Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam Execution

Saddam Execution, What do you think?

Saddam Hussein was executed on Saturday December 30, 2006 for killing 148 Shiia in the town of Dujail.

During the 1980s, entire Kurdish towns were destroyed to ensure that survivors would never return to their homes. According to USAID “Since the Saddam Hussein regime was overthrown in May, 270 mass graves have been reported. By mid-January, 2004, the number of confirmed sites climbed to fifty-three. Some graves hold a few dozen bodies—their arms lashed together and the bullet holes in the backs of skulls testimony to their execution. Other graves go on for hundreds of meters, densely packed with thousands of bodies”.

The United Nations, the U.S. State Department, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch (HRW) all estimate that Saddam Hussein's regime murdered hundreds of thousands of innocent people. "Human Rights Watch estimates that as many as 290,000 Iraqis have been 'disappeared' by the Iraqi government over the past two decades," said the group in a statement in May. "Many of these 'disappeared' are those whose remains are now being unearthed in mass graves all over Iraq."

Many think executing Saddam before he faced the genocidal (Anfal) campaigns against the Kurds and Marsh Arabs means we have not had full justice.

What do you think?

Friday, December 22, 2006

Kurdish Peshmarga Should Stay Where They Belong

By Ardalan Hardi

The New York Times reported on Dec. 14th that the Iraqi government wants to replace the U.S. troops in Baghdad with largely Kurdish Peshmarga forces from Kurdistan, to take primary responsibility for security in the Capital of Iraq.

According to NY Times’ Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s national security adviser said that the plan was presented during the President Bush and Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki meeting in Amman, Jordan, on Nov. 30 2006.

On a phone interview with, Kurdish Aspect, Sheikh Ja’far Mustafa Minster of Peshmarga Forces in Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) denied that there was such a plan, “The news is baseless” he said from Baghdad.

Meanwhile Hawlati reported on Dec. 20th that the Kurdish leaders have reached an agreement with officials in Baghdad for sending Peshmarga for some especial operations in Middle of Iraq.

The source told Hawlati, "the Kurdish leaders opposed to the idea of sending Peshmarga without a plan to Baghdad and fight unknown enemy, but they agree to send Peshmarga for some special operations in some specific areas,"

Nechirvan Barzani, told reporters on his arrival from Baghdad, "if Prime Minister, Nuri al-Maliki, officially asks the president of Kurdistan to send Peshmarga to the middle of Iraq, then we agree but for some specific purpose,"

The source told Hawlati that Nechirvan Barzani meant "terrorist" groups when he told reporters "specific purpose". The source said that those terrorist groups exist in some parts of Iraq and there are possibilities that they could be attacked and the operation will have a, "clear political purpose"

Yesterday, President Jalal Talabani told Kurdistani Nwe that “Peshmarga is recognized as a legitimate organized military force in the region, therefore the government could benefit by utilizing that force where ever is needed”.

Iraqi government is asking Kurdish forces to do something that neither the Iraqi nor American troops have been able to do: restore stability so that healthy institutions of self-government can begin to develop. Flooding the war zone with Peshmarga forces from the north would be a catastrophe for the Kurdish political future in Iraq. Until now the sectarian violence has been between majority Shiites and Sunnis while the Kurds have been able steer clear of this meaningless slaughter. Moving Kurdish forces to Baghdad will lead to the escalation of violence into the Kurdish region and the current sectarian war might become a Kurd-Arab war. Once Kurdish forces arrive in Baghdad, Shiites and Sunnis may put their disputes aside to fight against the Kurds.

Further more; the current finger pointing of the death squads between Sunni and Shiites will also be directed towards the Kurds. The Kurdish people have already been accused of being the U.S and Israeli agents by the Sunni insurgents and Sadr militiamen. Both groups have constantly rejected Kurdistan federal region. Just recently, Abdulhadi Al Darraji, the representative of the Sadr movement in Baghdad, told Awene, an independent Kurdish newspaper, that they reject KRG and strongly object the article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, which calls for the normalization of Kirkuk and other disputed areas in Iraq.

Sending Kurdish forces to Baghdad with the hope of putting an end to the bloodshed, is a suicide mission for the Kurds and it could lead to a civil war with no end in sight. It also gives Sadr and Sunni nationalists more excuses spreading their hatred propaganda toward the Kurdish people.

Thus far, Kurdistan has been relatively safe from terrorist attacks. The terrorists have not been able to infiltrate and operate in the Kurdish region. Sending a large number of Peshmarga to the middle of Iraq will weaken the security situation in Kurdistan, and it still may not restore stability in Baghdad.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Vote for independent of Kurdistan
Online Petition for Kurdish Choices

To many Kurds who have found their true identity, Kurdistan resembles a mother that has been suppressed and taken advantage of by four influential men in the Middle East . In this age such a mother should be free to make a choice. In neither part of their ancestral homeland Kurds have been asked about their choices of status quo, federalism, or independence. Unity is a noble idea and should serve all equally. Unfortunately the unity that the governments of dominant ethnic groups advocate has only served them. For this reason over 98% of the Kurdish population in Southern Kurdistan voted for independence in an unofficial referendum in 2004. Many individuals and organizations that support equal right for all believe the Kurds should be allowed to determine their destiny and be given the option of voting for status quo, federalism, and independence in a referendum monitored by the international community. The purpose of this petition is to remind the United Nations about its obligation to defend the right of all nations even the one such as Kurds that are not represented by a state yet. In order to show the free world what the Kurds want, please indicate your choice by signing either an online petition or send us an email or a letter to following addresses:

Please vote here The Undersigned

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Iraq Study Group report, Good deal for our enemies’ Bad deal for our Kurdish and Jewish friends

Howrie Kirkuki

The invasion of Iraq in 2003 was President Bush's greatest accomplishment in the Middle East. Even though many errors have been made since, freeing the people of Iraq from the Saddam's Baa'th regime will be appreciated by our friends for ever.

The Baker-Hamilton group's recommendations, if implemented will reverse the accomplishments and indirectly reward the terrorists and terrorist-sponsor states.
The beneficiaries of these recommendations will be the Saddamist ( the main terrorist group in Iraq), the regimes of Syria and Iran (These two regimes are the main sponsors of terrorist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in west bank and terrorist bands and militia groups in Iraq), and the Turks (the Turkish government's refusal to support the invasion, their refusal to allow the collision forces to pass through their territory during the war and the Turkish intelligence involvement in terrorist activities to destabilize the Kurdistan region are well known facts).

The three mention countries have no interest in a free and democratic Iraq. Iran and Syria will make every effort to see US fail in Iraq ,which will prevent future US attacks against their regimes and to derail the democratic process in the region. The common goal of the Syrian-Turkish-Iranian governments is to crush the Kurdistan Regional Government (the autonomous Kurdish region in northern Iraq) and to return to pre 1990 era when Saddam suppressed the Kurds.

The biggest losers are the only two loyal friends in the middle-east, the Jews and the Kurds.
Rewarding Terrorist policy will make Middle-East peace process more difficult and strength the Syrian-Iranian hard line policy against Israel. Syria’s continues interference in Lebanon and assassination of Lebanon's leaders along with the Iranian regime's increase support for Hezbollah are putting more pressure on the Jewish state.

The Kurdistan region of Iraq is the only place in Iraq, where US soldiers are welcomed; there are no terrorists, no civil war. The democratic changes and foreign investment are welcomed. The group's report dismisses all of this progress and indirectly recommends dissolving the autonomous region and the federal system in Iraq.

President Bush's Iraq policy may need adjustments and changes, but the Baker-Hamilton's group recommendations are a recipe for disaster, selling out our friends and a victory for terrorists.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Baathist spy games
By Darya IbrahimSLEMANI

Media reports of alleged Baathist spies in KRG ministerial posts and Kurdish party ranks takes the region by storm. Are former Baathist spies part of the Kurdistan government?

The Kurdish community was scandalized last month when local newspapers Hawlati and Awena ran sensational reports about Baathist spies working at various levels in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). The reports alleged that these individuals used to supply information about the Kurdish political parties and activities to the intelligence apparatus of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The newspapers went so far as to reveal the names of these alleged spies, the individuals on whom they were spying and the remuneration they received for their work. The list of purported spies included figures currently holding high-level posts in the KRG and the two leading Kurdish political parties. According to a report in the 27 September edition of Hawlati, a former Kurdish minister was a spy tasked with assassinating Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

The report included the copy of a letter from the former regime’s intelligence apparatus
instructing the former Iraqi Vice President to reward “Abdul Ghani Taha Bazaz”, also known as “Mula Ghani”, former KRG Justice Minister. In another letter, “Mula Ghani” allegedly responded, demanding the full amount of money before he went ahead with the assassination plot. The sensational aspect of the spy reports is not simply that they name names, but that they also provide details about the operations they carried out, and the payment they received. The payment sometimes came in the form of oil coupons.

In an interview published in Cawder weekly newspaper on 16 October, Mohammad Haji Mahmoud, secretary general of the Kurdistan Socialist Party and member of parliament in the current KRG cabinet, said: “We can’t say they are spies yet, because some of them were simply working with the Baathists, but they were not spies. We are now calling all of them spies, and this is wrong. This Baathist spies story is not new. These files first appeared in 1991, but the problem was that the newspapers were not allowed to talk about such things as they are now. Back in September 2003, the subject came up again, but nothing was done about it.”

Haji Mahmoud added: “In Algeria, anyone found to be a spy at any time will be thrown out of the country. In some other countries, they may be forgiven. In our country, it is the reverse. There were some people, whom I helped not to be arrested, and a few months later, they became ministers in the KRG. Just a few months ago, the ‘Jash’ [Kurdish word for Kurdish mercenaries who worked for the Baathists] were demanding blood money from those peshmargas who killed members of their family. What’s next? They will demand blood money for the murders at Amna Suraka [former Baathist Security Office in Slemani]?”

According to Haji Mahmoud, the Kurdistan Parliament should strip the suspected spies who are currently in high level positions, of their power and immunity, no matter if they are the head of a party, a member of parliament or a minister.

"They should send them home, and take them to court because so long as they have immunity, the court cannot give them notification or question them. This must start with Parliament.”

