Tuesday, October 27, 2009

South of Kurdistan: The political earthquake will change the political map


By Mufid Abdulla

Part IV: ‘The Turning Point….’

The entire situation in the south of Kurdistan, at present, reflects a true spirit of pioneering. This is not only due to the work of one leader or other individuals, but also to the cumulative hard work of all the people striving towards democracy, including local Kurdish newspapers and all brave writers and journalists. Election day on 25 July, 2009 was the day for which we had waited for so many long years; the day on which the democratic struggle against the two ruling parties was truly born.

My main concerns, as usual, were focused on fraud and the rigging of ballot boxes, not to mention the risk of violence and mayhem at the polls, as was the case in Arbil (Kurdish: Hewler). I was excited and apprehensive. I wanted to demonstrate my solidarity with those who, for so long, had been disenfranchised. It was a poignant moment for democratic forces, including Gorran (The Change Movement), to see these changes happening in the cities, towns and countryside of Kurdistan. Under the Kurdistan Regional Government, the two ruling parties, the KDP and PUK, had achieved a monopoly on political power, giving KRG access to all the parties’ followers by vicious and immoral means.

Arbil was quiet on the days I had regular contact with Gorran leaders, and some of the aides of KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.

In Sulaymaniah, the majority of people turned out to register their votes. In Arbil, fewer people voted, due to the fear of being threatened or harassed by the security forces, if it were discovered that they were voting for Gorran.

After 4pm, the news was announced that Gorran was the winner in the Sulaymaniah region; perhaps why people adorned in Kurdish clothes and ready for celebration appeared on the Kurdish TV station managed by Gorran. At the same time, up-to-date news was delivered to me personally, from high-level KDP insiders and on the basis of anonymity, confirming that the KDP had not done well in the election and that it was “not their night”.

Each polling station had a member of Gorran present to supervise proceedings. The news of systematic fraud and ballot rigging spread all over the south of Kurdistan, and Gorran lodged almost 500 complaints to IHEC.

On 25 July, I had an appointment to see Dr. Kamal Mudhir (Kurdish historian) at the Sheraton Hotel. He was accompanied by an Iraqi guest, Dr. Hetham Zahawi, a diplomat from the Iraqi embassy in Turkey, who was also an election observer. Dr. Zahawi told Dr. Mudhir that he had been in Sulaymaniah until 3:30pm, and that all the people there had voted for Gorran. Dr. Kamal did not believe him, and questioned the claim on the basis that he “did not think that would be the case”. I must say, I was surprised, myself.

In Zakho and Duhok, the two areas which the KDP has absolute control over, ballots were filled out for people who had stayed at home or had died after 2005, but whose names still appeared on the electoral register.

On 26 July, 2009, the leader of Gorran, Nawshirwan Mustafa, issued a statement about the situation, sending copies to the UN, all foreign embassies and the European Community.

Contrary to the statements by the PUK in Sulaymaniah that Gorran would not be able to win a single district, Gorran won 51% of the votes in the Sulaymaniah area, with Gorran coming out 54,000 votes ahead of the Kurdistan List (PUK & KDP). In that way, Gorran dealt the heaviest blow yet to the PUK in Sulaymaniah and the surrounding area. Gorran proved that Talabani had been defeated, the PUK reign was over, and that the masses were allied with Gorran. In Sulaymaniah, Gorran had 174,824 votes; the Kurdistani List had 120,765 and the Reformist List, which included four parties, had 54,473 votes. As a result, Gorran rescued the Sulaymaniah area from Talabani domination. The Talabani wing, including his coalition with the KDP, could not win 36% of the votes. Surely that was the darkest day for Barham Salih, after holding so many political rallies and meetings throughout the many districts of Sulaymaniah.

Overall, in the city of Sulaymaniah, Gorran took 43% of the votes, against the 37% for the Kurdistani List; almost a 30,000 vote difference. The Islamic Union and other affiliated groups lost many votes compared to the 2005 election, due to the presence of alternative forces in the area. This was a big defeat for them as well. In the Sharazoor area, Gorran had 30,000 votes and the Kurdistani list had 35,000 votes. In Garmyan, Gorran emerged as the winner, by a difference of 15,000. In the valley of Ranya and Peshdar, votes totalled 46,613 for Gorran and 45,063 for the Kurdistani List. In the Chamchamal area, the Kurdistani List gained 17,473 votes and Gorran gained 13,878 votes. In the Dukhan area, the winner was Gorran.

In Arbil, all of us expected some surprises. In the end, there certainly were some surprises, with 25% of the votes cast for Gorran, totalling approximately 124,000 votes. In 2005, the PUK alone had 37% of the votes in Arbil, but in this election, Gorran had 25%. On the other hand, the Kurdistani List in this year’s election had 64% compared to only 53% of the votes in 2005.

In the Duhok area, as expected, the Kurdistani List had the majority, with 75%, but the Reformist List gained 19%, which totalled 42,000. Vote totals for Gorran in Duhok were not as we expected, because they managed to collect only 18,000 votes in that area.

