By Kaiwan Bahroz:
There are a variety of crimes against humanity and a lack of basic human rights in Iraqi Kurdistan. One other concern which has been affecting civil people and has become a significant obstacle to democratization is corruption. Corruption is an issue that creates a major burden to economic growth and social development. In Iraqi Kurdistan it has indeed done damage; it has become a hindrance to economic growth in the region. It has affected social development and, on top of all, it has caused insecurity among the people of the region.
In addition to corruption, there are problems such as the lack of freedom of speech in the media. One of the most infamous cases is the unsolved murder of the Kurdish journalist Sardasht Osman, who wrote about the corruption. This resulted in his murder. Another journalist was Soran Mama Hama who met the same fate and his murder also remains unsolved. Murdering people just because they want to express the people’s opinion is a terrible crime. But the system in Iraqi Kurdistan allows the murderers to get away with it. This type of crime represents what can be done in Kurdistan without justice. The assassins are still free and will not be brought to justice. Unfortunately, this type of inhumane crime strengthens corruption and, in turn, corruption has a bad influence and allows this type of crime to flourish.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) uses its forces in the army to combat anyone who raises their voice to tell the truth. The use of army forces was evident during the uprising of the 19th February 2011. The outcome of this was the murdering of dozens of young people, including school children. A level of brutality by the Kurdish administration and the security forces is a fact in Iraqi Kurdistan. University students are threatened; their lecturers are detained simply because they want to express their antipathy to the current system and corruption. Educated people, doctors, lawyers are mistreated and threatened. Many of those people have endured insecurity and brutality under the regime of Saddam Hussain. Now they feel the same insecurity at the hands of the governmental authority in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Corruption has significantly increased in Iraqi Kurdistan; this has become a very severe problem, affecting many aspects of people’s lives. The government officials do not have a plan or a strategy in place to dampen down this serious problem. Combating corruption has to be done through a systematic method that is not contradictory to democracy. The outcome should make achieving a democratic state reachable and not a dream as it is now.
In Iraqi Kurdistan, the KRG and its administration are dominated by the two major political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The members of these two parties have been the main players in making corruption so apparent in the region. Public funds have been wasted by this serious issue. People are aware of it, journalist are desperate to write about it, they want to express people’s views and feelings about it. The lack of freedom of speech has been daunting. It has been an intimidating period for them.
Public funds and resources are misused by individuals in the governmental authority working on the growth of their own private wealth rather than using it for public services. This is the abuse of public resources for private wealth.
Political power in Iraqi Kurdistan controls every aspects of the lives of the civil people. It has affected people’s way of working and living a normal life. People are forced to use this method to gain basic necessities in life. Thus, corruption occurs because political power is used to pursue personal wealth.
Large amounts of KRG funds and resources are moved to the two parties’ accounts. This has given them more power and wealth: A wealth that cannot be defined as it is all done secretly. This problem has affected junior members of the political parties too, by creating a strong dependency on these funds to gain private wealth and giving them the capacity and power to provide services for money. These services are normally provided by government funds in countries where corruption is not an issue. They can be simple needs of life. However, in Kurdistan, people are manipulated on the basis of giving bribes. This is a redirection of public funds to serve individuals in the authorities.
To deal with corruption and eradicate it we need to get to the root of the problem as this is damaging the economy and has been leading to the monopolization of the economy. In Iraqi Kurdistan, the major political parties control almost all the financial deals. Whether those financial deals are legal or illegal, they still own them. The black market dominates financial business. Deals, or the making of deals, always involve a politician, and so people have to use bribery and corruption to be able to sign any business deal. Thus, without having a political connection, business owners struggle with every day business management. This has affected the growth of public funds and investments in the region.
The root of Corruption is very deep in Iraqi Kurdistan where people will continue to suffer because of the power of the political parties and their corruption. Some of the minor political parties and independent civil organizations hope to establish a designated committee to investigate this issue and find a solution to it. But, unfortunately, the power of the two major parties is an obstacle and the impact of this will be a society that lacks respect and trust and accountability. In addition, this will lead to a low level of a democratic culture and mistrust within the community.
To tackle this problem and in order to end corruption in Iraqi Kurdistan, Change and Reform should be the only aim in government sectors. This change is necessary to enhance a strong sense of belonging to the society. People should be able to get their own basic human rights. An effort has to be made by everyone who suffers from corruption in Iraqi Kurdistan. This approach, with trust in changing the system, will bring back the Kurdistan that people fought for, in the land that suffered from oppression and suppression at the hands of the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussain for many years.
The country needs to be rebuilt by the people and by the independent civil organizations. The nature of corruption in Iraqi Kurdistan requires a system-wide approach. Anti-corruption programs must be pursued. These must focus on a broad range of areas, including economic systems reform, public awareness campaigns, strengthening civil society organizations and increasing investigation.
Kaiwan Bahroz is a political analyst and human rights activist. He is an active member of the Norwegian SV party and is currently studying sociology in Norway.