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Friends in need
By Basit GharibSLEMANI

Why the Americans have a hard time keeping friends, but have no trouble making enemies.
The United States builds its relations according to its own political and economic interests, easily abandoning friends if its interests are endangered. This statement will come as no surprise to observers of American foreign policy. In the 1950s and 1960s, the US backed southern Vietnam by launching a war against northern Vietnam. The history of that war is well known. When American interests were endangered and anti-war pressures increased inside America, Henry Kissinger, President Richard Nixon’s National Security Advisor, secretly and without consulting with the government of southern Vietnam, met with Doc To, North Vietnam’s envoy, to sign a cease-fire agreement. When the north Vietnamese forces defeated the forces of south Vietnam, and occupied the south’s capital “Saygon” on 30 April 1975, the American forces immediately withdrew, abandoning tens of thousands of employees and supporters to be slaughtered by north Vietnamese forces. Many similar cases can be found throughout American history. That’s why it’s hard for Americans to keep friends, and all too easy for them to make enemies. When Saddam Hussein’s regime was toppled in the US-led invasion of Iraq, many people in the country welcomed the Americans as liberators and allies. But the welcome party was short-lived. Today, this course has been reversed, and except for the Kurdistan Region, in many places across Iraq, the American forces have more enemies than friends. In April 2003, backed by the Americans themselves, we entered the city of Kirkuk in order to reopen the city’s TV channel. We took with us all the requirements of the channel. We didn’t even take a penny from the Americans. We did that all on our own, despite the fact that the Americans were generously pouring money out at the time. Relaunching the channel at that sensitive period was in the best interest of the Americans. They needed it to communicate directly with the people. During a two-month period, we broadcasted thousands of the American forces’ statements, press conferences and television interviews by the American commanders from Colonel William Mayville, who was heading the reconstruction efforts in the city, to civil authorities, and those who were in charge of the city’s security and others. Yet, we were always the target of the American forces’ tantrums. They constantly attacked us, sometimes arresting our pershmarga guards and confiscating their weapons, which were given to them with the full knowledge of the Americans. In one case, they even used tanks and helicopters. Although we took our complaints to Colonel Mayville, they went on with their violations until they forced us to pack up and leave for Slemani. The Americans’ whimsical behavior came as a surprise to us. We learned eventually that despite all the cooperation they received from us, there were Baathist elements within the staff at the channel, and they had been stirring trouble, sabotaging our relations with the Americans. Their efforts had prevailed; the Americans believed them, instead of listening to us. That’s why it’s easy for the Americans to make enemies and hard for them to make friends. Remarkably, our committed, stateless and oppressed people continue to view the Americans as liberators and allies. We hope that the Americans take this into consideration and put an end to their erratic, interest-oriented behavior, in order to keep our friendship and “not throw us to the wolves,” as the old Kurdish saying goes.

The writer is editor of KHAK magazine.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Kurdish National Congress is Demanding the Immediate Resignation of General Ralston

KNC Press Release

On August 28, 2006, the US State Department announced the appointment of former USAF General Joseph Ralston as a "Special Envoy for countering the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK).”

General Ralston is a vice-chairman of The Cohen Group, a private lobby firm with close ties to the American Turkish Council (ATC) and Lockheed Martin. According to an article in the Washington Post in May of this year, Lockheed Martin acknowledged it was a client of The Cohen Group, and paid some $500,000 to The Cohen Group for services rendered in 2005. General Ralston is also a member of the 2006 Advisory Board of the ATC, as well as a current member of the Board of Directors of Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is also a member of the ATC. Ralston's appointment came at a time when Turkey was finalizing the sale of 30 new Lockheed Martin F-16 aircraft (approx. $3 billion) and as Turkey was due to make a decision on the $10 billion purchase of the new Lockheed Martin F-35 JSF aircraft. The sale for the F-16's was approved by Congress in mid-October and Turkey's decision in favor of the F-35 JSF was announced on October 25, shortly after Ralston's recent stay in Ankara, ostensibly to counter the PKK.

At the same time, a unilateral PKK ceasefire went into effect on October 1, although it was rejected by both the Washington and Ankara governments’ days before it went into effect. This is in spite of the fact that the PKK prefers to negotiate a political settlement to the Kurdish question in Turkey, and had indicated its willingness to do so repeatedly over the last 13 years and, most recently, in August, with demands that are fully consistent with Turkey's EU accession criteria. Last week, during a question-and-answer period after his address at a meeting of the Eurasian Strategic Research Center (ASAM) in Istanbul, General Ralston, as America's Special Envoy, refused the possibility of applying an IRA-type model to solve the issue of the PKK and the wider Kurdish question in Turkey. General Ralston, as an appointed official of the US government, has indicated there is no possible peaceful, political settlement on the horizon, a policy that goes against the will of the Kurdish people.

Additionally, there continues to be a hostile posture from the Turkish armed forces toward Iraqi Kurdistan, the only peaceful portion of Iraq. In early April, the Turkish army dramatically increased its presence in the Kurdistan region of Turkey to some 250,000-300,000 troops. Many of which were concentrated along the border with Iraqi Kurdistan. By the end of April, during Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice's visit to Ankara, hostile actions against Iraqi Kurdistan began, ostensibly aimed at alleged PKK camps. Attacks included bombings, violations of Iraqi airspace, and infiltration of Turkish special operations forces. To date, the main targets of the Turkish military in Iraqi Kurdistan have been unarmed civilian Kurds and livestock.

The decision to appoint Joseph Ralston, a former military officer with widely-known links to the defense industry, its lobby, and the Turkish lobby, calls into question the sincerity of the American administration in seeking a political solution to the gross repression carried out against the Kurdish people by the Turkish Republic. It also calls into question the sincerity of the American administration in seeking to establish democracy and democratic values in the Middle East. Both of these are magnified by the American and Turkish refusal to seek a peaceful solution which the current ceasefire affords.

By virtue of General Ralston's intimate connections with the defense industry, and with the lobby group of a foreign state that has so far shown itself hostile to any democratic changes for the Kurdish people within its borders, we consider the appointment to be an example of an extreme conflict of interest.

As such, we at the Kurdish National Congress of North America demand the resignation of General Ralston as Special Envoy to Turkey.

Kurdish National Congress of North America

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dividing Iraq and Creating a Kurdish State

By Ardalan Hardi

Previously in his interview with Paul Gigot in the Wall Street Journal President Bush said to partition Iraq would be "a mistake." Bush went on to say "the Iraqi people are going to have to make that decision."

The current government that rules Iraq as a state exists only in name. The division of – Kurdish, Shiite and Sunni – already has happened. Mistake or not it is very much a reality we have to face. If our goal is to reform the Middle East like President Bush suggests, then we have to accept the will of the people of Iraq and accept the inevitable. Democracy is not forcing people to live together that do not want to.

On Oct. 11 the Iraqi parliament approved a law that will allow Iraq to be carved into a federation of autonomous regions. The bill passed the 275-member parliament by a vote of 141 to 0.

In his last interview on Fox News, President Bush said he would reject any recommendation to partition Iraq along ethnic and sectarian lines and that creating semi-autonomous states for Kurds, Shiite and Sunni Muslims would worsen divisions in Iraq. It would seem that Bush is back-tracking from his earlier statement of letting the Iraqi people make their own decision. It is understandable for the president to have reconsidered his earlier comments when it comes to Iraq’s’ future since the U.S. has invested so much money and manpower in freeing Iraq from tyranny. However, to emphatically rule out the partition of Iraq is regrettable.

Staggering violence in Iraq, has now taken 2,791 American lives and according to The Lancet, the British medical journal, 650,000 Iraqi lives have been lost. It is time for a new approach in Iraq.

Many experts agree dividing Iraq is the only way to keep stability in the region and to bring foreign troops home.

Senator Trent Lott, former republican party senate majority leader says “When it comes to curbing Iraq’s sectarian violence, we should remember that Iraq is essentially three peoples — Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites — lumped together long ago by Colonial Britain into the manufactured nation of Iraq. Suppressed by decades of dictatorship, these three peoples still have distinct historical and cultural differences, manifesting themselves again and threatening the stability of the region and the entire world.” He goes on to say “Iraq requires a new plan.”

Peter Galbraith, former U.S. Ambassador to Croatia and author of a new book, The End of Iraq,” says “Iraq has disintegrated into three parts – a pro-Western Kurdistan in the north, an Iranian-dominated Shiite entity in the south, and a chaotic Sunni Arab region in the center.” He goes on to say “There can be no strategy of keeping Iraq together because it is not together.”
U.S. senator Joe Biden says “resolving the problems in Iraq will require separating the various factions there.” He added “the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis need to have their own mostly autonomous regions in Iraq, that reconstruction assistance should be increased to the country and that most U.S. troops should be withdrawn by 2008.” Biden said this plan would be similar to what was done during the mid-1990s in Bosnia.

President Bush’s desire to keep Iraq as a unified country is hopeless and unworkable. The sectarian violence that has plagued Iraq for last few years is not going to go away like Shlomo Avineri, professor of political science at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, says “There seems to be no power able to hold Iraq together. Attempts to set up a national unity government, in which all groups will be represented, have failed.” Such attempts will probably fail in the future as well, even if they are papered over by some verbal, worthless face-saving formula.”

"Iraq is going the way of the former Yugoslavia. When ethnic and religious groups are unable and unwilling to live together in a country held together by force and lacking any democratic traditions, disintegration may be the only way out."

"Maybe three separate states in what used to be Iraq have a better chance - as occurred in Yugoslavia - of leading to some stabilization and even democratic development."

"By calling the strife in Iraq "sectarian," observers and policymakers are trying to minimize the deep chasms that divide Iraqi society - like calling the bloody wars between Catholics and Protestants in 17th-century Europe "sectarian." But those were not only about theological disagreements; they were about identity, historical narrative and memory."

"The sooner one realizes their force - and their legitimacy within their respective communities - the sooner illusions about abstract democracy and non-existing unity can be replaced by more realistic policies."

However, President Bush maintains that such a move would increase violence in the region and "create problems for Turkey". On the contrary, many, including some Turkish experts, agree that a Kurdish state would be a beneficial to Turkey’s security. Furthermore, Turkey would rather see a democratic Kurdish state rather than another Islamic fundamentalist regime on its border. Moreover, the Turkish economy is already benefiting from a Kurdish regional government developing economy.

Sedat Laciner, director of the USAK says “Contrary to the general belief, there is no fear of the establishment of a Kurdish state among Turkish public opinion. The premise that a possible Kurdish state in Northern Iraq will threaten Turkey is not a majority view in Turkey. On the contrary, a Kurdish state in Northern Iraq may have some advantages for Turkey.”

This week another Republican from Bush's home state has come to the same conclusion. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas expressed her openness to consider the value of breaking up Iraq.

