Your forced marriage has led to a dysfunctional government, Mr Presidents

Protest in Sulamaniyah

The Middle Eastern Revolution is spreading like a wildfire and it’s no longer about if, but how far its influence will spread? It’s a regional human cry for freedom, job security and a decent standard of living. Indigenous people of countries like Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Syria who were living under harsh rule at the hands of merciless power-hungry leaders have finally awoken.

Thanks to our new World of Technology, this generation is well aware of everything going on around them and now they are confronting the oligarchs and their servants, from one country to another, by joining the movement and communicating and exchanging ideas via Facebook or Twitter or even taking up arms against their dictators. When the ship is about to sink in the ocean there are no passengers onboard: everyone must act and be identified as crew members.

This generation no longer keeps quiet, and instead of letting corrupt governments rule their lives and profit from their work, young people have staged anti-government protests throughout the Middle East. Their struggle is sincere and in search of justice. These freedom fighters have often faced repressive forces and been killed or injured. Their blood is not only on the hands of slaughterers – it’s also on the hands of fellow citizens  watching them silently.

The dictators around the world are in shock by the fast spreading popular uprising. Whether they like it or not, when the going gets tough they will have to get going.

In terms of its worldwide historical impact, “The Middle Eastern Revolution” will be remembered as a seminal event of the twenty first century, similar to the impact of “The October Revolution” on the twentieth century: it is also one of the most controversial and hotly-debated historical events in modern times.

Indeed the breeze of jasmine revolution didn’t take too long to reach the Kurdistan region. This is largely ignored by the Western media, but it could have dangerous consequences and eventually destabilize Iraq once again.
young woman protestorThis of course begs the question, what has triggered the upheaval this peaceful region? For years, the young have been dismissed as apathetic. What has happened to make tens of thousands pour onto the streets and demand the resignation of the President, Prime Minister and the Parliament Speaker of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)?

Well, one doesn’t have to look far to see the corruption, nepotism and autocracy in Kurdistan, where the ruling political parties use the state like a family business. Similar to other countries in the region, Kurdistan’s main problem today is the power of an oligarchy that enjoys privileges at the cost of others’ misery.

Both President Barzani and President Talabani have several militia groups under different names but for the same purpose: ‘to protect their interests’, and that often means harsh treatment of the public, storming into political activists’ houses, kidnapping people, abusing journalists, burning independent TV and radio stations, shooting and killing peaceful protesters, acting like they are garbage collectors while treating the general public as garbage.

Since 17th February when the protests began, there are many cases of torture in their mysterious prisons, where the victims’ only crime was peaceful protest.

The simple truth is that power and wealth (of the few) is based on the oppression and poverty of others (the many). Over the past 20 years the civil war, electoral fraud and corruption by both Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan party (PUK) have caused huge damage: there is more unemployment, shortages, a crisis of social well-being, insecurity etc.

There is no democracy in Kurdistan. Instead of ‘government of the people and for the people’, there is just an oligarchy, a government of the few. Two clans have seized all the power. Institutions are no longer at the service of the people.

Law in Kurdistan has become a fishing net that only catches the vulnerable fish while the big fat ones bypass it with ease. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people are still missing from the civil war started in the 90s by Barzani and Talabani. Billions of dollars disappeared as Barzani taxed Iraqi oil exports from Kirkuk through Turkey during the UN oil-for-food program of the 90s. Four billion dollars have disappeared between the fifth and the sixth cabinets. Kurdistan has around 47 billion barriers of oil reserved and 100-to-200 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. 43 foreign companies are operating in the region from 17 different countries. Many oil concessions have been signed without the consent of the people. Apart from a few members of the oligarchy, nobody has seen the concessions.

Thousands of tons of crude are being smuggled to Iran without any considerations to the United Nation sanctions on Iran, and of course nobody knows into whose pocket the revenue goes.

The budget of the Kurdistan Region is equivalent to the budget of Jordan. It does not have any austerity measures and bureaucratic privileges continue as usual while the people lack basic services such as water, electricity, schools and roads.

After more than fifty consecutive days of protest in the towns and cities of Kurdistan, the corrupt regime has maintained power due to the control the oppressors have over the media and the suppressive militia groups funded from public purse. The Barzani and Talabani clans control most TV and radio concessions and they use this to administer ignorance as this serves their interests.

Barzani’s militia have recently set up checkpoints around the capital city of Erbil and they are refusing to allow people from Sulaymani to enter the city, including students from the university of Koye who were on a scientific trip and foreign visitors trying to catch their flights from Erbil. Even the Prime Minister has no power to stop these acts of the puppets of the oligarchy: it’s unconstitutional, irresponsible and inhumane.

The Kurds are determined to end this decadence in Kurdistan by peacefully defeating the oligarchy on the political field, despite the heavy-handed security that often uses live ammunition, and the undeclared state of emergency in Erbil where any gathering in public places is prohibited.

A large number of security forces have spread all over the capital city 24/7. In order to prevent demonstrations in Erbil, a powerfulgroup of protestors

political organisation belonging to Barzani has recently closed the university of Saladin and sent 17,000 students home, with neither the university president’s nor the education minister’s approval.

The question is: how much longer can they oppress people? How much longer can they cling to power? Because, whether people bring them to justice or justice to them, justice will be served in Kurdistan. And the longer they play this game, the deeper we will dig to unveil their dark history.

The essential demands of the protesters in Kurdistan today are for: basic services, social justice, job security, freedom of speech, human rights, a new constitution (where, in particular, presidential power is limited), an end to party influence over government decisions and other institutions, an end to the excessive salaries and privileges of high government officials, that are among the most burdensome in the world, and publish the details of their hidden wealth.

More than seven weeks since President Barzani’s armed thugs opened fire on protesters from his party HQ in Sulaymani and killed a dozen people – including an 11 year old, 14 year old and 17 year old – while injuring many others, still no one has been brought to justice.

The people of Kurdistan are today in search of new independence, authentic democracy, respect for the social and human rights of their people. Protesters are walking forth, determined but peaceful, with vehemence and joy to consume the revolution of consciences. They are determined to peacefully overcome the oligarchy and establish a true democracy.

Apart from the protesters’ demands made by the temporary council established in Freedom Square in Sulaymani, the opposition parties have presented a reform package which contains 22 crucial points. But, in a statement similar to Gaddafi’s, the government has outrageously dismissed their demands.

The promises of the politicians are no longer valid as they have exhausted all the opportunities they have been given in the past. They cannot tackle corruption head on, but instead brush it under the carpet and pretend it does not exist. As always, the air was full of speeches during the election – and vice-versa. Politicians have promised a little too much over the past decade but they didn’t actually start digging the well before the public got thirsty. Now it’s rather obvious that being a corrupt politician and trying to implement reforms is like being colour blind and trying to solve a Rubik cube.

The current Kurdish politicians do not appreciate the fact that those dedicated to politics must understand that power only makes sense and becomes a virtue when it is put at the service of others, and not vice-versa.

Both clans have let the Kurds down. The only way out of this crisis – before it deteriorates and possibly results in another civil war – is for ‘the Gaddafies’ to put the public interest before their own, end the forced marriage arranged by the US in 1998 and accept the protesters’ demand that they form a technocratic government with the other parties.

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