In this way, the Kurdistani List managed to win the election, but the PUK still suffered the most devastating defeat in their history. Understandably, results of this kind had immediate effects on the PUK political structure. Politically, the PUK own certain areas. However, the election highlighted that for the people who occupy those areas, solidarity is now with the Gorran movement. As a result, this election signifies not the end of Nawshirwan Mustafa’s political activities, but instead, the start of new ones, which are clearly flourishing. We can therefore conclude that the forces of Gorran have had a fantastic influence, having lowered PUK’s political ranking to that of third, beneath Gorran. PUK leaders are now unsure about their future in the political equation and in terms of the political landscape. There is now a remote possibility that Gorran will become allied with the KDP. PUK leaders have lost their grip on their areas of control; for example, Mala Baktyar has lost control over Garmyan and Fouad Massoum has lost control over the cities of Ranya and Koya (aka Koy Sinjaq).

The KDP have managed to protect their dominance in a majority of the areas under their control. However, history has now recorded that the widespread fraud and ballot rigging by the KDP apparatus on the afternoon of 25 July, with the eyes of the whole world on them, including the embassies of 11 European countries and so many international observers. Again, the KDP has shown its true colours.

Despite the fact that, when compared to the KDP, PUK engaged in fewer acts of fraud and ballot rigging, they simply could not stand up to the heavy competition from and subsequent defeat by Gorran. Gorran has managed to create an earthquake, and has dealt heavy blows to all of its political rivals. The PUK has witnessed the most difficult challenge it has ever faced, even though they chose the strongest possible candidate for this election, Barham Salih.

Nawshirwan Mustafa and the Gorran leadership were able to win 25 seats in the 25 July election, out of the 111 total seats in the Kurdistan Parliament. In so doing, I do believe that Nawshirwan Mustafa, a most adventurous person, has managed to rock the Barzani boat!

Profile of Nawshirwan Mustafa

Nawshirwan Mustafa was born in 1944, and from an early age, was an active member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party. In 1964, the KDP split into two wings; the Talabani and Ibrahim Ahmed wing, which represented urban and intellectual people, and the Mulla Mustafa Barzani wing, which represented the Kurdish countryside and tribal groups and their leaders, including Dr. Mahmood, Sami Abdulrahman and the Barzani sons, Idris and Masoud. Nawshirwan Mustafa sided with Talabani and the Ibrahim Ahmed wing.

Nawshirwan Mustafa’s ideology these days has been influenced by Talabani and Ibrahim Ahmed, who have historically been advocates of Maoist principles. In 1967, Nawshirwan Mustafa first published Rizgari Magazine, which was the most powerful literature at that time dealing with the Kurdish nationalist movement through leftist ideas. In that way, the most powerful group adjoined themselves in 1970 to the Toiler League of Kurdistan.

After the pact of 11 March 1970, in which the Iraqi government promised Barzani autonomous self-rule within four years, Nawshirwan Mustafa left Iraq for Vienna to obtain his Masters degree in politics. While he was busy preparing for his PhD studies and following the collapse of the Kurdish rebellion by Mulla Mustafa in 1975, he was contacted by Talabani, who suggested he organise and construct the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan.

Nawshirwan Mustafa accepted Talabani’s proposal, leaving Vienna to become one of the very first founders of the PUK. Within the PUK, he led the League of Kurdistan Toilers, who advocated Marxist-Leninist principles. At the first PUK conference in 1991, the League was dissolved. Following this, Mustafa admitted on several occasions that he bore ultimate responsibility for that decision. He did not consider any involvement in the subsequent civil war, as he resided outside of Kurdistan from 1994 to 1998, during which time he focused on the writing and completion of his memoirs and diaries.

Nawshirwan Mustafa has a strong personality and qualities not possessed by other leaders, such us an academic background, away from all types of corruption. He is well known in politics for his straightforward attitude with his friends, and his humble personality. Most of the time, he surrounds himself with ordinary people, even wearing very simple clothes such as the Kurdish salwar kameez. His enemies are constantly trying to embroil him in the civil war and in-fighting between the Kurdish groups and parties. However, the people love him for his strong ideas and admirable behaviour.

Nawshirwan Mustafa has not held any post within the KRG preceding or succeeding the reunification of the combined PUK and KDP administration. In his absence and without his influence, the Toiler League of Kurdistan has grown and has sacrificed many of their leaders and members in Kurdistan, including Shaswar Jalal, who was ambushed by Iraqi security offices in the Kharadage area in December of 1979. In the early days, the PUK was set up as a national coalition for liberating the south of Kurdistan. The coalition was comprised of conservative, nationalist and Marxist groups. Nawshirwan Mustafa’s support for Marxist-Leninist principles have faded since his time spent abroad.

Finally, I would like to emphasise that Gorran has emerged from the will and ideas of the people, but it has been led by the courageous leader, Nawshirwan Mustafa. Gorran has managed to break through the very old, impenetrable gate of the two leading parties, not through the creation of chaos and mayhem, but instead, by creating an environment which is supporting democracy and the power of the masses. Gorran has not parted from the PUK, but instead, is a people’s political movement.

The corrupt Barzani administration in Hawler will never be able to contain the corruption. The whole election affair has drawn attention to the murky dealings between Talabani and Barzani as part of a concerted effort to halt the spread of and destroy Gorran, which they failed to do. Gorran has a long-term purpose- to achieve democratic reform through the power of the people and parliament. Gorran has not had any weapons in their possession, only books, pens, television, newspapers, etc. Gorran strives, not to tell stories that are unrealistic, but to tell stories that are believable and portray what will work rather than what should work.

Our president is Barzani, our Prime Minister is Barzani, our homeland security is Barzani …they are 77 Bonapartes, ruling the whole of Kurdistan. This is the beginning of the end of tribal rule in the south of Kurdistan, and this process of change will continue.