President Bush did the right thing by getting rid of the dictator Saddam. Now it is time to come to the right conclusion by dividing Iraq and getting our troops out of harms way.

A united Iraq does not exist and never will. Forcing unity in a country that does not want to be unified creates a time bomb that could bring further negative ramifications and greater consequences to the future of U.S. foreign policy. It is false to think that a united Iraq keeps U.S. interests at heart when it only benefits those neighboring countries that lack democracy in their own states and are fearful that a true democratic Kurdish state might coerce them to change their ways. By dividing Iraq, at least we will gain the Kurdish nation as an ally in a region where true friends are hard to come by. We might even gain some influence from the Shiite’s in the south.

Like former senator Trent Lott says “I’d rather have 50 percent of something than 100 percent of nothing.”

Friday, October 20, 2006

Will the Parties to submit the documents?

By Asos Hardi

I read on the Kurdistan regional government's website that the committee set up to investigate alleged Kurdish collaborators with Saddam Hussein’s regime has asked the United States military and all the Iraqi political parties to hand over Baathist intelligence documents. It is unclear whether this was an official request or just a press statement, but the documents held by US forces and the political parties are central to resolving the issue.

The Kurdish committee cannot impose demands on the US military, but we would like to know whether the committee is at least going to insist that the Kurdish parties submit what documents they have? Kurdistan regional president Massoud Barzani has told the media that the committee has full powers to act, and its head is an independent judge. That raises the question of whether the parties really will open their files, or just hand over some worthless documents. Who is going to make them them? In a country where the security and intelligence agencies are controlled by political parties, what can an independent committee do? It is like a game of snakes and ladders: in theory, we are making progress, but we are always afraid that the dice might land us on a snake and take us back to the beginning of the game.

(Awene is a Sulaimaniyah-based independent newspaper issued weekly by the Awene)


Sunday, October 01, 2006

Kurdish phobia that exits in Turkey
By Ardalan Hardi

Turkish Daily says the president of Iraq has negotiated with a terrorist organization and any negotiation with terrorist organizations is unacceptable for any state. The Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) is considered a terrorist organization by Iraq, the United States, the European Union and Turkey. The article goes on to say Talabani is the first official who confesses that he was in direct talks with the PKK terrorist organization.

In an interview with Newsweek President Talabani said “We are urging the Turkish Kurds to be moderate, to wage their struggle through democratic means.” President Talabani’s attempt to face the PKK issue through diplomatic, democratic process is the only way to establish a peace in Turkey with regards to the Kurds. Since Iraq is a sovereign nation, it has earned the right to makes its own analysis concerning with whom and how it wants to negotiate to resolve the PKK issue peacefully.

Consider the following.
  1. Why is it okay for Turkey to dialog with Hammas when Hamas is listed as a terrorist organization by Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, the European Union, Israel, and the U.S., and is banned in Jordan? However, it is not acceptable for Jalal Talabani, a Kurd and president of Iraq, to talk to PKK. In addition, Talabani’s dialog with PKK is nothing new. It was not long ago when former Turkish president, Turgut Özal, appealed for Talabani assistants to reach a deal with PKK in order to resolve the Kurdish issue. The cease fire of the 90’s was the direct result of those negotiations. Unfortunately Mr. Ozal passed away and those talks ended. In a short period of time, northern Kurdistan was again engulfed in violence.
  2. PKK bases in Iraq are refugee camps that were inherited from the previous Iraqi regime. All of the refugees fled Turkey to avoid political oppression and extreme poverty.
    Under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugeesand 1967 Protocol, a signatory nation must grant asylum to refugees and cannot forcibly return refugees to their nations of origin. According to the international law, refugees are individuals who: are outside their country of nationality or habitual residence; have a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.
    Iraq’s government is obligated to uphold international law and cannot and should not force the asylum seekers back to Turkey where it is certain they will face execution by Ankara’s government.
  3. In an interview with CNN, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, rejected calls by an imprisoned Kurdish rebel leader for an unconditional ceasefire by the PKK, saying "a ceasefire is done between states. It is not something for the terrorist organization." Looking back in history we see that for years the U.S. considered PLO to be a terrorist organization. While Menachem Begin stated on more than one occasion that even if the PLO accepted UN Security Council resolution 242 and recognized Israel's right to exist, he would never negotiate with the organization. In the final analysis and for the sake of peace, the U.S. and Israel ended the dead lock that had plagued the Middle East peace process and opened dialogue with Arafat and the PLO.
  4. If Turkey truly wants to end the Kurdish question peacefully, it does not have to have dialogue with PKK. Ankara’s government can pick anyone of the other legal Kurdish political parties within Turkey to negotiate on how to improve economic development in northern Kurdistan, allow real exercise of cultural rights for Kurds, and recognize Kurdish identity in Turkey. By doing so PKK would became a mute point.

It is obvious this attack on President Talabani is just another propaganda scheme by Turkish state to pave the way for invading Kurdish de-facto state.

The problem is Turkey is not interested in solving the Kurdish issue peacefully. This Kurdish phobia that exits in Turkey goes back to creation of Turkish state from Kamal Ataturk and persists to this date. Everyone knows Turkish military is in control of the government in Turkey and in order to maintain their hold on power, they have successfully instilled this fear of the Kurd factor in their citizens to legitimize their own existence.

The statements in Turkish Daily made by Nilgun Gulcan, the so called Turkish think tank, saying the Kurdish leaders in Iraq aim to separate Iraq and to establish a Kurdish state in the north adding “They abuse the PKK problem. They first supported the PKK terrorism in order to make Turkey busy – not to prevent separation of Iraq – and now they want to legalize a terrorist organization. It is unfortunate that a legal president makes negotiations with a terrorist organization.” Gulcan goes on to say “As long as Barzani and Talabani continue to support the PKK terrorism, a possible Turkish military intervention in Northern Iraq would be on the agenda.” This is another validation of the Kurdish phobia that exists in the Turkish state. These allegations are just baseless propaganda to legitimize Turkish military intervention in Kurdistan’s regional government and eliminate any gains’ the Kurds have had in recent history.

Turkey continually uses the PKK card unsuccessfully as a ploy to gain support from the international community for its devious plan.

The EU and US must stand firm against Ankara’s government fraudulent attempts on sabotaging the only part of Iraq that is in peace.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

"New Faces, Old Tunes"
Eamad J. Mazouri

To the astonishment of Kurdistan Regional Government, and in an interview with al-Sabah newspaper published 24 September, [Federal] Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani said his Ministry is not committed to investment contracts signed by the Kurdistan Regional Government in oil industry. He further stated that Baghdad [Federal] Oil Ministry would review the terms of these contracts.

This unpleasant bolt from the blue brought a swift response from the Office of the Prime Minister of KRG Mr. Nechirvan Barzani in the form of a Statement, blaming Iraqi Federal Government for non-implementation of the Iraqi Constitution, and attempting sabotage Kurdistan’s meticulous efforts to develop the region.

The statement read that, article 115 of the Iraqi Constitution of 2005 gives Regions [Kurdistan] “all powers not stipulated in the exclusive powers of the federal government.” Thus, Oil and Gas are not among the exclusive powers of the federal government.

Also, article 141 of the Iraqi Constitution specifically validates “decisions issued by the Kurdistan Regional Government, including court decisions and contracts” since 1992.
The statement further elaborated that, the people of Kurdistan of their free volition chose to be in a voluntarily union with Iraq on the basis of the constitution. If Baghdad Ministers refuse to put up with that constitution, the people of Kurdistan reserve the right to reconsider that choice.
It appears that no matter what the Kurdistan Regional Government does, it would be considered the wrong choice by those who are trying to turn KRG’s actions around and portray Kurdistan unreasonably and with prejudice as endeavoring to secede and form an independent Kurdistan. A charge that has been overused by Kurds’ opponents inside and outside Iraq but every time refuted by KRG officials. Those suspicious circles in fact are the ones that are seeking the disintegration of Iraq as they have in their mind if they fail to regain the power they had under dictatorship, but currently lost.

Kurdistan Regional Government has over and over again reiterated that Kurdistan opted of her free will to enter into a contract with Iraq to build a democratic federalism based on a voluntary union. The Iraqi Constitution is considered to be that contract or the major portion of it next to Kurdistan constitution.

Today, Kurds are not only major players in the political game in Baghdad, but also are playing a key role in bringing various Iraqi factions together to build the new federal Iraq. It is time for those who are throwing various accusations at Kurds to put an end to their baseless claims and focus instead on the real issues facing Iraq such as security and providing basic services to their citizens. Kurdistan Regional Government has expressed its wish and will in more than one occasion to assist the rest of Iraq to restore that and to share its experience with them.

On the other hand, federalism is not a ready to apply prescription. Every country must follow its own case in point, taking advantage of the accumulated international experience available. However, there is one significant lesson every potential country to be a federal candidate can benefit from. Since federal unions, unlike autonomies are conceptually different in terms of structure. For two regions or more to enter into a contract to form a union, that union usually becomes more powerful and lasting if further authority is retained by the regions and less given to the federal government. The best example here would be the first modern federal system in the world; that is the American model. On the other hand,[ assuming all the power is held by the intended regions, as it suppose to be the case in forming federations]when more concessions are made in favor of the federal government at the expense of the regions, the latter naturally will crave for more powers. Inevitably, persistency will lead to constant demand by regions for more powers that would result in shifting power from the center to the region and ultimately leading to the disintegration of the union. On the contrary, when regions reserve more powers at the outset, through constitutional and judicial channels and over time the power shifts in the other direction, empowering the federal government without threatening the regions as it was the case in the United States of America. Understanding the essence of this equation and accepting it will allow the Iraqi people to make the intelligent choice between building a temporary or a lasting federal union.

Unfortunately, this incident came in a chain of events that we could say started with Saddam’s flag controversy fabricated a few weeks ago, to the federal issue that was discussed in the parliament and put to rest for 18 months, followed by the Kirkuk issue and other Kurdish Arabized regions and now topped by the oil issue.

It is obvious that this charade will not stop unless there is a basic understanding and certain degree of tolerance and trust among Iraqi Arabs on the main issues that have been agreed upon in the constitution. They must understand that agreements are not made today to be retracted tomorrow especially not this one if they need to build a democratic federal Iraq as they claim.
If they have the intention of building something other than that or are trying to go back to dictatorship and coerced union that was imposed on the Kurds against their will, they can do it on their own without the Kurdish participation or blessings. No Kurdish administration or citizen has the stomach to go through that ordeal once again.

