Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Lessons From a Kurdish Poet

Kurdishaspect.com - By Ardalan Hardi

Psychiatrists agree that the first few years of our lives are by far the most important. These years determine what kind of life we will lead in the future and our outlook towards the world.
Recalling on my childhood experiences, I have many cherished memories of my father and how he; educated, cared and taught us many lessons about life. Many of those lessons guide my simple life to this day. Today marks two years since he departed from this world . On the second anniversry of his passing, I can’t help but think of him and the stories he told . He had a great gift of storytelling and an uncanny memory for exceptional tales. Some stories he had read and some he had made up.

My Dad, Ahmed Hardi, was a very well respected Kurdish poet from Sulaymania Sothern Kurdistan (northern Iraq). Dedicated to the Kurdish cause he decided to leave the city and he joined the Kurdish uprising lead by Mala Mustafa Barzani in the late 1960’s.

We settled in a village called Awakurte that was under the control of the Kurdish Peshmarga forces at the time. My dad rented a room from one of the Village farmers we came to know as Mam Ali. Awakurte was on the border of Eastern Kurdistan north east of Sulaymania, before Saddam leveled it to the ground during his Anfal campaign. The village was nestled in the stunning colorful Zagros Mountains overlooking the clear cold gushing Qamishli River that defines the Iran-Iraq border . The landscapes were deemed the acme of beauty. With its stunning, unmatched, breathtaking views this little village seemed millions of miles away from the rest of civilization. The inhabitants in this simple yet devoted Kurdish village were mostly small farmers.

On summer nights everyone would sleep under the moonlight. As a kid I would lay in bed looking at the bright sparkling stars pondering many thoughts. I often wondered if people from the other side of the world saw the same stars as I did. I wondered if there was a ceiling to the sky that could be touched by man and what lies beyond that ceiling? Filled with curiosity, my childhood imagination would take me to distant places of a utopian world of what could be. The sound of crickets, the howling of the distant dogs, the soothing echoes of mountain streams and the whispering leaves of the walnut trees as they were ruffled by the cool breeze in the tranquil moonlight created a poetic melody that could have only been musical tones from God. I would gradually fall asleep to these sounds only to visit another world, the untroubled kingdom of dreams.

Many times at dawn we would wake up to the roaring engines of Iraqi planes bombing Kurdish villages. In panic, my mom would rush us all down to a dug up underground cellar for protection. For a few brief moments those dreams and imaginations of the previous night would be cracked.
Winters in Kurdistan were long and harsh. Fluffy white snow would dress Awakurte like a beautiful bride waiting for spring to begin a new life all over again. From a distance the only sign of life in Awakurte was the streams of smoke that rose from the chimneys. On those cold winter nights our only contact with the outside world was dad’s shortwave, battery-operated radio that he used to listen to the BBC or Radio Europe. Every night there was a battle between dad and the radio antennas. Dad was fighting for better reception and the antennas refused to surrender. Frequently the stubborn antennas would get the best of Dad and in frustration he would set the Radio aside near his pillow where his cotton filled mattress lay. This was also where he slept. He would get up and start pacing the little room only to try again a few minutes later, then the combat would start all over again. The struggle against the antennas would go on until the news hour had passed.

We all lived and slept in one room that was built out of mud. The walls were 3 ft wide. The single metal black door was covered with blankets, hung like curtains to keep the cold out. The door was leading to the balcony that led to 4 steps which took you to the outhouse another 20 feet away. As a kid who came from the city that had plumbing and electricity, this was difficult to get used to.

But there was one thing we all looked forward to in those bitter winter nights and that was Dad’s stories. After dinner, we all huddled ourselves around the wood burning stove that was in the middle of the room that Mom kept going to keep us warm while we eagerly waited for Dad to tell us one of his stories.

One of the stories that has wedged in my mind since child hood was the story of “This too shall pass. The story went like this: A long time ago there lived a King who had a Minister that he firmly relied on and trusted with confidence. One day The King started to question his own judgment of his most trusted Minister so he decided to test the Minister’s loyalty.

To test the Minster’s devotion the King took the Minster and granted him even more power to command and control where he could have easily removed the King from power. But the Minister stayed devoted at all times to the King and the idea of taking the throne never crossed his mind. Then the King took him from all of that prominence and power and accused him of treason, ridiculed him in public and locked the Minister up in prison. The King then planted spies in the minister's cell to see what he had to say, but the minister never once uttered an unfavorable word about the King.

The King finally called for his trusted adviser the minster and said “I gave you all the powers of a King where you could have easily taken over the throne, but you did not. Then I punished you for no reason, ridiculed and imprisoned you, but you remained loyal”. I want to know how this is possible, asked the king?

