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Issue no.20 Mar 1 - 14, 2007

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Ramadan Mubarak

SOMA Digest is a subsidiary of KHAK Press & Media Center.

Every man for himself The Gorran List has announced that after winning 25 seats in the new Kurdistan Parliament, they will enter the January elections as a separate entity from the Kurdistan Alliance List. Will the entry of multiple Kurdish lists weaken the Kurdish position in Baghdad? REGION page 3

Baghdad blues From the onset of the US-led war, Kurds were aware of the danger in Iraq being able to stand on its own two feet in the future and resume the cat and mouse game with its Kurdish minority. VIEWS page 10

Pressure points Why the Shiite majority are likely to continue exerting control over Iraq’s vital oil ministry. BUSINESS page 13

An old testament The church at Sabunkaran stands as a testament to the harmonious co-existence among the various ethnic and religious communities in the Kurdistan Region. CULTURE page 16

Slemani burning A rise in incidence of fires. Awin Abdulrahman SLEMANI n increase in the incidence of accidental fires has plagued the city of Slemani since the beginning of July. Not for a long time have the people of this city witnessed such raging fires - not since the burning of Wasman Pasha’s market in the 1990s. A firefighter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “In Slemani we have five firefighting centers, which have three teams working 24 hours, seven days a week. Every center has two or three vehicles or a water tanker. But the grave concern for us now is all these highrises they are building, when we have only one 40-meter ladder.” The big fires in July included an explo-


sion at a fuel station in Kanispika (northwest of Slemani), which was reportedly caused by a welder, and another fire in Sabunkaran at a crowded bazaar due to an electric short circuit. The brand new building of a regional bank also went up in flames causing 50,000,000 Iraqi Dinars worth of losses. The fire in Astell mountain in the Qaradagh area followed the news of the Goezha mountain fire, which caused tremendous losses for nearby villages. “Astell was the only mountain in Kurdistan where cutting trees was forbidden since 1992. The fire raged for three days. We were only men without any equipment to extinguish the fire,” said Hama Salih Hama, one of the village firefighters who worked as a volunteer. “It was the tourists who caused this accident.”

Kurds mourn passing of ‘defender of Kurdish rights’ Lawen A. Sagerma SLEMANI he death of Abdul Aziz Al Hakim, leader of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, was mourned by millions, not just in Iraq but all over the world where many memorial services were held for the prominent Shiite leader. Hakim lost his battle with cancer after being diagnosed in May 2007 and died in Iran, a country with which he had longstanding ties. Hakim had fled to Iran in 1982 and while in exile established the


The late Hakim Abdul Aziz

A fire broke out on 29 August at the Central Bank of Kurdistan Region on Shorush Street. (photo by Darya Ibrahim)

Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq. After the American invasion, Hakim’s party emerged as a dominant force but gradually lost influence. In an attempt to regain power, it announced an alliance with radical anti-US cleric Moqtada Al Sadr. Hakim, who lost a number of his family members during Saddam Hussein’s regime, was an advocate for human rights, which won him a place in the hearts of both Shiites and Kurds. “His death comes as a loss for Kurds especially the Shiite community. Hakim and his whole family in general were for human rights and he was a defender of Kurdish rights also,” said Sheikh Hussein Khoshnaw, head of the Imam Husseini Mosque in Slemani. According to Khoshnaw, Hakim was a

notable figure in Iraqi politics and his death will no doubt leave its mark: “One of the biggest memorial services ever to be held in Iraqi history was held for him. This goes to show the support that followed him and the influence that he had.” In the Kurdistan Region’s capital Erbil, an official one-day funeral was held for the eminent Shiite leader and two days of mourning in Slemani. The death of the 59-year-old leader of the largest Shiite party comes at a time when the country is gearing up towards the January 2010 parliamentary elections that will not only shape but change the political demographics for the next four years. Aziz’s son Ammar Al Hakim has been groomed for a number of months to take his father's place.