It is crystal clear that Kurdistan Regional Government is within its constitutional powers when making deals with international oil companies especially when it comes to exploration rights and new wells. The constitution is very clear in this regard. Current wells would be shared with federal government while the new ones fall under the jurisdiction of KRG. The administration and marketing are another issue and the constitution has dealt with that.

Mr. Shahristani and some other Iraqi federal officials either haven't grasped the concept of federalism or they don't believe in it or are misinterpreting the constitution. In either case, they are echoing the deposed regime's stance when it comes to Kurdish rights in this regard.
For decades the Kurds have fought successive Iraqi governments for their legitimate rights and have sacrificed too many lives. These issues were always the main obstacles in any past negotiations with Baghdad including the former regime of dictator Saddam.

True, these people who are objecting irrationally to Kurdish legitimate rights are different from the ones under the previous regime, but they are playing on the same tunes. Kurds are very familiar with this type of music coming from the past and that is causing a real concern in Kurdistan.

There are some Kurdish red lines here; embodied in the Kurdish demands they have fought hard for to secure them from ousted regime. They could be summed up as: A democratic federal Iraq, return of Arabized Kurdish land to the bosom of Kurdistan including but not limited to Kirkuk, Peshmarga forces, and natural resources of Kurdistan. All of which have been treated fairly with and resolved in the Iraqi constitution of 2005, that has been voted on by the Iraqi people and ratified by the Iraqi Parliament.

However, constitution has not deterred some Arab ultra-nationalists and Ba’athists and those who hover around that axis of evil from coming out every now and then trying to raise an issue as a pretext to attack Kurdistan and her nascent government.

They must know, as the Prime Minister Mr. Nechirvan Barzani emphasized that any violation of any of those principles constitutes a legal and constitutional ground for Kurds to reconsider the union and perhaps walk away if they do not find acceptance and commitment of the very principle of the voluntary union by other parties. Kurdistan's message to them is: A coercive union was imposed on Kurds for over 80 years. The consequences were dire, and the country still is paying the bill. For 15 years now, Kurdistan has been running successfully its own affairs. If you want Kurdistan to join this union or to remain part of this federal union, the framework endorsed in the constitution is a right milieu to make it work.

Don't try to impose any solutions on Kurdistan. Do not object to the rights taken away from us under previous regime that Kurds fought for and sacrificed too much and for too long. If your only concern truly is separation as you claim, you have Kurdistan Regional Governments’ assurances that there are no such plans as long as the Kurds have the right to choose how to be part of that union. That is the only union that would work, last and prosper.

Friday, September 29, 2006

September 29, 2006

Sunni Arabs, Sadr movement, and Turkmen hold secret meetings
Translated from Awene newspaper

Awene - An informed source told Awene that Sunni Arabs, Sadr movement, and Turkmen have held secret meetings to plan against implementation of article 140. The source said except the meetings, statements from those three groups have indications that they have common framework to stand against implementing the article.

The article 140 in Iraqi constitution calls for normalization of the area that has faced Arabization during Saddam regime, including Kirkuk. After normalizations referendum will be carried out to know whether the people of Kirkuk want to join Kurdistan Region. Recently Ali Mahdi, a Turkmen leader had said, "Even if all the high position (of the city's administration) be given to Turkmen Front (his party), we will not agree Kikuk be annexed to Kurdistan region."

Awene is an independent newspaper based in Sulaimania, issued by Awene Company.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

September 19 2006

Insults to the Kurdish people and all Those Who Suffered Under Saddam the Dictator.

By Ardalan Hardi

Last week’s comments by Judge Abdullah al-Amiri in court telling Saddam “You are not a dictator” is a disgrace to the position he was sworn to uphold. The prejudice statement alone should immediately disqualify him from his position.

Mr. Amiri, the dictionary says a judge is a person who makes decisions that determine or settle points at issue and is one capable of making rational, dispassionate, and wise decisions. You have shown that you lack all of these qualities. Without hesitation, you took it upon yourself and declared a tyrant Saddam is not a dictator. This is an insult to all those Kurdish and Shiite witnesses who have testified in your court about the torture they had to endure under the former dictator’s regime. Your assertion dishonours all those families’ that hopelessly wait for another mass grave to be discovered so they can bring closure to their missing love ones.
Mr. Amiri, Webster’s dictionary also defines dictator as one holding complete autocratic control or one ruling absolutely and often oppressively. Under Saddam, Iraq was ruled by force, brutality and oppression. For decades the Saddam Hussein's regime has killed, tortured, raped and terrorized the Iraqi people. Amnesty International reported “The people of Iraq suffered systematic and widespread abuses of their human rights for decades. Mass killings, “disappearances,” systematic use of torture, political imprisonment and forced removal from communities were used by Saddam Hussein’s government in an attempt to wipe out all opposition.”

Human Rights Watch comprehensive report “Genocide in Iraq - The Anfal Campaign Against the Kurds,” originally published in July 1993, details the systematic and deliberate murder of at least 50,000 and possibly as many as 100,000 Kurds. The killings occurred between February and September 1988. “Genocide in Iraq” shows that the Kurdish victims were targeted on the basis of their ethnicity. According to Human Rights Watch, "senior Arab diplomats told the London-based Arabic daily newspaper al-Hayat in October [1991] that Iraqi leaders were privately acknowledging that 250,000 people were killed during the uprisings, with most of the casualties in the south."

It is obvious that you, Mr. Amiri, choose to be oblivious to the evidence and your surroundings. Your honor, if an oppressor like Saddam is not a dictator, who is?

The Iraqi people are in need of an independent and honorable judge. One that has high moral standards and that preserves the integrity of the judicial system – which you do not. Since you were a member of Saddam’s Ba’ath party and served as a prosecuting judge in a criminal court under the former dictator’s regime, I can see why you think the way you do.

You were one of them and you have proven that you still are. You bring disgrace to the black robe you wear, to your profession and to the judicial system you pledged to serve.

It is very apparent you are biased toward the tyrant Saddam and your recent statement most impertinently endorses your affinity to the former dictator and his thugs.

A statement from the Kurdish Halabja center in Sulaymania said “We demand the dismissal of the judge at the high tribunal and the nomination of another competent and neutral judge whose ideas are not polluted by the fascist Ba’ath.”

You, Mr. Amiri, are using the trial of Saddam as a podium to advocate your fascist Arab nationalistic propaganda and ignite the insurgency that continues to plague today’s Iraq. It is time for you to step aside and let justice prevail.

The prosecutors should boycott the trial until the demand for a new judge is met and perhaps they should investigate Mr. Amiri’s background to see if he too should be on trial for his crimes against humanity.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The Flag Controversy in Iraq

By Eamad J. Mazouri

For over a week now, there has been a frenzied controversy in Iraq and in the Arab world concerning a decision by the President of Iraqi Kurdistan Region Mr. Massoud Barzani not to allow dictator Saddma’s flag to be flown in Kurdistan. Arabic media selectively and subjectively has taken the issue out of its context and tried unsuccessfully to portray the issue as a step toward separation and declaring an independent Kurdistan. Before delving deeper into the subject, I like to shed some light briefly on the history of flag in general, what it stands for and when and how it changes, using the available resources on the net.
“Brief History of Flag”

“Over 4000 years passed since people first started using flags. Authentic flag design of ancient peoples includes a metal flag from Iran, ca. 3000 BC. The first type of flag was called a vexilloid”. “Vexillology is the scientific study of flags. This word comes from a Latin word which means "guide". First flags or vexilloids were metal or wooden poles with carvings on top. About 2,000 years ago, pieces of fabric or material were added to some vexilloids for decoration. These looked more like the flags we know today.”

“A flag is a piece of colored fabric or material that is used as a symbol, or for sending a signal. Some flags are used only for ecoration. Usually, flags are messages from a person or a group of people.” “People use flags to give others information, such as, who they are. “ “Long ago, knights carried flags into battle because it was hard to know who the knights were when they were dressed up and covered in armor ready for battle! Flags were important because they helped soldiers tell their friends from their enemies in battle.”

“Today, every country in the world has a flag. As governments change, so do their flags. Every state in the United States has a flag, too. Flags are used to give information, signals or stand for special symbols or things. Many organizations or groups like the Girl Scouts or the United Nations have flags. Clubs, sport teams and organizations have their own flags too. The five circles of the Olympic flag represent the coming together of people from five continents in friendly competition. Peace is the message of the olive branches cradling the world in the flag of the United Nations. Some people, like a king or queen, have their very own personal flag. Sometimes it flies over any building or place where they are staying.”

“Flags include symbols that are used to show ideas which would otherwise take many words. Flags are used for wars, as well as for the celebration of special events. On sad occasions, flags are flown at half-mast to honor the dead, and draped over the coffins of national heroes.”
“National flags are not merely symbols of a country. Their colors and designs convey past history and future goals. Flags have powerful connotations. For all the controversy it is interesting to point out that the United States did not even have a standardized flag until 1912!”

History of Iraqi Flag

The flag of Iraq has had four different designs since the establishment of Iraq in 1921.


“The original flag of Iraq was adopted in 1921, when the country was formed. It was a black-white-green horizontal tricolor, with a red trapezoid (some variants have a triangle) extending from the mast side. Two seven-point white stars on the triangle denoted the then 14 provinces of the kingdom. The colors chosen for the new flag were those of the Hashemite leaders of the Arab Revolt who provided the country with its first king, and thus it is very similar to the Flag of Jordan, another Hashemite Kingdom.”


“Following Abdul Karim Qassim's 1958 revolution that deposed the monarchy, in 1959 Iraq adopted a black-white-green vertical tricolor with, in the middle of the white band, a red eight-pointed star with a yellow circle in its center. The yellow color was considered a Kurdish symbol.”


“After the Qassim government was overthrown, a new flag was adopted in July 1963. The new flag had three stripes, of red, white, and black, with three green stars in the white stripe. The green stars were originally placed there for the proposed union with Egypt and Syria (United Arab Republic), which both had flags with two stars in the middle at the time. They would have changed to three if the Union had not fallen apart.”


“On 14 January 1991, the flag was changed again. The meaning of the three stars was changed from their original geographic meaning to representations of the three tenets of the Ba'ath party motto, Wihda, Hurriyah, Ishtirrakiyah (Unity, Freedom, Socialism). Saddam Hussein decided to place the words, Allahu Akbar (God is Great) between the stars. It is said (though unconfirmed) that the words on the flag are in Saddam's own handwriting, and many interpreted the change as an attempt to garner support from the Islamic world in the period immediately preceding the first Gulf War.