“Well my King” said the Minister. When I was a teenager my dad sent for me while lying on his death bed and wanted to talk to me about his will. At first, I thought to myself, "my Dad has nothing", We were very poor what could he offer me? But then I thought he is my father no matter what and I went to see him. He said “Son I have nothing to leave for you except this ring”. He pulled this ring off his finger and handed it to me. Inside the gold ring a statement was engraved that read “this too shall pass”. Then my dad looked at me and said “if you ever come to point in your life were you feel alone, disheartened and nothing goes right for you and you think of taking your own life just remember never to give up because “This too shall pass”. He continued, “if you ever succeed and make it to the top where you have all the powers that this world has to offer remember never ever forget where you came from and those you have left behind because,"this too shall pass”. So you see sir, no matter what you gave me or did to me all I had to do is look at the ring that my father has left me to overcome my personal ambitions and depressions. All I had to do is to look at the ring and realize “this too shall pass”.

Every night was a different message from my Dad. Whether it was the story about courageous escape under difficult conditions by of Mustafa Barzani after the collapse of Mahabad Republic, where he and 500 of the Peshmarga fought the armies of Iran, Iraq and Turkey until they reached the former Soviet Union where they became refugees or the story of the bravery of Kaway Asngar were Zahak's rule lasts for a thousand years during which two young men are sacrificed daily to provide their brains to the serpents to alleviate the pain that Zahak felt. Until one day, Kawa, an iron worker whom the king had sacrificed all his twelve sons for the Gods walked up to the Kings palace with his ax and freed the people from the unjust and tyranny. And the story of Abraham Lincoln, a self educated man from a poor family born in a log cabin in the slave state of Kentucky became the President of the United States and abolished slavery ,or the story of a friend and half that taught us what true friendship is all about.

We did not know it at the time but all those late night stories in Awakurte taught us children lessons for the rest of our lives. Whether it was Kurdish history through Mala Mustafa’s bravery, respecting others rights through Lincoln’s "all men are created equal", bravery through Kaway Asngar or patience through "this too shall pass" or conquering and facing ones fear through Uncle Chwanar a children story told of a man that was afraid of darkness. They all were teachings from a great man preparing us for life with all of its ups and downs, brilliant and radiant beauty and sometimes atrocious cruelty.

As a child, I loved my Dad for the stories he told us kids, now that I am much older I love him even more for his profound wisdom and the lessons he taught me through the significances of those stories on how to lead my life as a decent human being.

Today, I live happily in one of the greatest countries in the world, America, with all the gadgets that world has to offer at my finger tips but none of these toys are equal to one of those nights in Awakurte and Dad’s stories.

I am sure he is up there in heaven surrounded by angels telling stories of Kurdish misfortunes, building a case for Kurdish independence.

I wonder if he has persuaded God yet, that Kurds too deserve a state of their own.
Not a day goes by when I do not think of you.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Is Jalal Talabani one of the few?

Kurdishaspect.com - By Ardalan Hardi

There are very few great leaders in this world that have voluntarily vacated their post for the good of their people. Very few have risen to this legendary status in world history. Great leaders have inspired us to follow their patriotic examples. George Washington, the first President of United States is one of those exemplary leaders. After holding the Continental Army together through eight hard years of war, at war's end he took affront at the notion he should be King; and after two terms as President, he gracefully stepped aside.

Washington manifested himself as the exemplar of republican virtue in America. He was a man with great personal integrity, and a deeply held sense of duty, honor and patriotism. He rejected nepotism and cronyism. One of Washington’s greatest achievements, in terms of republican values, was refraining from taking more power than was due.

Is Jalal Talabani one of the few?

With the precipitous decline in the relationship between Nawshirwan Mustafa and the PUK’s Politburo, the PUK is put into an almost impossible position in securing the future of the organization. The consequence of this war of words between Mala Backtyar and Arsalan Bayiz on one side, and Nawshirwan Mustafa on the other, could jeopardize the future of PUK as a united political organization. It could also derail the current Kurdish achievements within Iraq and the Middle East.

The current internal turmoil within the PUK could put the two opposing political ideologies within PUK (the reformist and those against it) on a possible collision course toward another useless internal war and political division that would most definitely be against the national interest of Kurdistan.

While it is easy to maintain order within the ranks of PUK as long as President Talabani is in office, it will not be easy to maintain order should something happen to Talabani. Neither the PUK nor its leadership can be held together without Talabani’s presence. This fact is very well understood by the PUK leadership and all those who are close to the situation in Kurdistan.

At this critical juncture in the history of Kurdistan, this imminent danger could cause a major catastrophe not just for PUK but also for the Kurdish nation if not addressed. The only person that can simmer this boiling pot and secure PUK unity is president Talabani. The PUK’s survival determines President Talabani’s legacy. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that the President addresses the issues that have been looming over PUK.

In the interest of Kurdish citizens, peace and the stability in Kurdistan, President Talabani needs to bring all parties to the dialogue table and work out their differences. For the sake of our nation, he should persue a real democratic reform. An election should be held for his successor.