An open door policy

Kurdistan’s disabled community

Ramadan drum roll

REGION page 4


CULTURE page 15

INSIDE: A little bit of Taoism, by Agri Ismail p.8 Kurdish contribution to Iraqi democratization, by Dr Joseph Kechichian p.10 The way forward in Iraq, by Dr Harry Hagopian p.11

2 STAFF PUBLISHING HOUSE: Khak Press & Media Center MANAGING EDITOR: Tanya Goudsouzian DEPUTY EDITOR: Lawen A Sagerma COLUMNISTS: Dr Sherko Abdullah, Agri Ismail, Dr Joseph Kechichian, Maureen McLuckie, Dr Denise Natali, Anwar M. Qaradaghi CONTRIBUTING WRITERS: Zheno Abdulla, Iason Athanasiadis, Karokh Bahjat, Linda Berglund, Devanjan Bose (New Delhi), Ilnur Cevik (Ankara), Patrick Cockburn, Thomas Davies (Damascus), Bayan Eissa, Dr Rebwar Fatah (London), Basit Gharib, Dr Harry Hagopian (London), Hemin Hussein, Hewa Jaff, Fakhri Karim (Baghdad), Vania Karim, Ali Kurdistani, Mohamad Karim Mohamad, Dastan Nouri, Amed Omar, Jamal Penjweny, Asoz L. Rashid (Baghdad), Roshna Rasool, Kurdawan Mohammad Saeed, Jen. A. Sagerma, Dr Tan Azad Salih, Dr Hussein Tahiri (Australia), Qubad Talabani (Washington, DC), Abdul Karim Uzery REPORTERS: Awat Abdullah, Darya Ibrahim, Dana Hameed, Hemin Kakayi (Kirkuk), Saz Kamal, Barzan Kareem, Sazan Mandalawi (Erbil), Galawizh H. Rashid, Dana Rashid CULTURE WRITERS: Roshna Rasool, Kamaran Najm UK CORRESPONDENTS: Lara Fatah, Raz Jabary, Sara Naz LANGUAGE EDITOR: Anwar M. Qaradaghi PHOTOGRAPHY EDITOR: Aram Eissa PHOTOGRAPHERS: Kamaran Najm, Soran Naqshbandy CARTOONS: Ako Gharib DIRECTOR OF DESIGN: Darya Ibrahim MARKETING MANAGER: Brwa Abdulrahman CIRCULATION MANAGER: Rashid Khidr Rashid WEBSITE: Avesta Group for Software Solutions PRINTING HOUSE: Hamdi Publishing House (Slemani) Our offices are located at KHAK Press & Media Center, on Shorosh Street, Slemani, Iraq. Tel: 009647701570615 Fax: 0044703532136666 SOMA Digest strives to offer its readership a broad spectrum of views on Iraqi and Kurdish affairs. As such, all opinions and views expressed in these pages belong to the writers, and do not necessarily reflect the position of the publication.

Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009

CONTENTS CURRENT AFFAIRS ....................................................................................................................3 COMMUNITY ..............................................................................................................................6 WORD ON THE STREET ............................................................................................................9 VIEWS .........................................................................................................................................10 LETTERS ....................................................................................................................................12 BUSINESS .................................................................................................................................13 CULTURE & MORE ....................................................................................................................15 LIFESTYLE .................................................................................................................................17 HISTORY ....................................................................................................................................18 SOCIETY ....................................................................................................................................19 CHAIKHANA ...............................................................................................................................20 LOST IN TRANSLATION

Kurdish for beginners ANWAR M. QARADAGHI

SOMA Digest wishes to introduce some Kurdish phrases and expressions, which the visitor to Kurdistan will find useful. This episode relates to Judy Roberts, an American school teacher, who has been teaching English in a school in Slemani for over a year. At the school, she has met Aso, a Kurdish colleague, and their relationship has grown so that they were formally engaged. Judy has followed up the recent Kurdistan Parliamentary elections. In this episode, Judy and Aso are discussing their observations: Aso: Now that the elections are over, what are your observations my dear? Esta kawa helbzardin tawaw bu, sarinjekant cheen gyanekem? Judy: Do you mean in general, my darling? Aya mebesta be sheweyeki gishti, azizakem? Aso: I don't know. Any comments that you might have. Mn nazanim. Her serinjek ke het bet. Judy: Oh, I see. Ah, te gaishtm.

teda anjam dra. Aso: And so, come on, say something, darling. Eh, enja, dey, shti blle, azizekem. Judy: Yes, my dear, I will firstly mention the positive points. Bally, gyanekem. Mn le peshda basy khalla posativekan dekem. Aso: All right, please yourself. Basha. Be arazuey khot. Judy: The high voter turnout of over 75 percent indicates their determination to express their political will in a democratic way. It is greater than in the US and most European countries. Rezha berzi hatni deng derani saru hafta u pench le sada amazha bo bryarian deket ke khwasti ramyarian be shewayaki democracy der brn. Rezhaka le wlata yekgrtuakan u awrupa gawretra. Aso: Good. What else? Chake. Che tr? Judy: The peaceful manner in which the elections took place. Shewa pr aramyakay helbzardinekay