Although the flag has not "officially" been changed, this design has been largely replaced by the version with modified script. It is presumed that the modified version of the 1991 design will become the official flag of Iraq upon the creation of a new Iraqi Constitution.”

2004 Flag Controversy “

On 26 April 2004 the Iraq Interim Governing Council announced a new flag for post-Saddam Iraq. The occupied government stated that from around 30 competing entries, it had chosen a design by the distinguished Iraqi artist-cum-architect Rifat al-Chaderchi (aka Rifat Chadirji). The flag was white, with parallel blue-yellow-blue bands across the bottom quarter or third; the blue bands represented the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, and the yellow represented Iraq's Kurdish minority (the reason for this symbolism was unclear, but the flag of Kurdistan does feature a yellow sun). In the middle of the white field was a large Islamic crescent which was, unusually, depicted in a shade of blue.”

Current Flag Controversy

The recent controversy started when Kurdistan President Mr. Barzani declared officially not to hoist Baathists’ flag in Kurdistan. Instead of that the flag of July 14th to be used until the implementation of article 12 of the permanent Iraqi Constitution of 2005. The reasoning behind that decision was the fact that all of the crimes and atrocities were committed under that same flag not only against Kurdish people alone, but the rest of Iraqi people as well, not to mention the war against Iran, the invasion of Kuwait and bombarding neighboring countries with his deadly rockets.

It was under this flag that Saddam’s regime destroyed more than 4500 Kurdish villages, used chemical weapons on Halabja that killed more than 5000 people all civilians, waged the al-Anfal campaign in Kurdistan where more than 180,000 people killed. It was under this same flag that he waged a genocidal war against Kurdish people and the mass graves are the proof on these heinous atrocities.

All the accusations mentioned by the supporters of Saddams flag are baseless, unsubstantiated and far from the truth. However, as a result the row still is in progress and various contradicting and threatening statements have been issued from a variety of offices and governments regarding this matter that has become the topic of the hour in a heated debate. This dispute has dragged in the highest offices of the federal government in Baghdad and was topped today by intervention of the American ambassador to Iraq Mr. Khalil Zade in a statement that reads: these kinds of actions should not be taken unilaterally, instead the issue needs to be resolved through the constitution and the Iraqi national assembly.

Unfortunately and to the astonishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government, some Arab circles and Arabic media came to defend Saddam’s flag. They started an unfair and unjust campaign against KRG and Kurdish people in an attempt to keep the Baathist flag as the national one. First of all, for those who are defending this flag, it is not clear yet which flag they are defending. Is it the one with Saddam’s own handwriting on it? Or is it the same tri-color 3 star but the expression (God is greater) written with Kufic? Or perhaps a different version of that. These people are requested to tell us which one they consider it national. While they talk so much about the legality and the constitutionality of the Kurdish action, they need to be reminded that the change of 1991 and all the ones that followed were neither official nor legal. Neither the Iraqi government nor the Iraqi parliament had a saying in that or approved it.
It is worth mentioning that the flag in dispute has never been hoisted in Kurdistan since 1991, except a modified version of it in Sulaimania region for a short period of time.

This flag has brought nothing on the Iraqi people in general other than destruction, war, mass-killing, genocide, chemical weapons and mass graves. It is hard to believe that there are some Iraqi people out there who would defend such a flag that symbolizes the deposed regime of dictator Saddam and the tyranny of the Baath party that reduced Iraq to rubbles and surviving Iraqi people to live below minimum living standards of the poorest countries of the world, despite the huge human and natural resources of Iraq.

Undemocratic regimes changes, along with them all the emblems and symbols that represent them. There is no single justification for keeping this flag and hailing it as the national Iraqi flag except for those who are trying to cause obstacles in the way of the progress the new democratic federal Iraq is making towards peace, stability and prosperity. One thing is for sure. These attempts are not serving Iraqi people or their gains of rights and freedoms.
After all, let’s keep in mind that flag as a form or symbol while sacred and sacrosanct, it cannot be more sanctified than the essence it represents or embodies. These are the people themselves, their history, rights, liberties, struggle and heritage. It would be wrong to hail the form as holier than essence as some are trying to do. This issue has been dealt with in democratic societies clearly through constitutional process. In non-democratic societies, of course they are still killing the citizen in the name of patriotism, but the new Iraq is not going to capitulate to those who are still defending Saddam’s regime.

Where as the Iraqi permanent constitution of 2005 is silent when it comes to which flag is considered the national flag, it is clear and straight forward in article 12 that the flag and national anthem along with all the national emblems would be regulated by a law where all Iraqi components are reflected. This article should have been implemented long time ago. The Kurds are still waiting for that day.

One of the basis of accusations against Kurds is that this was a step towards separation and the declaration of independence from Iraq. These people realize they are not telling the truth, but they are trying to deceive others. Kurds have participated aggressively in the formation of the Iraqi government; this includes the elections, the draft of the constitution and the federal government in Baghdad. In fact the Kurds have become the stalwart proponent of a federal Iraq. If they feel today they need to declare their independence, they would come and declare it straight out. Kurds have accepted to join Iraqi Arabs in a voluntary union where all are equal, live in peace, harmony and prosperity regardless of their race, religion or sect. To try to coerce the them into an involuntary union as it has been the case for the last 80 years or imposing certain solutions on Kurds or others not going to serve the purpose of building a new democratic federal Iraq. This might be the recipe for the disintegration of Iraq.

Mr. Barzani’s repeated statements should be more than enough to clear the Kurdish position in this regard. It could be summed up as follows: Kurds are not a minority, but rather a divided nation against its will. Like any other nation and according to every international chapter, covenant and treaty they have the right to determine their own fate, including the right to establish an independent Kurdistan on their own land. However, KRG chose federalism within the framework of a democratic federal Iraq based on a voluntary union as the best solution for the Kurdish problem at present. The justification behind that, is the fact that Kurds under such circumstances would be able to have all their rights short of statehood within Iraq while enjoying the protection of a strong sovereign state.

What Kurds are trying to do is to exercise their regional powers that were granted to them by the constitution within that framework not outside it as some are trying to portray them. The constitution is very clear in distributing these powers. Regrettably, some Arabs until this very minute do not believe in federalism and would try anything to undermine it, or perhaps they don’t fathom the core of federalism, subsequently do not differentiate between federalism and autonomy. Autonomy comes from the top to down. The central government grants the territories certain rights. On the contrary, federalism comes from down –up. Regions enter into a national contract where they give up certain powers to create a federal government, without which there will not be any federal government.

Perhaps, one of the best outcomes of this whole controversy , it might lead to speed up the process of implementing article 12 of the constitution where a new flag and a national anthem would be chosen to really reflect the history, geography, struggle, sacrifices and sufferings of all the people of Iraq without any discrimination as previous national symbols were about.


Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Iyad Alawi supports Kurdish President in removal of Baath’s flag

By Ardalan Hardi

The decision by President Massoud Barzani to ban the Baath’s flag in the Kurdistan Regional Government has been criticized by some Arab politicians as a move toward independence. These politicians choose to overlook all of the crimes that were committed against the Kurdish people under that so called Iraqi flag. To the Kurdish people, the Baath’s flag is a reminder of Anfal and mass graves. It has always and will continue to be associated with Saddam’s thugs and their crimes against innocent Kurdish civilians. Furthermore, the Baath’s flag has not been hoisted in Kurdistan since Kurdistan’s liberation in 1992.

Those who fuel the fire by suggesting that the leader of the Kurdish region threatened secession are the same people who stood by and watched silently as genocide of the Kurds was being committed by Saddam’s thugs. Most are the same Sunni Arabs that recently insisted that Saddam Hussein must be freed and the charges against him and his co-defendants be dropped so he could reclaim the presidency. They will do and say anything to destroy the recent Kurdish political gains. The reality is that while more than 98 percent of the Kurdish population has voted for independent Kurdistan, the Kurdish leaders have insisted on remaining a part of Iraq.
Yesterday Iyad Alawi, the leader of the Iraqi National Accord (INA), also joined President Barazini in support of removal of Baath’s flag reported Awene, the independent Kurdish newspaper from Sulaymania. Alawi asked all political parties in Iraq to understand and sympathize with the removal of Baath’s flag in Kurdish autonyms region. He also requested the Iraqi parliament take on the removal of the Baath’s flag urgently and discuss a potential new design that would represents all Iraqis.

Article 12: of the Iraqi constitution states “The flag, national anthem, and emblem of Iraq shall be fixed by law in a way that represents the components of the Iraqi people”.

No Kurd should be forced to live under a flag that is associated with thugs of the Anfal campaign (the Kurdish genocide) and the Iraqi constitution clearly affirms that.

Could the world stand seeing a Nazi flag flying in Germany knowing the barbaric and inhuman crimes that were committed under Hitler’s regime? Of course not!

It is time to put that dark chapter of Iraq’s history behind and move forword and face the real issues that concern everyday people in Iraq – economic concerns and security issues – that are tearing Iraq apart.

These hogwash debates are simply attempts to divert the focus on the real issues that face ordinary people in Basra, Bagdad and Erbil.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Barzani attacks Arab politicians over Iraqi flag


ERBIL (AFP) — The president of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region launched a scathing attack on Iraqi Arab leaders Sunday over their opposition to his order banning the national flag from public buildings.
"Those who condemn it are chauvinists, escaping from internal problems," Massoud Barzani told members of the Kurdish regional parliament in the northen city of Erbil.

"They are losers. They are not rulers or statesmen. They can't run their region and they want to make Kurdistan just like their regions. The time of threats is over, no one has the right force his will on the Kurdish people." Barzani was talking shortly after Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Maliki, a Shiite Arab, had ordered that: "The present Iraqi flag should be hoisted on every inch of Iraqi soil until parliament takes a decision about it." This was in response to Barzani's ban on the flag's use in the Kurdish region, where many see the red, white and black national banner as a symbol of Arab nationalism and of ousted president Saddam Hussein's hated Sunni Arab-dominated regime.

"The decision to raise only the Kurdish flag instead of the present Iraqi flag in Kurdistan came after consultation with both President [Jalal] Talabani [a fellow Kurd] and the Iraqi prime minister. I did not take the decision myself," Barzani insisted.

"I ask for a new flag for Iraq to be raised, according to Item 12 of the Iraqi constitution — a new flag and a new national anthem which represents all the components of Iraq," he told the Kurdish assembly. Iraq's new constitution will allow regional governments to strengthen their autonomy, but many Arabs fear a break-up of their country and the row over the flag is seen as proxy for the struggle for an independent Kurdistan.