What ever the outcome, Talibani should stand behind the newly elected Secretary General 100%. By supporting the new secretary general, he will not only set a democratic standard for others to follow but he will also leave a legacy unprecedented in Kurdish history.

PUK has achieved many great milestones under President Talabani’s reign. Now Talabani has an opportunity that no other Kurdish leader before him ever had. He can voluntarily leave his post as the secretary general of PUK to ensure the preservation of the unity of the PUK and join the few legendary leaders like George Washington.

The question is, “is Talabani capable of refraining from taking more power than is due?” That remains to be seen.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Birth Pains of an Independent Press

It was only eight years ago that Iraqi Kurdistan saw the birth of its first independent newspaper, Hawlati. Despite numerous obstacles, the paper has managed to survive and thrive. Asos Hardi, who was part of the team that launched Hawlati, looks back at how the independent press in Iraqi Kurdistan came about.

Arab Press - By Asos Hardi

Throughout its existence, the Kurdish press has been one of revolution and resistance. The division of Kurdistan into different states, and the denial of the Kurdish identity by these states, forced all free voices that called for freedom and equality to either go underground and turn to covert resistance, or emigrate. The first Kurdish newspaper was created in Cairo in 1898 by a group of politicians that fled from the oppression of the Ottoman regime.

It is well known that resistance militancy imposes its own conditions on the press, turning it into a tool of revolution and liberation which aims primarily at contributing effectively to mobilizing all energies of the revolution and to guide the various segments of society towards the adoption of the militant resistance discourse. This was also the direction of the "free press" in Kurdistan during the years of resistance and armed struggle.

In Iraqi Kurdistan, the popular uprising in 1991 and the liberation of a large part of the country from dictatorship was a real turning point for journalism, and the Iraqi Kurdish people in general. Since that date, Iraqi Kurdistan has become a de facto free region, governed by Kurdish parties (from here on Iraqi Kurdistan is referred to as Kurdistan).

At this time, the need for an enthusiastic and revolutionary discourse ceased to be a mandatory practice, and the birth of the press as we know it today turned into a necessity required by the transformation of the political and social situation of the Kurdish community. The objective conditions were quite helpful to this respect - in theory at least. We should, however, acknowledge that it was not an easy birth.

The Kurdish political movement was originally multilateral, containing different ideological and political currents ranging from the Marxist left to the nationalistic and Islamic right. However, Kurdish political parties failed to establish a system that would regulate political work in Kurdistan and guarantee the continuation of political pluralism and the peaceful transfer of power. The relative stability of the security situation collapsed soon, and the different political parties began fighting one another. That fight started in 1993 and reached its peak in 1994 when the two major parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) became involved, pushing the Kurdish administration into two separate entities in 1996, which is still the situation today.

It would, however, be unfair to neglect the economic aspect and not mention the deteriorated economic situation of Kurdistan in those difficult years. Kurdistan was suffering from a multilateral economic embargo. As a part of Iraq, it was placed under international embargo after the first Gulf war, and in addition to that under the siege imposed by the Iraqi regime and the neighbouring countries that were seeking the collapse of the Kurdish situation politically and economically. It was difficult - if not impossible - to think of a free press in those circumstances. How could free press arise amid the harsh conditions of the fighting and economic stagnation?
That situation persisted until 1996, when Iraq accepted the UN Security Council resolution No. 986, known as "Oil for Food". The resolution became a clear turning point in economic and political terms: it played a prominent role in improving the economic situation, and also created some movement on the Iraqi market.

The second positive change came in 1998, when American mediation managed to put an end to the fighting inside Kurdistan, and the warring parties signed a peace agreement in Washington.
Due to the above mentioned, the idea of creating an independent newspaper was put off until 2000, that is to say following the relatively large change in the political and economic conditions of Kurdistan. That was when a young publisher and the manager of his firm had an idea. Both had been running a small printing press in the city of Sulaymaniyah (called Randge Print), and had long supported young writers by printing and publishing their works. They also helped disseminate voices and opinions that criticised the political and administrative situation in Kurdistan. The two entrepreneurs decided to talk about their idea with a limited number of young writers (including the author of these lines) by mid-2000. We were convinced by the idea and decided to start working on it.

The beginning was very difficult. Tension between the two major Kurdish political parties was still dominant in the political situation, and they used to look askance at every new project that did not come from their traditional supporters, seeing it as a seditious plot, woven by the rival party. We had to work with care and caution and move in small, but continued, steps. We did not believe in "revolutionary and immediate" change, as the common expression goes. We were well aware of the seriousness of the situation, yet believed that we had a margin of freedom which we had to use in a rational way so that we could secure and try to expand as much as possible.
We decided, as a first step, to try our best to dissipate the suspicions and the fears of the two political parties, seeking for the newspaper a name that was far from all sensitivities and ideological allusions, and making our financial reports public. We chose the Kurdish name "Hawlati", meaning "Citizen", and adopted transparency as a method by publishing our financial reports in full every three months on the pages of our newspaper, so that our financial sources were clear to all.