Aso: Any other points? Hich khalli deka haya? Judy: Yes, an important one. For the first time, there will be an opposition group within parliament, which is verydesirable. Bally, khalleki gring. Bo yekameen jara, le naw parlamanda, komalleki oppozision debet, ka zor wistrawa. Aso: What about negative points? Ay khalli nere? Judy: They are very few, but the main one is that I wish the electioneering campaign could have been done more harmoniously and quietly. Zor kamn, bellam khalla serakiakayan awaya khozga helmati helbzardinaka btwanraya be tabaie u bedengy bkraya. Aso: I agree. We have made great strides and will be even better in future. Le galtam. Ema hengawi chakman nawa u le ayendeda bash tresh debeen.


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009



Every Kurd for himself? Newly confident Kurdish parties enter Iraqi elections. Lawen A. Sagerma & Brwa Ab. Mahmud

SLEMANI he establishment of a 40-seat opposition in the new Kurdistan Parliament was arguably the first visible sign of the region’s nascent democracy making some headway in the federal Kurdistan Region. While the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) - which formed the Kurdistani List and won the elections on 25 July - try to figure out the new cabinet, something else is stirring in the political arena. The Iraqi parliamentary elections, set for January of next year, will be a significant political battle for not just Iraqi Shiite and Sunni factions but also the Kurds who this time around may not be entering as a united list. The Gorran (Change) List, led by the former deputy secretary general of the PUK Nawshirwan Mustafa, has announced that after winning 25 seats in the new Kurdistan Parliament, they will be entering the January elections as a separate entity from the Kurdistan Alliance List. “If a number of Kurdish lists enter these elections separately, Kurdish interests when under threat will unite them, but it is better for us to be united as it shows others our unity and strength. If we didn’t have one Kurdish voice in Baghdad in these last four years we would have lost out on a number of things,” said Abd Zebari, a member of the Iraqi Parliament. As Iraqi Arabs along with neighboring countries and foreign observers keep a close eye on developments, political observers


have said that this stance will divide and weaken the Kurdish position in Baghdad. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Mustafa said: “We do not believe that Kurdish unity is having a single Kurdish list, we believe that Kurdish unity is having one Kurdish line.” “If we talk about elections and differences and wanting to compete for different roles, representatives and increasing the Kurdish voice, I think this is better done through different independent lists,” said Mohammad Ahmed, a member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union in the Iraqi Parliament. The opposition has argued that it is possible to work towards a common goal but enter into the elections as separate political entities. Others are not so sure. “I voted for Gorran in the Kurdistan elections but I will not vote for them in the Iraqi elections because I believe that it is important for all Kurds to be united in Baghdad. I am in favor of them competing among themselves in Kurdistan but we should be together in Baghdad,” said Naz Shareef, an engineer. “I see a strong possibility of multiple Kurdish lists in the next Iraqi elections,” said Ahmed, adding that multiple lists will lead to more transparency. Those who favor separate independent lists argue that the people of Iraq have been familiar with lists entering as Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds for more than half a decade now and that the time has come for variety. Feryad Rawanduzi, a member of the Iraqi Parliament, said: “According to political demographics after the elections of the Kurdistan Region, it’s not likely that Kurds will

be going into the Iraqi elections as one list. New Kurdish political entities have a newfound confidence and want to enter the elections independently.” Rawanduzi added that in the current Iraqi parliament there are two Kurdish lists, the Kurdistan Alliance and the Kurdistan Islamic Union, the former which has 53 seats and the latter five seats. He explains that despite this they are still viewed as one in parliament. “When they speak of an important Kurdish issue, they see us as having 58 seats. The worry is that if there are lots of small may will weaken especially in regards to strategic issues,” he says. But others contest that the time is not yet right for Kurds to follow their own path in Baghdad.


people, possibly even the ‘impossible’ dream that is independence. They have also discussed how at various times, often for prolonged periods, the Kurds have been brutally oppressed by these states. It is interesting that it is always regarded as a ‘Kurdish Problem’ and not referred to as a problem of the state structures of the Middle East. Kemalist Turkey does not allow for other ethnicities or nationalities, the very essence of Turkey is that it believes its population to be a homogenous entity. That the current administration is now willing to acknowledge the existence of Kurds and contemplate a political solution underlines the progress that the Kurds are making and hopefully a welcome change in the political thinking of the Turkish establishment. It is possible that other than the fatigue of fighting a battle with no end in sights that two things have influenced the change in position. Firstly the changes made due

Replay ‘Since 2004, Iraq has been providing Syria with detailed information about terrorists’ activities in Syria against Iraq. Iraq’s stance is to demand the United Nations to form an international criminal court to try those involved in the ugly crimes that have been targeting Iraq and its people.’ NOURI AL MALIKI, Iraqi Prime Minister, says that 90 percent of terrorists in Iraq infiltrate the country through Syria.

