (both in Iran and Iraq) and the entire region. The Iranian regime even helped the Iraqi Kurdish organizations form a united front, while also managing to organize Islamic forces in Iranian Kurdistan. This cooperation gave advantages to the Islamic forces. For example in Iraqi Kurdistan, so many mosques were built that there are now more mosques than big non-religion buildings. About 700 mosques were built in Arbil, a city whose estimated population is only a million! Providing financial facilities and tax reductions for religious institutions and anyone who volunteered to build a mosque was a way for the two parties to come to an arrangement with the religious forces. The religious forces want an Islamic government and do not believe in the Kurdish nationalist movement. Everyone knows that the Islamic forces control the government offices and universities and various non-governmental institutions in Arab (non-Kurdish) regions of Iraq. Iraqi women do not dare go out unaccompanied by a man. Women are forced to cover themselves up, their head and often their whole body. The situation in Kurdistan is not like that yet. However, in the northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan, under KDP control, wearing a hejab is more common and women leave their home less often. The situation is somewhat different than the southern region, under PUK control, in general, although the hejab has been imposed in Halabja due to the long-standing influence of the Iranian regime. There is a vicious cycle. The nationalist movement has not been able to present themselves as a good or effective alternative to Saddam’s Baath regime, despite having control of most of Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991. This has allowed the religious forces to make gains by presenting themselves as an alternative to the nationalist movement. I also agree that the nationalist movement in Kurdistan in Iraq is deadlocked. As an experienced Kurdish political activist, what sort of alternative do you suggest for Kurdistan? In my opinion the religious and nationalists forces who have seized power in the region, whether Kurds, Turks, Persian or Arabs, have all reached a dead end. All have been put to the test and none have any solution for the class contradictions and poverty and misery that people endure. Patriarchal and theocratic systems, violence against women and minorities, all the governmental and non-governmental violence in the twentieth century, have caused great suffering for the people. Just have a look at the history of the region; you will see that those forces were involved in most of the suffering the people have gone through. My solution is a socialist revolution. In these countries, there has been no democratic revolution. In the twentieth century, the communist movement discussed the relationship between the democratic and socialist revolutions in the countries of the East. In these countries, the proletariat can unite with the local, relatively undeveloped bourgeoisies against colonialism, but these bourgeoisies are incapable of leading a democratic revolution. This leadership has to be taken up by another class, the proletariat. The experience of the Kurdish nationalist movement, in fighting national oppression in a very difficult situation, and also the experience of the other nationalist movements in Iran and the Arab countries in the region, has proved Lenin’s analysis in practice. This is my alternative for the entire region: overthrow feudalism, tribalism, the capitalist system, imperialism, the patriarchal system and the national-fascist regimes. I think the land question and the problem of feudal and tribal relations are not yet resolved in Iraq. Saddam had a role in reviving these phenomena. The Kurdish nationalist movement did exactly the same in Iraqi Kurdistan. Feudalism and tribalism had been weakened, but then they were revitalised. From this point of view, the democratic revolution in the region has not been resolved. On Palestine In the two weeks that I was in Palestine this summer (2005), we used to get together with about 80 Palestinian teachers in Biet al-Haram University and discuss various issues. They taught in villages in different regions. In one discussion, we were a group of half a dozen men and women of different origins. The Palestinians asked me about my background. When I told them I was a Kurd and from Iran, they were happy and expected me to understand their problems. I heard nothing but sympathy and compassion, which didn’t surprise me at all. The Palestinian movement has traditionally been supportive of the Kurdish movement and its struggle for liberation from national oppression. But in recent years, since the time that the US came to dominate Iraq and the nationalist movement fell under US leadership, this has caused some hostility between Palestinians and Kurds. Some Kurds say that the Palestinians supported Saddam. If they did I would criticize them, but I believe that the majority of Palestinians did not support Saddam and did not believe he was their ally [as did Yassir Arafat’s PLO]. But my discussion is mainly aimed at those Kurds who are opposed to the Palestinian movement. I just want to refresh their memories. Over the last decade or so, the KDP invited the Baathist army to help them in their war against PUK. The Baath army did help KDP to wipe out the PUK from the region of Hewler [the Kurdish name for Arbil]. Also both Kurdish leaders visited Saddam Hussein and kissed his face. After 1991 when the US war went to against the people of Iraq, as well as in other periods, the two Kurdish parties were engaged in negotiations with the Baathist Party, too. In sum, in my view the Palestinian movement supports Kurdish people in their struggle for self-determination. In particular I mean, the radical and left movement in Palestine, but even the other sections of the Palestinian movement share this position. I don’t see it as a question of Palestinians, like the people of Iraq and Syria, all being Arabs. I believe that Israel is the enemy of the Kurdish movement. Israel has never been in favour of the right of self-determination for Kurdistan and never wanted any region of Kurdistan to be independent, because they think that such a development would encourage and give the Palestinian struggle more legitimacy on the regional and international level.

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