Without going into too much detail, I think it is necessary to give a brief explanation of the difficulties that we faced then, and still face to some extent:

Subjective difficulties:

1) As I indicated earlier, the biggest dilemma we faced was that we were not professional journalists, which were a rarity in Kurdistan. We were simply people brought together by their conviction of the need to create a free newspaper, an independent source of information and a free platform for the dissemination of different views points. We tried to learn by reading books on journalism, and our own mistakes, many times, turned out as our best teacher. Whenever a foreign journalist visited us, we used to ask for his or her own experience in order to learn from it.

2) Believing in the principle that states: "there is no independence without economic independence", we decided from the outset neither to accept nor ask for any financial assistance from any political party or official source. However, a few months after launching our newspaper, we faced a financial crisis. We then started to address readers and members of the Kurdish community living abroad seeking their help. Fortunately enough, a large portion of readers responded favourably, and a substantial number of those living outside the country decided to provide us with financial assistance each month. We carried on with that help during almost one year, until we reached a stage where we could rely on the revenues of the newspaper, and cease to receive financial assistance.

As for the difficulties that we faced in the journalistic work, I may well summarize them in the following points:

Firstly, the laws and the judicial system. These were, and still are, a big problem for us. On one hand, there is the Publications Act introduced by the former regime with the sole aim to suppress freedoms, and nothing else. On the other hand, we cannot say that the judiciary is fully independent in Kurdistan. The interference of the executive authority and the ruling political parties is quite visible at times.

Secondly, the prevailing political mentality. It is known that the intellectual roots of the Kurdish political parties, as is the case in the Middle East in general, stem from totalitarian ideologies: Marxist nationalism or Islamic, as in recent decades. It is true that the slogans and the political trends have changed a lot, but the remnants of that old mentality still prevail among some. The logic of "with me or against me" remains strong for certain people.

Thirdly, there is a problem related to the culture of society. Although the Kurdish community is more open in comparison to the surrounding communities, it is still a conservative society that does not easily accept the trespassing of cultural taboos. It is not easy for the press to talk about social and intellectual issues that are considered sensitive, such as sex, women, religion, etc.
Last but not least, the difficulty to access information sources was, and continues to be, one of the biggest obstacles to the journalistic work in Kurdistan. Information normally lies with the authorities, which monopolize and prevent the publication of what they deem harmful to their interests.

In short, we have faced various difficulties. We were targeted by accusations bordering the limit of treason, and sometimes subjected to the abuse of existing laws and even convicted. Some of our colleagues have been victims of physical violence and arbitrary imprisonment. There were occasions when all partisan media outlets (newspapers, radio and television) were used to tarnish our reputation and steer public opinion against us, etc. Despite all that, we have been able to stay in the race and put up with all the pressures and constraints. Therefore, I am not pessimistic. The fact that Hawlati's has continued to exist to this day, and through the recent birth of the daily Owinh (Mirror), the second independent newspaper in Kurdistan and for which I work now, is an evidence of the margin of freedom to which I referred earlier, as well as an opportunity to move on towards building an open society. The Kurdish authority, despite all the critical comments we might hold against it, has duly assumed the existence of independent newspapers which sometimes targets it sometimes with pungent criticism. That is not to say that we live in a paradise of democracy and freedom of expression. There is still a lot of work ahead to leave dictatorship and totalitarian rule behind, and to build a democratic, open society.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

3 Kurdish teenagers could stand trial for singing rebel song in US

The Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey: A lawyer says three Kurdish teenagers could stand trial for allegedly singing a Kurdish rebel song under rebel flags during a music festival in the United States in October.
Defense lawyer Baran Pamuk says the teenagers were part of a 15-member chorus that allegedly sang a song called "Enemy" during a tour of San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. He says an indictment demands their prosecution on charges of spreading the separatist propaganda of the rebel Kurdistan Workers' Party, which is fighting the Turkish state.
Pamuk said Tuesday a court will decide whether to hear the case. The three are aged between 16 and 17.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Turkish secularism breaches democracy

Kurdishaspect.com - By Dr. Kirmanj Gundi

In its simplest form, secularism can be defined as an ideology, which separates religion from the state affairs. It guarantees the right to be free from religious rule and teaching. It is not against religion, but independent of it. Secularism doesn’t necessarily mean democracy, albeit it can be used as a step toward modernization, and establishing democratic institutions in which equality and equity is fairly observed within the social, political and economic context.