Referring to atrocities committed under the previous regime, Barzani said "the present flag is not the flag of Iraq, but of the Baath Party and chemical strikes, drainage of the marshes, putting down uprisings and mass graves." On May 7, the rival administrations run by the two Kurdish former resistance groups in the cities of Erbil and Suleimaniyah were united into a single autonomous regional government for Iraq's three northern provinces. Before the merger, some official buildings in Sulaimaniyah province — which was ruled by Talabani's Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) — would hoist the Iraqi flag along with the PUK party flag.

Barzani's administration in Erbil and Dohuk provinces has never flown the Iraqi flag.
Since Saddam's ouster in 2003, Kurdish politicians have taken part in national politics and put their historic demands for independence on hold but, as violence rages around the country, separatist tensions remain high.

In April 2004, the then interim government of Iraq attempted to resolve the controversy over the flag, which is emblazoned with three green stars and the legend "God is greatest", by proposing a new national banner.
A new blue and white design, however, caused much controversy. Some felt the colours were too close to those of the Israeli flag while its crescent motif reminded Kurds of their hated Turkish neighbour. It was swiftly abandoned. Parliament is expected to discuss a potential new design. The 1963 version is painted on Iraqi army vehicles and flies above government buildings in Baghdad.

Most Arab Iraqis accept this design as their national flag, although the design of the Islamic slogan — which was reportedly based on Saddam's own handwriting — has been changed to a generic typeface. "Saddam wrote the words 'God is greatest'. The words are right but they were badly used," said Barzani on Sunday. "The calligraphy used now differs in each region, but some chauvinist Arab regions still keep the handwriting of Saddam as a souvenir. There is no agreement on the kind of calligraphy to use," he said.

"Even the flag that used to be raised in Suleimaniyah did not have the words 'God is greatest' on it." Kurdistan's banner is three red, white and green horizontal bars emblazoned with a golden sun motif. It flies across the Kurdish region over government buildings and military bases.
Some Kurdish official bodies fly Iraq's 1958-1963 flag, which was that of Abdul Karim Qasim's republic after he overthrew the monarchy, rather than the later Iraqi symbol with its Baathist and pan-Arab associations.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

August 22, 2006

Turkey can’t prevent founding of Kurdish state: Galbraith

The American advisor to Iraq’s Kurdish leaders said that Kurds in Turkey would choose a Turkey in the process of joining the European Union over other alternatives.

WASHINGTON - Ankara will not be able to prevent the founding of a Kurdish state in northern Iraq, a former senior US diplomat said late Monday.

Peter Galbraith, who is now serving as an advisor to Iraq’s Kurdish leaders, said that even Turkey was coming to the realisation that it could not stop the establishment of a Kurdish state on its borders. However, Gailbraith claimed that the traditional position of seeing an independent Kurdish state as major threat to Turkey was changing.

There was already a Kurdish state established in northern Iraq and that in time it would win its official independence, Galbraith said. The view is developing that the problem could not be solved by occupying northern Iraq, and that such a measure would lead to Turkey being thrown out of Europe and worsening its relations with the US, he said.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

August 18, 2006

Iran shelling Kurdish villages again

Friday August 18, 2006 - Iranian forces have started firing artillery shells at a camp of Kurdish rebels in Qandil area again, killing two civilians.

The shelling started around 9:00 a.m. Friday morning, reported Awene, the independent Kurdish newspaper from Sulaymania.

Many experts believe that Iran and Turkey’s attack on Iraq’s Kurdistan are primarily intended to destroy the achievements of Kurds in that region. Attacking militants from minority Kurdish groups from Iran and Turkey is an excuse to destroy the Kurdish de-facto government in Iraq.
There have been a number of previous claims by Iraqi officials that their neighbors have conducted cross-border attacks.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

July 27, 2006

PKK is not Hezbollah
Ardalan Hardi

Turkey says that Israel's recent action in Lebanon to stop Hezbollah attacks means that Turkey should be allowed to take similar steps against Kurdish guerrillas operating from northern Iraq against Turkish forces", reported The Daily Telegraph.
First of all the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Hezbollah’s ideologies are a world apart. Hezbollah is a neo-Islamic fascism movement that promotes a close-minded fanatic ideology that is not only a threat to Israel but also to the Muslim religion and the world. PKK is working for a democratic change within Turkey in order to free an oppressed voice of the Kurdish people in northern Kurdistan.
Second, while Hezbollah has its own government and army free from Israel and chooses to continually attack civilian targets in and outside Israel, PKK does not go outside Turkey and targets only military installations within Turkey. Third, unlike Hezbollah that refuses to acknowledge the right of Israel to exist – which closes the door on dialog – the PKK, and all political parties in northern Kurdistan, have never once denied Turkish states of existence. Kurds have always welcomed dialog for a peaceful resolution to Kurdish issues. This comparison of PKK to Hezbollah is idiotic. Ankara has continually refused pleas from friends and foes to allow dialog to take place with Kurdish people. Instead, it uses military force as a tool of choice to silence any hint of Kurdish nationalism.
When do people learn that all the guerrilla tactics from PKK and all the military force used by Turkish state will not stop the bloodshed? In fact, it prolongs the malaise of death and destruction? How could we solve our differences if we refuse to talk about them? How could we talk if we refuse to have dialog with those we disagree with? With this form of diabolical, close-minded thinking, how can we expect peaceful resolution to our differences?
When we look at Hezbollah’s refusal of Israel’s state of existence, the Muslim fanatic’s refusal of western ideologies, and the Turkish refusal of the Kurdish problem, we see what creates never-ending wars. No peace will ever come between two different ideologies that pursue humanism unless they are willing to understand, accept – and respect – each others views, opinions and existence. We do not have to agree on everything, but like the old saying we should “agree to disagree”. Until we reach that conclusion as human beings, atrocities and bloodshed will continue.
The Turkish state needs to have the courage to make a move toward peaceful resolution by allowing dialog with Kurdish nation. True democratic systems do not have their own people take up arms against them. If Turkey was a truly democratic state, it would not have that problem. The reason we don’t see that in Sweden, USA, UK and most European nations is because, for most part, everyone has the same opportunities in the pursuit of happiness and equal representation.
The problem with Turkish state is that its approach on handling the Kurdish problem has been to persistently deny the Kurdish identity and to label all Kurdish attempts for peaceful resolution as terrorists. Turkey views the whole Kurdish population as terrorists. Ignorance will not make the problem go way, it only prolongs it. If Turkey destroys PKK tomorrow, the Kurdish problem will still exist. The sooner reality is accepted, the greater the chance for peace.

Friday, July 14, 2006

July 15, 2006

Kurdish genocide denied by Ramsey Clark Saddam’s attorney
Ardalan Hardi

Recently I ran across a Wolf Blitzer interview with Ramsey Clark that aired on CNN June 27, 2006. Wolf Blitzer asked the former attorney general about Saddam’s trial and his involvement in the Anfal campaign.

  • Wolf Blitzer: “I want to go through that Anfal campaign, which is the next trial that's supposed to start in August. The organization, Human Rights Watch, with which you are familiar, had a report in 1993 on the Anfal campaign.”

  • The report said “Saddam Hussein's government was involved in mass executions and disappearances; 50,000 people, 200,000 people in the Kurdish areas. There was widespread use of chemical weapons, destruction of 2,000 villages, arbitrary jailing of tens of thousands of women, children and elderly, forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Kurdish villagers.” That was according to Human Rights Watch. The report concluded that "while it would be unrealistic to expect President Saddam Hussein to put himself and his closest aides and relatives on trial, a successor government in Baghdad should not shirk from its responsibility to carry out a thorough investigation of these enormous crimes and prosecute all those involved to the full extent of the law." That's Human Rights Watch.... What do you make of it?

  • Clark: “I think they're wrong and I think in hindsight they would realize they're wrong, that you can't have a fair trial there because security doesn't permit it. And that's what we insisted upon in November of '05. You can't have a fair trial when your lawyers are getting killed, when you can't investigate your case, and you can't go forward. And that's very obvious”.

  • “If you're going to have a fair trial, you've got to have safety for everybody involved. And you don't have that. And we shouldn't presume innocence. The Defense Intelligence Agency, the DIA, the Central Intelligence Agency, the CIA, and the U.S. Marine Corps have all said that Iraq did not have gasses that were used in Anfal or in Halabja. And they've said that in The New York Times and everywhere else. So we'd better wait and assume innocence.”

  • “I think the presumption of innocence is not a technical rule of evidence; it's a way of life. You'd better keep your mind open. You'd better not be prejudiced if you want to survive in this life because you're creating prejudice and hatred by threats of execution and by unfair trials”.

How many mass graves have to be uncovered for Mr. Clark to be convinced that his client is one of the worst criminals this world has seen since Adolph Hitler? How many documents, witnesses, videos and pictures does Mr. Clark need to see to realize how ridiculous and hypocritical he sounds? How many documentaries have to be produced before Mr. Clark begins to see the truth? All of this, plus Saddam’s confession in court on ordering the killing of 140 Shiites, and we are asked to wait and not to be prejudiced.

Mr. Clark continually reminds us that the reason more than 200,000 Kurds and thousands of Shiites were brutally, inhumanely tortured and buried alive in mass graves by Saddam and his thugs was because they were “sentenced to death under Iraqi law, and it was for treason against your country in time of war, including an attempt to assassinate the president by the Dawa Party.” However, Clark forgets to mention the laws were created and manipulated by the dictator he is defending.

Let us assume you are right Mr. Clark. All 140 people in Dijal that attempted to assassinate Saddam and 5,000 Peshmarga forces that sided with Iran during Iraq – Iran war deserved to be sentenced for treason and death. What about all those reports of Kurdish and Shiites atrocities, mass graves of harmless women and children that are being discovered daily? What about the 5,000 civilians in Halabja? How could you say Saddam did not have poison gas ability when Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and every other human rights group that exists today are confirming the use of chemical weapons by Saddam on Kurdish civilians? What about the 4,000 villages that were uprooted from Kurdistan with the inhabitants never to be seen again? If Massud Barzani, the current president of Kurdistan, was guilty for leading the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) forces and siding with Iran, what about the 8,000 innocent Barzani civilians including men, women and children? What was their crime? What about Saddam’s own confession on Iraqi TV? Just one month after Barzani Kurds were taken, Saddam admitted publicly his regime was involved in their disappearance. When asked about his safety, Clark says he “feels pretty safe in Iraq. I'm an American. I can get in and out. I don't live there. My family's not there. I don't have to worry about my family.” That’s right, Mr. Clark, but tens of thousands of Kurds and Shiites families did not have that luxury under the brutal dictator you are defending.

