The Change Movement: The real Change?

By a Correspondent:

Nawshirwan Mustafa

Nawshirwan Mustafa , leader of the Change Movement

Five years ago, a bright light shone on the dark political arena in Iraqi Kurdistan. Frustrated Iraqi Kurds, once more, felt the hope that they’d had during the battle against the Baath regime. The hope was and still seems to be the Change Movement. A majority of the sophisticated and the frustrated Kurds saw a bright light to change the politics of Iraqi Kurdistan. At those times, the two major parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), ruled the region without serious difficulties. Undoubtedly, this was one more reason why the light shone brighter and hope became the shadow. Yet hope can exceed reality. Five years ago, there were many believing the hope was just a matter of time and time would tell in the near future. Now, we can tell what time has brought forth from the Change Movement.

The achievements of the Change Movement within the Kurdish politics have brought us one enormous step closer to the goal we seek: A representative democratic region with equal opportunities and the rule of law as our shield. Yet, this enormous step cannot be compared to the jump that this new generation must take, if it is not too late! The jump to make is to change the undemocratic political mindset. Every democratic destination needs at least a degree of a democratic mindset to meet a certain criteria of the destination. The destination of the Change Movement seems to be clear: A democratic region in line with the global standards with Kurdish dimensions. Yet, in my perspective, they do not have the democratic mindset to meet this destination. I will explain shortly. Consequently, I regret to write this, but the new generation that will lead this country eventually, have been occupied by this undemocratic political mindset of the older generation. The struggle of the old generation, with its undemocratic mindset, has been one of the few productive struggles coming out of Kurdish history. However, the political mindset that we possess today cannot lead us to the true democratic goals we seek. It is with disappointment I can say that this mindset has also become the political mindset of the new generation.

What is the political mindset in Iraqi Kurdistan today?

We cannot deny the educational and physiological suffering of our nation and the rest of the Middle East, due to the political and armed revolutions. As a result, it is reasonable to suggest that the political mindsets of the political parties are not much different, especially when it comes to a former PUK political leader becoming the leader of a populist Movement that sheds light on the political arena but with the same undemocratic political mindset. We cannot deny that the political and influential leaders of today, with the exception of a very few or, to be quite honest, with the exception of one (Barham Salih), have been physically part of the last armed struggle. This is an obstacle. The reason is merely because democracy and the rule of law needs an entirely different mindset to the one that brought the success of the armed struggle. An armed struggle needs undemocratic principles to maintain the struggle. In other words, the political mindset of today is an undemocratic mindset. The real change is to change this undemocratic mindset in order to meet the at least certain democratic standards. But, it is exceptionally rare to change the undemocratic political mindset of a revolutionist to meet these democratic standards.

The features of the undemocratic mindset

The question now is has the Change Movement done this? Has Nawshirwan Mustafa done the exceptional? How can he, as the former leader of the PUK’s armed forces (and I presume it needed an undemocratic leader, especially during the armed revolution back in the mountains), become the leader to change the undemocratic mindset to a democratic mindset? Or else was it just his human nature that drove him to establish the Change Movement? It could be. All are possibilities. Nevertheless, let us now shine light on at least six features of the undemocratic political mindset of today and explain why the Change Movement has not succeeded in changing it: Hence, why it could not be the real change.

1. Political leaders

In Iraqi Kurdistan, political leaders can make you or break you. In a region with a healthy democratic mindset, this is impossible. Of course, none of the political parties have returned this power to the people, because the leaders would then be less powerful. Basically the leaders of all parties can make you whoever, whenever and wherever you are. Now Mustafa can make you or break you, just like the rest of the leaders. In other words, a feature of the undemocratic mindset.

2. Protagonism

In return, the leader produces a protagonist setting. Hence, the praising and hailing of a leader to the extent that it does not coincidence with the democratic patterns. Certainly, all the Iraqi Kurdistan parties have such leaders, including the Change Movement. The Movement has not, will not and cannot change this mindset because it was one of the fundamental tools that the old generation brought to the backyard of the Change Movement. Because it was a major factor in the building of the Movement and still is. By that I refer to Nashirwan Mustafa. If Mustafa vanishes, the Change Movement vanishes. A setting familiar to most of us. Another feature of the undemocratic mindset.

3. Planting-seeds tactic: The old magic trick

To be clear, this is a feature of the undemocratic mindset reflecting an old political tactic which also was very popular during the Middle Ages of European political history. The tactic is called the planting-seeds tactic. Leaders plant seeds throughout their career. Seeds refer to any kind of encouragement to follow a leader in all cases. By all cases, I mean, literally, in all circumstances. The seeds are planted to make the people praise them which will help the leader in the near future. Today, it is evidential that the leader of the Change Movement has used this undemocratic tactic. I see this as a feature of the undemocratic political mindset purely because no-one in a democratic region has the ability to plant seeds to make people loyal to you in all cases. You are an equal contender in a democratic region.

4 Nepotism

Now, it does not stop here. Mother of all the features of the undemocratic mindset: Nepotism. It is a part of the political mindset of today. The Change Movement has not only changed it, but it is applying it. Sons, family members, relatives and friends of the leader have found a seat in the Change Movement. This is also a sign that the Change Movement is simply no different than the rest of the parties in Iraqi Kurdistan. This is perhaps the most complicated feature of the undemocratic mindset to tackle. This brings us to say that Mustafa has not changed his political mindset of a revolutionist to meet the democratic standards.