In 1846, for the first time, the British writer George Jacob Holyoake introduced the term “secularism” as a notion of “free thought,” to serve as a “frame of social contemplation.” Later, in his article, Secular Ethics, published in 1896, Holyoake defined secularism as follows:

Secularism is a code of duty pertaining to this life, founded on considerations purely human, and intended mainly for those who find theology indefinite or inadequate, unreliable or unbelievable. Its essential principles are three: 1) The improvement of this life by material means, 2) That science is available providence of men, and 3) That it is good to do good. Whether there be other good or not, the good of the present life is good, and it is good to seek that good.

Basic characteristics of secularism are premised on a conceit of “goodness” where common human beings are granted equal opportunity to develop. Nonetheless, under many secular regimes including Turkey, secularism is perpetuated at the expense of basic democratic principles. Turkey as an Islamic country governed by radical secularism whose guardian is military institution and is against every religious accoutrement.

When Turkey’s parliament lifted the ban of “headscarf” to give women in Turkey an opportunity to exercise their God-given right and wear it if they so desired, the military and radical secularists attempted to vitiate the AKP government and accused President Gul and Prime Minister Ordagan of undermining the Turkish secularism. Giving back the right to citizens to exercise their natural rights is not a breach of secularism, but a modus operandi of a plural and multicultural democracy. It is true that secularism would be enervated if religious indoctrinations were embodied in the Constitution. But similarly, a rigid refusal to allow citizens the right to freely express their cultural and religious beliefs in public, as long as that expression of their beliefs does not violate the freedom of others, transforms ‘secularism’ into “radical secularism,” which creates a culture of intolerance. The legislative body that has denounced the headscarf ban has not meant to change the Turkish Constitution from secular to a theocratic system, but rather to encourage the democratization of Turkish society.

The recent action by the Turkish chief prosecutor against the AKP and current government to ban them from politics is another reminder to the world about how gravely the Turkish justice system is deficient of true justice and therefore lacks moral authority.

The Islamo-phobia that the Turkish Generals have created and used as a vindication to maintain their influence on the political decision-making process and excoriate liberal democracy is a breach of every democratic principle and can only weaken democratic elements. This prevents Turkey from achieving its dream of becoming a respected member of the European Union. For Turkey to embrace its goals, it must not only be seen as a secular state, but also accepted as a democratic nation who respects democratic practices. Only then can Turkish secularism complement a democratic society.

Democracy as a political philosophy is premised on the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, rule of law, freedom of religion, and civil control of the military. It is founded on pluralism and majority rule with the respect to the minority rights. Therefore, for Turkey to grow into a civil society, it must respect human rights, grant genuine civil liberties, and hold its citizens equal before the law.

Turkish radical secularists can no longer claim that they enjoy popular support by “pinning democratic labels upon themselves.” They must allow citizens of Turkey to exercise their democratic prerogatives. To do so, they need to overcome the narrow and exclusionary idea of “Turkishness,” and accept Turkey as a state with citizens, not “Turks,” but citizens from a mosaic of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, which are a legitimate part of the region’s history and its future – one that is made culturally rich and dynamic by virtue of a plural society. Turkey needs to reform its social, political and economic policies across the nation in order to prosper. It cannot live in peace with itself unless it recognizes its own multi-ethnic identity, and its ambition of becoming part of Europe can only remain a distant dream. Turkey must pull itself out of the cycle of fear and hate in order to have a more internal tranquility and better future with its neighbors.

Dr. Kirmanj Gundi is a professor at Department of Educational Administration and Leadership at Tennessee State University in Nashville, Tennessee.

About.com. (2008). Agnosticism/Atheism, Secularism 101: Religion, Society, and Politics.

Holyoake, George J. (1896). Secular Ethics. Publication English Secularism.

Miller, Lisa (2008). In Defense of Secularism. http://www.newsweek.com/id/112719.
USINFO.STATE.GOV (Website, 2008). What Is Democracy?


Friday, January 11, 2008

Text of Kurdistan Journalism Act passed by Kurdistan parliament

Kurdishaspect.com - Translated by Dr Kamal Mirawdeli

Translated from the Kurdish text published by Rozhnama, Sulaymnaiya, daily newspaper in Kurdish, 6 Jan 08, p4

Report: "Text of Kurdistan Media Law passed by Kurdistan parliament and sent to the President of the Region for approval"

In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
In the name of people
National Assembly of Kurdistan – Iraq

With reference to the power of Clause (1) of Article (56) of Act No 1 of the year 1992 and the request submitted by the Council of Ministers, Kurdistan National Assembly passed the following Act in its meeting No 33 on 11 January 2007.
Parliament Act No 35 of the Year 2007

Journalism Act in Kurdistan

In these articles the words standing in the first column of the Table set out below shall bear the meanings set out opposite to them respectively in the second column, if not inconsistent with the subject or context:

Article 1:

[In this Act] the following terms below shall bear the meanings set out opposite to them:
1.1Region: Kurdistan region- Iraq.
1.2Syndicate: Syndicate of Kurdistan journalists
1.3Secretary: Secretary of [Syndicate] of Kurdistan journalists
1.4Media (journalism): any journalistic activity in various media channels
1.5Journalist: any person engaged in journalistic work with media channels
1.6Newspaper: any publication under a definite name, that is published periodically, consecutively and regularly and distributed

Article 2:

2.1 Media (journalism) is free and uncensored. Freedom of expression and publication is guaranteed for every citizen within the framework of respecting private liberties and rights of individuals, their privacy, common customs and system in line with law and commitment to the principles of media work according to the UN conventions.
2.2 Journalists are free to obtain the information which is important for citizens and relevant to public interest from diverse sources provided that this will not affect the national security of the region.
2.3 Journalists should protect the sources of their information or news and keep them confidential unless the court decides otherwise in relation to the cases brought to court.
2.4 All natural or moral persons have the right to own and publish a newspaper in line with the power of this Act.
2.5 A newspaper cannot be prevented from publication, or appropriated unless with a court order.

Terms for publication of newspapers, closing down and dissolution

Article 3

For the publication of a newspaper the following terms and conditions must be followed:
3.1 Proprietor or founder will [have to] publish a statement in two daily newspapers in the region in which the name, surname, nationality and residence address of the proprietor or founder together with the title of the newspaper, the language it is published in, the name of the editor and the frequency of its publication are written. This statement will be considered as the declaration of the publication of the newspaper.
3.2 Any stakeholder (person with interest) who has objections to the publication of the newspaper can register his/her objection at the Appeal Court in the region asking for a judicial review. Otherwise the publication of the newspaper will be legally valid.
3.3 The proprietor of founder must submit the statement of foundation to and register it with the Ministry of Culture together with a statement declaring the sources of funding for the publication. The Ministry will have to submit this information to the Syndicate.
3.4 Person publishing a newspaper must be legally qualified to do so.
3.5 It is not permissible to publish two newspapers in the region carrying the same title (name).
3.6 Proprietor or founder must write his name, the name of the editor, the place and time of its publication and the printing press in a visible area of the newspaper and he/she must publish any changes in these within 30 days from the date of the occurrence of the changes.

Article 4

Every newspaper must have an editor-in-chief who will oversee the items published in the newspaper. He must have the following qualifications:
4.1 He must be a member of syndicate of Kurdistan journalists and be fluent in the spoken and written language of the publication.
4.2 Must be a citizen of the region or a permanent resident.
4.3 Editor-in-chief and writer [of an item] have civil and penal responsibility for the publication of the item while the proprietor will have only civil responsibility unless it is proven that he practically contributed to the writing [of the item] then he will have the same responsibility as that of the editor-in-chief.

Article 5

A newspaper is considered dissolved in one of the following cases:
5.1 If it failed to publish after six months from its validation date without a legitimate justification
5.2 If a court order made such a decision
5.3 If it failed to publish for the following periods:
5.3.1 A daily newspaper for three consecutive days
5.3.2 A weekly newspaper for 8 consecutive issues
5.3.3 A bimonthly and monthly newspaper for four consecutive issues
5.3.4 Seasonal periodicals for three consecutive issues

Article 6

With consideration to the guidelines stipulated in this Act, proprietor is entitled to give up his ownership wholly and partly to another person provided that a declaration to this effect is published in a daily newspaper 30 days before the date of this change.

Responses and Corrections

Article 7

7.1 If a newspaper publishes something false, the person who is affected by the published item, his/her inheritors or those who are his/her legal representative can ask for its correction or to respond to the item of news or article. The Editor-in-chief must publish the correction or the response in one of the two issues that are due for publication after they receive the response, in the same place of the newspaper and with the same typeface and size of the [false] item.
7.2 The newspaper is required to publish the correction or the response; otherwise it will be fined with a sum of money no less than 1 million dinars and not exceeding two millions.
7.3 The editor is entitled not to publish the correction or the response he/she receives according to the clauses 7.1 and 7.2 above in the following cases:
7.3.1 If the newspaper had already made accurate and satisfactory correction
7.3.2 If the correction or response sent to the editor was signed by a nickname or written in a language different from the language of the published item
7.3.3 If the content of the response was contrary to law, common custom and morality.
7.3.4 If the response or the correction was sent 90 days after the publication of the item

