Friday, July 27, 2007

Democracy will not come to Kurdistan as long as there are the White “holy” 4-wheel drive convoys…. - By Werner Nijman in Suleymaniya

We have all seen them…. Suddenly, several white Land-cruisers or Patrol cars appear behind you on the road, with flashing lights, and guards waving to the cars in front of them to get out of their way fast. As soon as the car in front has been frightened, and moved to the side of the road, the white cars with their blackened windows speed past, while the guards in the passenger seat make some offensive or impatient gestures.

Who are these people that seem to have a right to ignore normal traffic regulations, and scare every one out of their way? Who are these “special passengers” that even the traffic police do not want to stop, in stead, often stop other road users who would have the right of way, so that the string of white “holy” cars can speed thru?

The phenomenon of the speeding white big cars seems to be increasing. More and more of those cars seem to have taken to the road.

Why? What is behind this? Why doesn’t police or government do anything to stop this trend of civil disobedience, or better expressed, clear provocation to traffic rules and regulations? Or is it that the authorities can’t do anything to stop this? Obviously, traffic rules are broken, speed records are being broken, both inside and outside the towns, red lights and stop signs from police officers are being ignored, let alone, many lives are in danger by this reckless driving. Actually, lives have been lost because of this arrogant road behaviour. If other road users would behave in the same manner, they would be in serious problems, probably their car will be confiscated, and likely receive huge fines if caught with this bad attitude towards road safety or driving courtesy.

The white “holy” cars with their guards can “legally” stop anywhere they want, even if it is in the middle of a busy intersection, so that the person that needs protection, can easily get in or out of the vehicle. No worries are needed about any other road user, they just have to wait…. The white cars are “untouchable”.Sometimes when a small convoy like this arrives at their destination, the guards will block of the road at the two ends, so that the passenger or passengers of “importance” can go in or out of the car to the house or office, or shop (e.g. buying groceries in Zara Supermarket), without any danger for his life….(!!)Who are these people? Are they so special that even the laws of a civilized society can not touch them?

The tradition has become that if a person has been an important (or less important) Peshmerga, or if he has got high placed family or friends, or if he has made his money thru either a profitable business or corruption(!), the lucky man will then buy himself two or more of those white four-wheel drive vehicles, preferably Toyota or Nissan, top models. Then hire a small army of private guards (some are known to have up to 200 armed individuals providing protection). They all receive some training in how to intimidate people, either with their guns or with their cars, and hey… the right image has been created! Another person with “holy” cars, that demands other people to bow…. Is this the right development to encourage democracy?

It must be added though that some people have those rights on protection, i.e. the president of Iraq, the Prime Minister(s), or some other people of importance. But……….. should people running companies have this kind of treatment? Should people that have retired from fighting Saddam continue with this kind of behaviour that they disliked of the previous regime? Should individuals in general be allowed this kind of “presidential” privileges???

For sure, as long as some individuals can demand or intimidate the majority of the population to make way for them, to vacate the best parking places, to wait in front of a traffic light that is green and make every one else wait, as long as these kind of small “dictators” are roaming the streets of Suleymaniyah, democracy will still be a long way of.

And as demanding priority on the roads isn’t enough, and show the neighbours that they are people of statue, they will block the road in front of their houses with big, concrete blocks, or barricades, and again, the guards with their guns. This way, everyone can know where they live and that they are important!!! But….. will they be important enough for insurgents to be targeted…??? For some reason I doubt that terrorist or suicide killers would regard these so called “home-made” V.I.P.s as valid targets… The only people these home-made people of importance have to fear, are the enemies they have made themselves, by their appalling road behaviour as displayed daily on the public roads of Suleymaniyah.