U.S. president Abraham Lincoln once said “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally” I wonder how you would feel if you were a Kurd from Iraq and lived under Saddam laws and your family disappeared without a trace and you waited more than 15 years to hear something about their status only to find out they were buried alive in a mass grave some where in the dessert near Saudi Arabia. Would you still say the Human Rights Watch is wrong?

Mr. Clark is the same man who defended Karl Linnas, an ex-Nazi concentration camp guard in Estonia who oversaw the murder of some 12,000 resistance fighters and Jews. Clark is the same man who attended the funeral of Slobodan Milosevic and declared: "History will prove Milosevic was right. Charges are just that, charges. The trial did not have facts." Clark also described Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein as "both commanders" who "were courageous enough to fight more powerful countries.”

Mr. Clark these are not just baseless charges. This was genocide. There are hundreds of thousands of documentations captured by the Kurds from the Iraqi army that are stored at Colorado University in Boulder that prove genocide without a reasonable doubt.You have crossed a moral line and have lost your credibility by defending thugs like Saddam Hussein.

It is worthy of attention that Ramsey Clark is the son of Tom Clark who was also an attorney general under President Truman. President Truman admitted to a biographer that "Tom Clark was my biggest mistake." But Truman insisted: "It isn't so much that he's a bad man. It's just that he's such a dumb son of a bitch”. I wonder if Truman was alive today what he would say about young Mr. Clark.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Remembering Saddam's Victims

If you have half an hour to spare, this sunny afternoon, watch this PBS documentary, online:

Dr. Mohammed Ihsan is investigating the disappearance more than 20 years ago -- during the early years of Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship -- of 8,000 Kurdish men and boys. “This case is particularly significant,” says FRONTLINE/World reporter Gwynne Roberts. “Their abduction marks the point when Saddam’s regime moved from isolated acts of brutality to mass murder.” ...

Ihsan shows Roberts an eerie September 1983 black and white videotape in which Saddam summons Kurds to hear him denounce the “treachery” of the Barzanis. “They’ve been severely punished and have gone to hell,” Saddam declares. A captive audience obediently applauds. The abduction of the Barzani Kurds was the precursor to Saddam’s infamous Anfal campaign, in which his forces used terror tactics, including poisonous gas, to kill more than 100,000 Kurdish men, women and children.

Ihsan’s expedition gets under way from Arbil, a relatively peaceful and prosperous Kurdish city in northern Iraq. But even here, there is danger. In a bloody, chaotic scene, a suicide bomber kills 70 and injures 120 in a line of young Kurds waiting to join the police.

Via Nick Cohen.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Anti-terror law quashes peaceful Kurdish protest

Human Rights Watch:
June 22, 2006

The trial tomorrow of three Kurdish activists on anti-terrorism charges after they attempted to stage a peaceful protest near the Iraq border calls into question the Turkish leadership’s commitment to human rights reforms, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

To demonstrate that his government stands by the reform process, Prime Minister Erdoğan must ensure that Ibrahim Güçlü, Zeynel Abidin Özalp and Ahmet Sedat Oğur are released. These three Kurdish activists are scheduled to go on trial tomorrow in the eastern city of Diyarbakir. They were arrested on May 2 as they prepared to walk to the border of Iraq to peacefully protest the recent killings of civilians by security forces in southeastern Turkey and express their concern about tensions between the Turkish government and the Kurdish-led administration in northern Iraq.

The men are being charged under the Anti-Terror Law for “making propaganda for the PKK,” a charge that is all the more ironic in light of the fact that Güçlü has repeatedly and publicly condemned violence by the PKK (the Turkish acronym for the Kurdish Workers’ Party, a prominent illegal armed opposition group). All three are officials of Kurt-Der, a Kurdish association that Turkish authorities closed last month for conducting its internal business in the Kurdish language.

The detention and trial of these activists reflect a broader deterioration of Turkey’s human rights record in recent months, Human Rights Watch said. The Turkish leadership must reverse this negative trend and reaffirm its commitment to human rights reforms, underway since 1999 and driven partly by Turkey’s quest for European Union membership.
Human Rights Watch expressed strong concern about the disproportionate use of force by police dealing with protestors, particularly in the southeast, where 19 people have been killed in demonstrations and disturbances since November. The Turkish government must conduct swift investigations into the widespread allegations of torture and ill-treatment of people detained during violence that erupted after funerals in Diyarbakir of PKK militants killed by Turkish security forces.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Taqtaq, who’s there?
By Darya Ibrahim
Posted June 18, 2006

Who would have thought that a village as small as Taqtaq could ruffle so many feathers...
Nestled in the hills surrounding the town of Koya, is the small village of Taqtaq, which until recently was just another farming village in the Kurdish countryside. Following the discovery of oil beneath the little village, Taqtaq has become internationally known (at least to those in the oil industry).

Although the Kurds have known about this oil field since the 1960s, due to the political situation it was not explored. In 1995 just before the Kurdish civil war, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) instructed Genel Energy, a Turkish company, to start drilling the nearby Shiwashok oil field. In 2002, the KRG then signed a deal with Genel Energy and Adax (Canadian-Swiss company) to create a group with the KRG, called 'TTOPCO' Taqtaq operation company, and it was based in Taqtaq.

The group was tasked with preparing the area for the drilling of the Taqtaq oil fields. The project paused briefly during the liberation of Iraq, but recommenced once the Iraqi constitution had been approved.

The constitution allows the region to explore its natural resources: “The regions in the structure of Iraq may use the natural wealth that their region contains.”
Fast-forward to 14 May 2006 to the opening ceremony of the Taqtaq oil fields in the presence of Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and his deputy Omar Fatah. Taqtaq is no longer a sleepy village near Koya; it is a hub of oil industry activity. During the ceremony the various dignitaries offered their opinions on the Taqtaq oil fields.

Dilshad Abdulrahman, KRG Special Projects Supervisor, said: “The project should be completed by the end of this year, by the beginning of 2007 the plant will be producing 200 000 liters of oil a day.”

He added that in a couple of months time, they expected to start work on another two wells in Taqtaq. Abdulrahman then went on to say that some of the oil would be used to power a new electricity plant to help stem the growing shortage of electricity in the region.

Omar Fatah spoke about the importance of such projects for the region and congratulated the group on their hard work, reminding the crowds that it was President Jalal Talabani who put the ball back in motion in September 2005 following the pause taken during the war.

Prime Minister Barzani then spoke about the history of oil in the region saying that it was known in the 1960s that this area had oil: “From the 1960s, we knew that there was oil in this land, but we waited for freedom and our independence to conclude it.”

Barzani then went on to emphasize the importance of the provision in the constitution for the regions to be able to explore and harness the natural resources such as oil or gas in their region. Officials from TTOPCO were also there, Mehmed Sepil, Chief Executive of Genel Energy was keen to thank the KRG for their efforts in this project and he added that the group was hoping to expand beyond its 100 employees creating further jobs in the region.

The exploration and exploitation of oil in the Kurdish region has always been a contentious issue. Neighboring countries and indeed internal neighbors feel threatened by the prospect that the Kurds may actually be able to access and profit from their oil wealth. Saddam Hussein tried to “Arabize” the city and oil of Kirkuk during the notorious Anfal campaign of the 1980s, but he was only following in the footsteps of previous Baath regimes.

Many in the region view the Kurds accessing their oil wealth as a precursor to independence, which in the case of Iraq would deplete its national oil wealth. The external neighbors, namely Iran and Turkey have a two-fold fear of an independent Kurdistan. Not only would it cause unrest among the Kurds in those countries but it also raises the question of Kurdish natural resources (and profits) within their territories. Who would have thought that a village as small as Taqtaq could ruffle so many feathers?

Printed with permission. From Soma

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Another sad story - Red Kurdistan

June 05, 2006
By Nizameddin Rzayev

As a Kurd born in Red Kurdistan, the Kurdish area tucked away between Armenia and Azerbaijan and speaking very little Kurdish, ever since my childhood I became aware of our certain cultural differences from the rest of people-Azeris and Armenians around us. Although, I grew up speaking Azerbaijani, a branch of Turkic languages and some broken Russian, we still had a lot of strange-sounding, different words in our everyday language which were not used by Azeris. Afterwards I found out that these words were borrowed from Kurmanci which was our original language before being assimilated into speaking Azerbaijani. Some of the oldest community members were still able to speak Kurdish but since they belonged to the past that Soviet citizens had to dispense with in order to absorb “progressive” cosmopolitan communist ideals, they were in no position to pass on our cultural heritage and native language to us. Later my Mom told me that whenever her father and aunt did not want the children and outsiders to understand what they were talking about they switched from Azeri to Kurdish. All this knowledge further inflamed my insatiable, childish curiosity to delve into the mysterious past of my small part of Greater Kurdistan.

When we went to other parts of Azerbaijan and Armenia the locals called us Kurds or “Mountaineers” interchangeably. They sometimes sympathetically made fun of us because of our strict adherence to honor, self restraint and pride. For instance, we would seldom go to police or court if two people had any personal differences, viewing it a less manly means. There would always be older, respected member of our community there mediating to settle any problem. We could speak Azerbaijani fluently but with a distinct accent peculiar to only Kurds. We were on good terms with both Azeris and Armenians until the Karabax war threw us on the same side of battle with Azerbaijanis as their fellow citizens against Armenians.

Armenians evidently made no distinction between Moslem Kurds and Azeris when they captured all districts one by one that made up former Red Kurdistan adjacent to Nagorno Karabax. The irony was that Yezidi Kurds living in Armenia were fiercest Armenian soldiers fighting against their own brethren in Lachin and Kelbajar.

When I come to think about it, I tend to believe that the very same religious affinity with Azerbaijanis had been a big facilitating factor in the linguistic assimilation and loss of national identity of so many Kurds over the decades.

I had so many questions yearning for answer in my head about our Kurdish roots and history that I always bombarded my grandfather who could speak a broken Kurdish and other older people with my never-ending questions. But I was always disappointed not to find any reliable source exploring our national saga partly because any form of asserting national identity under Soviet Union was strongly discouraged and partly because most of the people in this part of Kurdistan had lost their history. The assimilation policy ruthlessly pursued against Kurds by the central government of Soviet Azerbaijan and isolation from their brethren in the “mainland” Kurdistan had done irreparable damage to Kurdish culture and language.