Rights and Privileges of the Journalist

Article 8

8.1 Journalists are free and they are under the control of no power in the process of practising their profession apart from the power of law.
8.2 The opinions and views a journalist publishes in a newspaper or the information he reveals, must not cause any disturbance of his life or affect his rights
8.3 The journalist is entitled to refuse to disclose the sources of his information unless this is demanded by a court order
8.4 The journalist is entitled to attend all public conferences, meetings and other activities
8.5 Anyone who insults or attacks a journalist because of his profession will be punished by law in the same way as if he had attacked a civil servant during performing his duties.
8.6 If a radical change occurred in the politics/policy of the newspaper in which a journalist works or if the terms of his contract have changed, the journalist is entitled to terminate his contract unilaterally, provided that he gives a 30 day notice to the newspaper, without this affecting the journalist’s compensation rights
8.7 Media institutions and newspaper managers must abide by all the contractual rights defined in relevant laws in line with contract of media work approved by the syndicate of journalists.
8.8 In case that a journalist has not taken all his holiday entitlements or some of them have been carried over to the new financial year, he will remain entitled to his wages for those days provided that it will not exceed one month’s salary
8.9 In case a journalist falls ill or injured while performing his journalistic tasks, it is the responsibility of the media institution he works for to pay for his treatment.
8.10 If a journalist works during formal holidays, the media institutions employing him should compensate him financially by doubling his wages for these days.

Legal protection

Article 9

9.1 No legal action must be taken against a journalist accused of an activity related to his work without first notifying the syndicate of the situation
9.2 No investigation is carried out to a journalist or his home or office is searched because of the reason mentioned in (9.1), unless in response to a legal order; the syndicate’s secretary or his/her legal deputy is entitled to be present in the time of investigation
9.3 In any penal investigation the journalist’s documents, written information, statements and books cannot be used as evidence of guilt against him unless they are related to the issue about which a complaint against the newspaper is registered.
9.4 Any information published or written about an official or someone who has been given a public duty cannot be considered an offense if the published item does not go beyond the limit of the work and duty of such persons provided that [the writer or publisher] does have evidence to prove the allegations made.
9.4 After 90 days of the publication of an item, no legal action should be pursued.

Article 10

10.1 Without prejudice to any harsher penalty stipulated in any other laws of the region in respect to clause A and B below, the journalist will be fined no less than three million dinars and no more than ten million dinars with the suspension of the newspaper for six months if he/she published any of the following in any type of the media:
10.1A Any item that causes to disturb security situation in the region and instigate fear among people or incite the commitment of crime or non-application of laws
10.1B Any item that might encourage terror and create hatred and divisions among the elements of society
10.2 The journalist will be fined no less than three million dinars and no more than ten million dinars if he/she published any of the following in any type of the media:
10.2A Insulting religious belief of a certain faith or ridiculing their practices or insulting or hurting a symbol that has become a point of worship and reverence by a certain faith recognised by law
10.2B Any item related to the private life of an individual, even if it is true, if this causes insult to him.
10.2C Any item that stains common customs and morals
10.2D Swearing, profane words and defamation
10.2E Any item that harms the procedure of court and justice unless authorised by court
10.3 A Newspaper that publishes such items, will be fined no less than 10 million dinars and no more than 20 million dinars
10.4 In case a newspaper repeats the publication of such items the court can increase the fine provided that it will not exceed twice the amount stipulated in clauses 10.1 and 10.2
10.5 General prosecutor and the person affected, can ask for prosecution according to law

Article 11

The power of Article 10 does not extend to those publications that are published for scientific purposes by the government institutions, universities and research centres.

Article 12

Items obtained or translated from sources published outside the region will not be exempt from responsibility for offences of publication.

Article 13

No text of law contrary to the power of this law will be applied provided that the application of law No 4 of the year 1988 and its amendments (Law of the Syndicate of Kurdistan Journalists) is taken into consideration.
Final powers

Article 14

The Council of Ministers and relevant bodies must apply the powers of this law.

Article 15

This law will be effective from the date of its application in the Official Gazette of Kurdistan.

Adnan Mufti
Speaker of Kurdistan National Assembly
Necessary reasons for the passing of this Act

Journalism today has a great significance in our Kurdistan society and internationally and it has a broad horizon of freedom available for it and this has entailed drafting a specific law to organise media work in a way that conforms to the spirit of contemporary world and its progresses and makes the citizen aware of the truth of its approaches and events and ensure that the journalists express their views in a way that everyone is respected, for these reasons this law has been passed

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Undermining Kurdish Alliance Would be a Mistake

Kurdishaspect.com - By Ardalan Hardi

The recent collaboration between the US and Turkey regarding Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), leads one to question why the sudden change in US foreign policy. The Kurdish leadership has been a key foundation of US forces stabilizing Iraq’s government. A closer look into the Kurdish issue in Iraq, and the surrounding region, illustrates that the U.S. support against Kurdish issues is nothing new. The ISG report should have been a red flag for Kurdish leadership of the possibility of being used as a pawn.

The Bush administration was harshly critical of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) report when it was first published. However, the recent actions of the White House, now paint a different picture. The Bush administration is silently implementing the recommendations of The Baker Hamilton report when it is very clear ISG report is opposed to Kurdish interests in the region.