5 Political ideology

The Kurds are in a trapped in an undemocratic environment. Only a specific ideology can save them to meet the democratic standards. Historically, democratic countries of the world all started to change their undemocratic system with a political ideology. After all, it was the backbone of the French revolution. The moment the democratic system becomes stable and guaranteed (which it is not in Iraqi Kurdistan), then a political party might have a small chance to succeed without a political ideology. In Iraqi Kurdistan, neither the parties nor the people believe in the importance of ideologies. Unfortunately, the Change Movement is not excluded. How is it possible to make a democratic region without an ideology? The Change Movement absorbs any people who can vote, regardless of contradictory ideological values. Yes indeed, the PUK did the same in 1975 and we saw the result. This is certainly a feature of the undemocratic mindset. Ideology is the path of the real change towards a democratic mindset, folks!

6 Supporters and election fraud

We need to understand the undemocratic mindsets of the supporters before we discuss election fraud in the Kurdish region. As I said before, we cannot deny the educational and physiological suffering of our nation and the rest of the Middle East, due to the political and armed revolutions. This is simply because there was no time and chance for the former Kurdish generations in the last two centuries to become educated like the former generations of the democratic regions. Therefore, we also cannot deny that the Kurdish youth of today lag behind in their potential democratic political mindset. We cannot deny the fact that the new generation begins where the old generation ends. This includes all fields, including the undemocratic mindset.

The background of the Iraqi Kurds reminds me of the Maslow hierarchy of needs. In general, he described the motivation path of a human. Starting with human survival needs, such as air, food and sleep; then the safety needs such as employment; eventually the theory of hierarchy ends with self actualization: “to become the most one can be.” Although, this might not be exactly true, yet we cannot deny that breath, bread and, in the long run, employment are the most basics needs. Today, in Iraqi Kurdistan this seems to be the appearance and it is purely where the old generations have brought us so far. We need to meet our basic level to get to the other levels. The political parties in Iraqi Kurdistan are highly aware of this and use it as a tool, including the Change Movement, which is another topic.

I just wanted to clarify where we are as the electoral supporters and you now know why the undemocratic mindset continues to be the political mindset of today. Even so, it does indicate that all of the supporters have the same undemocratic mindset. Albeit, it covers most of them. Since we now know about the mindset of the supporters, I will start to discuss the election fraud. In this present day, the supporters look to those who have the loudest voices within the political arena. However, we have to keep in mind that the loudest one in room is perhaps the weakest one in the room. I hear often that the two major political parties cheat during elections. Well, ironically the rest of the political parties do so too, including the Change Movement. Why? We now know supporters possess an undemocratic mindset because of their background. It is absolute nonsense to base fraud entirely on the political parties rather than the supporters who possess undemocratic mindsets. The truth of the story is that all parties have supporters with undemocratic mindsets.

Learning the lesson

To conclude, all of the six features of the undemocratic political mindset are features of the political parties including the Change Movement. It explains why the Change Movement has not succeeded in changing it: Hence, it is not the real change. I true believe we need to take a look at the political history of the world and today’s democracies around the world. It is quite entirely baseless to believe that any protagonist and nepotistic movement could bring a representative democratic region with equal opportunities and the rule of law as our shield. The Change Movement has no different political mindset to the rest of the political parties. We see the problem and believe we have found the solution. But, the solution is not there yet. The Change Movement is a path which a part of the Kurds took. But it is not the right path to the democratic region. It is perhaps only a path that the Kurds had to take to make it to another path. It’s not it, folks. I cannot bear the sight of the new generation getting used to the undemocratic mindset. But there was no alternative. We ought to tap into it since all those nations who made it to a representative democratic region and the rule of law tapped in to it. It is a political and historical lesson that every nation has to go through. Our next path is to find a way to learn from it.

One Response to The Change Movement: The real Change?
  1. Kurd
    April 6, 2014 | 09:13

    A very well writen article and some good points. But let me argue the undemocratic steps;
    1. Not only won’t they give the power to the people, which I think is very dangerous at this stage, but they don’t even educate their citizens in order to prosper. That is because our leaders are afraid they might be outshone.
    2. It is not only the fault of the protagonist, the people do this themselves and yes you can argue that it is because they have been made use of this way by the political leaders.
    3. Planting seeds is still used today through out the western world, it might be done in a much less visible way, but ideas are always being planted in the human mind. I will also return to my first point of education being the key which is part of planting a seed.
    4. I can’t argue with you on that point apart from saying that it also happens elsewhere although usually caught out especially when the relative is not suitable for that position and it is not to the extend in which it happens in Kurdistan perhaps.
    5. Again this is a very valid point and the people of Kurdistan do not even know what the ideology of a party is and the party itself doesn’t implement the ideology.
    6. We still have a very long way to go. Many more generations have to pass before the current situation has any chance of a change. The only change that Gorran brought was applying pressure on the KDP and PUK to change their tactics and to serve the people better, but I wonder if we give Gorran the chance to rule would they do the same? Your article demonstrates how likely it is for Gorran to be no different from the two leading parties and I have to agree with you unfortunately. Maybe as Kurds we are not meant to have a democracy, but rather like a Kingdom, a family that rules us all.

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