There were two theories voiced by elders as to the history of our community, one being that our grandfathers were moved as a part of 24 Kurdish tribes by Shah Abbas of Iran in 16th century from different parts of Irani Kurdistan and Xorasan to the Caucasus to fortify the borders of Safavids against Ottomans. But my grandfather claimed that we had come to the Caucasus from modern-day Southern Kurdistan (around modern Mosul, Kirkuk cities) 300 years before since our tribes (Ferihkhani) was one of the recalcitrant Kurdish tribes refusing to pay taxes to Ottomans. Thus, our true history was lost in the clouds of history and ruthless fate that befell Kurds in all the parts of our rightful homeland. Later I found out that Kurds had lived in the Caucasus since time immemorial, establishing strong Kurdish dynasties like Sheddadites, Revvadites that ruled big parts of modern-day Azerbaijan in 9th -13th centuries. Thus, there had always been Kurds in Red Kurdistan and other parts of Azerbaijan such as Nakhchevan before we came to settle in these beautiful, picturesque lands.

Kurds had left their indelible imprint on the folklore, music, literature and history of Azerbaijan. Old Mugams such as Kurd-Ovshari, Bayati-Kurd, Kurd-Shahnaz are still considered to be the best examples of classic music in modern-day Azerbaijan. In a famous epoch “Koroglu”, the bravery of “Kurdoglu” (Kurd’s son) against feudal pashas and landowners in redressing their injustices towards the poor and dispossessed is so exulted and praised. The world-famous classic of Azerbaijan literature Nizami Gencevi (1141-1209) devoted his famous poem “Xeyir and Sher” to the good deeds and virtues of a Kurdish girl and her rich farther, praising in so many words her beauty, compassion, generosity towards the helpless “Xeyir” by saving him from hunger and death.

During the heydays of perestroika launched by the last head of former Soviet Union, Gorbachov, there was a renewed interest in Kurdish culture and language. Late Shamil Askerov, a poet, tireless researcher and scholar on Kurdology born in Kelbajar were able to introduce Kurdish language classes in some Kurdish village schools. I remember how proud little Kurdish boys and girls were of new Kurdish words and phrases they had learned in school in my village called Zeylik. Unfortunately those good days were short-lived when the bloody Karabax war put an end to this initiative by dispersing all the Kurds around different corners of Azerbaijan.

Kurds lived in Red Kurdistan made up of four administrative units-Kelbajar, Lachin, Gubadly, Zengilan and part of Jebrail until 1993 when a long lasting bloody conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno Karabax drove all the Kurds out of their ancestral homeland. The founding and abolishment of Red Kurdistan is somewhat shrouded in mystery.

The tale related by our elders had it that Lenin personally gave the order to establish the Red Kurdistan. Nevertheless, there are certain facts that shed some light on the real story of this first-ever Kurdish Autonomy in modern history. Red Kurdistan was officially set up on July 7, 1923 by the decision of a Special Committee (The official Russian name was Kurdistanski Uezd), confirmed on July17 by the Executive Board of the Committee headed by S. Kirov, a high Bolshevik functionary. But the degree of autonomy granted on us paled in comparison to that of neighboring ethnic Armenians in Nagorno Garabax Autonomous Province. Kurdistanski Uezd was dissolved on April 8, 1929 after the Sixth Azerbaijani Congress of Soviets authorized the structural reshuffling of the administrative units.

Again on May 30, 1930 Central Executive Committee of Azerbaijan made the decision to establish Kurdistanski Okrug, Lachin chosen as its capital which also included other Kurdish districts-Zengilan and part of Jebrail rayonys (districts) that had been left out when Kurdistanski Uezd was created. But the Okrug only existed 2 and half months before the Central Executive Committee of Soviets and Council of People’s Commissar liquidated the Kurdistani Okrug on July 23, 1930. Interestingly, liquidation sidestepped the neighboring Nagorno Karabax Autonomous Province mostly because of the influence and strong resistance of Armenian communists in Moscow and Baku.

The role of nationalist Azeri beauracrats in this unjust decision for Kurds was probably substantial since there they had all the interest in the total assimilation of Azerbaijani Kurds and did not face any strong resistance from the mostly uneducated Kurdish Communities. By that time almost half the Kurds (mostly young generation) in this autonomous province had been assimilated into substituting widely-spoken Azerbaijani for their native Kurdish. The different official sources put the size of Kurdish population in Red Kurdistan at 60.000 after the October Revolution (1917) excluding the sizable Kurdish communities in Nakhchevan and other parts of Azerbaijan. To make matters worse, the official census taken in 1921 manipulated the real number of the Kurds by reclassifying those who did not speak Kurdish as a first language as “Azerbaijanis”. It is not surprising since Baku had no interest in the revival of Kurdish culture and national awareness among the young generation.

During this short-lived relative autonomy and a short period afterwards there were several government-sponsored expeditions led by V. Susoev, Chursin, orientalist V. Gurko, Kriyazhin, into the region to study the language, culture of the highlander Kurds.
Several articles on the Kurds of Soviet Azerbaijan were published in a communist newspaper “Zariya Vostoka” as a result of these expeditions.

Conference on national minorities was held in Baku in June 1931. Soviet author A Bukhspan published a very useful detailed booklet on the Kurds of Azerbaijan, traveling to lots of Kurdish villages and settlements in Kelbajar, Lachin and Nakchevan after the Moscow reproved Baku for its neglectful and chauvinistic policy towards the Kurdish minority. Around 30 Kurdish books were published in Azerbaijan between 1930 and 1938 despite the red tape and purposeful neglect by official Baku. Red Kurdistanis were briefly able to take Kurdish summer classes in 1931; the same year the newspaper “Soviet Kurdistan” was founded in Lachin; Kurdish Department was established at Shusha Pedagogical College In 1932 where my late grandfather, Jafar Ahmedov was sent as a teacher. For many years to come he would be deeply involved in the education of mountainous communities of Kelbajar and Lachin. His leadership and commitment to spreading education among the Kurdish villagers earned him a Lenin Order, one of the highest awards of Soviet Union.

This relative revival of Kurdish national awareness was cut short by Stalin’s notorious 1937- 1938 repression that was implemented with unheard of brutality by Mirrcefer Bagirov, the communist leader of Soviet Azerbaijan. The repression resulted in the closing of all Kurdish language schools and publication. Thousands of Kurds from Nakhchivan and Red Kurdistan were deported to Central Asian republics -Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan. My grandfather’s family was one of these unfortunate Kurdish families who were deprived of all their possessions and property, declared the “enemy of people” because of their former landowner’s status, and exiled under inhuman conditions to Central Asia.

Later, some but not all of these families made it back to their homeland after this nightmare period was over. Unsurprisingly, most of the Kurds in Central Asia nowadays are the descendents of those Kurdish families deported from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia during the repression years.

The deplorable situation for Kurdish culture and self-awareness did not change much even after the repression was eased with Stalin’s death.

Nevertheless, there were sporadic expeditions and published work by Russian kurdologists such as T. Aristova (1957), K. Kromov(1961) Ch.

Bakaev(1960), a Yezidi Kurd by background, that dealt with the dialect and culture of Azerbaijani Kurds despite obstructions of Baku.

Bakhaev found out the presence of considerable concentration of Kurdish communities in other parts of Azerbaijan such as Xachmaz, Ismayilli, Yevlax. He also noted that Kurdish language fluency had remarkably deteriorated among the Azerbaijani Kurds, particularly among the young generation, Nakhchevani Kurds being an exception. Their studies provide some useful but not convincing information on the size of Kurdish population and Kurdish settlements in the country since they extensively relied on official census data.

The policy of wiping out all the traces of Kurdish culture is confirmed by the official census taken in 1959, 1970, 1979, and 1989 in Soviet Azerbaijan which manipulated the size of Kurdish minority of Azerbaijan to a greater extent by reclassifying most of the Kurds as “Azerbaijani”. The result was ridiculously low statistic for the size of Kurdish population in the country: 1,487 Kurds in 1959, 5, 488 Kurds in 1970, 5,676 Kurds in 1979, 12,226 Kurds in 1989. Besides, all the other new settlements in Red Kurdistan that had brunched out from the older Kurdish villages were reclassified as Azerbaijani villages purely because of the fact that the young brainwashed inhabitants in these settlements used Azerbaijani as their first language. (The widely-accepted consensus today is that there are at least 500,000 Kurds in Azerbaijan, a country of 8 million, excluding those who have been completely assimilated whereas the official data only admits the presence of 13-14 thousand Kurds in Azerbaijan)

The biggest disaster was still ahead for Red Kurdistan. The Upper Karabakh War Btween Armenia and Azerbaijan broke out in 1988 after the Armenian nationalists of Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia demanded separation of this autonomous province from Azerbaijan. The long-lasting conflict(1988-1995) had dire consequences for the population of Red Kurdistan: All the Kurdish settlements and districts were occupied by Armenian forces with the military support of Russia. The fierce rivalry for power in Baku and consequent confrontation between the different factions of unorganized National Army rendered Azerbaijani troops completely unable to defend the territories of the Republic, losing all the districts of Red Kurdistan – Lachin (1992), Kelbajar(1993), Zengilan(1993), Gubadli(1993),Cebrayil(1993) to Armenian forces without any resistance. As a result, the inhabitants of this former Kurdish Autonomy were driven out of their homelands and scattered around different parts of Azerbaijan.

Most of the displaced Kurdish population still lives in refugee tents and temporary settlements under harsh circumstances, waiting to turn back to their native homelands for over 13 years. The negotiations between Azerbaijan and Armenia to find a peaceful solution for resolving the conflict has produced no results so far. The Kurdish Cultural Center -“Ronayi”, is virtually unable to promote the Kurdish culture and language among the young assimilated Kurds because of lack of funding and watchful eye of government with evident pressure from Turkey. The dispersal of the Kurdish communities around the different corners of the country further complicates the task of putting up a common front to save our culture and language from the verge of extinction. However, a lot can be done to help revive the Kurdish culture in Azerbaijan by working towards practical goals such as opening Kurdish language courses and schools, providing the material to teach Kurdish, sending the young Kurds of Azerbaijan to study in cities like Suleymani, Hawler of Southern Kurdistan. In this respect, the Kurdish Diaspora in Europe, Kurdistan Regional Government and higher Kurdish officials of Iraq today can play an important role in improving the lot of these communities and facilitating the revival of our cultural heritage on the brink of extinction.