The ISG recommends that the United States significantly increase the number of U.S. military personnel, including combat troops imbedded in and supporting Iraqi Army units. The military surge by the Bush administration in 2007 and the redeployment of Peshmarga forces from the north to the central part of Iraq accomplished exactly what the ISG repot recommended. It seems to have had a drastic affect in stabilizing Iraq which has led to decreased sectarian violence and increased stability across Iraq.

Now that Iraq is supposedly more secure, the Bush administration is slowly turning up the heat on the Kurds to further implement the rest of the recommendations by the Baker Hamilton Group.

One of the recommendations by ISG was that “The United States should support as much as -possible central control by governmental authorities in Baghdad, particularly on the question of oil revenues”. The oil dilemma has been one of the major obstacles in achieving the national reconciliation that is viewed by the U.S. as critical to a united democratic Iraq. While the Iraqi constitution fully supports KRG’s right to have a say in the oil revenues that are generated out of Kurdistan, the central government in Baghdad sees it differently. KRG recently signed more than a dozen contracts with foreign oil companies, but the Iraqi Oil Ministry Husayn al-Shahristani insists the contracts are illegal and has threatened to blacklist foreign firms who sign them. Furthermore, after the KRG signed a production-sharing contract with the U.S.-based Hunt Oil Corporation in September; the U.S. State Department spokesman, Thomas Casey, described it as a hindrance to a national oil law. "It's in the interest of everyone in Iraq to see a national set of laws governing the oil and gas industry...we don't think that these kinds of deals are helpful."

With regards to Kirkuk, the ISG recommends that “a referendum on the future of Kirkuk (as required by the Iraqi Constitution before the end of 2007) would be explosive and should be delayed. This issue should be placed on the agenda of the International Iraq Support Group as part of the New Diplomatic Offensive”.

According to article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, the vote on the referendum had been due to be held by the end of 2007 to decide whether the province of Kirkuk with its oil wealth should go under the control of the KRG. The Kurds have insisted on the referendum as a condition for their support of the Shiite-dominated central government in Baghdad. On her recent visit to Kirkuk, Condoleeza Rice deliberately avoided holding a meeting with the Kurdish leadership. This avoidance would seem to confirm the Bush administrations intent to put pressure on KRG to implement the ISG recommendations on national reconciliation. It would seem that some of these tactics have already forced KRG to make further concessions. The recent decision by the Kurdish administration to delay the public vote on the future of Kirkuk, confirms at least one of KRG’s concessions.

Fully aware of the hostility toward the Kurds by surrounding neighbors, the ISG recommended that a Support Group should be created that consists of the states bordering Iraq, including Iran and Syria. Despite the differences between these countries, they all share an interest in making sure that the Kurdish ambition for self rule is crushed. On February 27, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice confirmed that the United States has agreed to join high-level talks with Iran and Syria on the future of Iraq. The unexpected shift in the White House view is just more proof that Bush is silently implementing the ISG report, while publicly disagreeing with it. With the unleashing of the Turkish military on the Kurds, we can see that the ISG report has come full circle.

By opening Iraq’s air space to Turkish warplanes to bomb the Qandil Mountains, under the pretext of attacking PKK, the US is able to kill two birds with one stone. One “bird” is proving to Turkey that the U.S. continues to be their long term ally; unfortunately, the U.S. is alienating the Kurds at the same time. The second “bird” is forcing Kurdish leadership within Iraq into softening their position on article 140, with regards to Kirkuk and the passage of a national oil law. These are considered key issues by the U.S. that will help foster national reconciliation.

In a region where America finds itself with very few friends, the Bush administration is making a colossal mistake in alienating the Kurds who have been one of the strongest supporters of US government in the Middle East.

If the US continues to pressure the Kurdish people in the interest of keeping everyone else in the region happy, it will result in the further deterioration of a relationship that started out with high hopes. The end result will force the Kurds to align themselves with Iran. The Kurds are not interested in being Iran’s ally, nor is it in the benefit of US foreign policy.

The Sunni’s vehemently oppose America, the Shiites are very closely tied to Iran’s Islamic Republic and if we lose the Kurds as allies will loose what little influence we have in Iraq.
The Kurdish leadership should use all that is at their disposal to show that there is no safe Iraq without granting Kurdish rights. They should stand firm on their demands in securing the interest of the Kurdish people they represent. One of the first things that KRG should do is to pull back the Peshmarga forces that are currently helping the US to stabilize Iraq. The Kurdish government should also boycott the Iraqi government until a reasonable treaty is agreed upon by both Iraq’s central government and the US to assure Kurdish rights. Why should the Kurds fight for a secure stabilized Iraq when their rights as a nation are disregarded?

My hope is that the Kurdish leadership can see that what they think is the light at the end of the tunnel is actually a train headed toward wrecking all Kurdish accomplishments. There must be away to stop further implementation of recommendations from the ISG report even if it means sacrificing Iraq’s supposed stability.