‘When Syria is accused of killing Iraqis, while it is housing around 1.2 million Iraqis … this is considered an immoral accusation.’ BASHAR AL ASSAD, Syrian President, rejecting Iraqi charges that Damascus is involved in attacks inside Iraqi territories.

A problem shared is a problem halved problem shared is a problem halved, or so the saying goes. Given that the ‘Kurdish’ problem is actually quartered you would be forgiven for wondering why it has yet to be solved. The recent developments in Turkey show that their government is now ready to acknowledge that there is no military solution to this ‘problem’, that a political negotiation is necessary. It has led to many discussions on the ‘Kurdish problem’ and how solving this century old issue can aid stability in the Middle East. Most of the discussions have included reference to the Treaty of Sevres which in not being ratified condemned the Kurds to being split among four states - who were happy to have access to the vast natural resources of Kurdistan, yet not so accommodating to its people. Were Kurdistan not so blessed with water, oil and fertile soil, you wonder if it would have had so much trouble in gaining autonomy and rights for its

“There is still the possibility that Kurds may enter into the elections as one list. The political situation in Iraq has not reached a stage where Kurds should no longer fear that their interests will be threatened. For example, the disputed territories have yet to be resolved so entering as one list is the greatest support for the Kurdish cause and in particular these issues,” said Zebari. “What is important is that Kurds have one stand in parliament and in Baghdad. It is inconceivable that Kurds be divided on Kurdish matters in Baghdad. If there is a law against Kurdish interests, every Kurd would oppose it and having separate lists will not change that unity,” said 37-year-old journalist Shadman Atoof. Zebari explains that there are certain parts of Iraq that do not believe in the Kurdish cause or attach any significance to it and often sideline them. He adds that one united list will show Kurds as a powerful entity with great strength. As January approaches, it remains to be seen if it is every Kurd for himself.

to Turkey’s wish to join the EU, such as permitting the speaking of Kurdish and the presence of Kurdish parties elected to the Turkish parliament have aided the softening of Turkey’s stance. Secondly the emergence of the KRG as a constitutionally recognized functional democracy has shown that given the chance the Kurds can handle their own affairs while still remaining part of a larger federal state such as Iraq. Indeed the Kurdish region of Iraq remains the most stable and secure part of Iraq that is increasingly attractive to foreign investors- ironically the largest of which is Turkey. As previously mentioned the problem is always characterized as being ‘Kurdish’. Yet Iraq is an artificial state created by the British to protect their trade interests in the region. Britain’s decision to develop and encourage a minority Sunni ruling class sent Iraq down a road fraught with ethnic and religious conflicts. The Western media is increasingly fo-

cusing on Iraq’s Kurdish problem that is of disputed territories. The Iraqi constitution provides a mechanism for resolving these issues, yet the resistance to implementing Article 140 is not Kurdish. However, it is better to dwell on the more positive developments. Turkey’s moves to consult with Baghdad and Erbil in order to solve the problem, shows political progression. It is not so long ago that Iraq and Turkey among others would act to exploit and encourage splits within the Kurds and keep the region unstable. Efforts to facilitate autonomy and stability should be encouraged and pursued carefully to ensure a smoother transition and a fair agreement- with compromise from all sides, not just a one sided concession. So far the issues facing the Kurds in Iran and Syria have received less attention, this does not make them less pressing or important, but may be it is better initially to let the ‘goodwill’ spread naturally outwards. The KRG in Iraq can serve as a model of how to manage a ‘Kurdish Problem’. In avoiding the implementation of Article 140, however, it shows that even

in Iraq the problem is not completely solved. How Iraq chooses to tackle these disputed areas, is likely to set a precedence for what is an acceptable method for the surrounding states to use should they grant their Kurds autonomy. The KRG is often criticized by Kurds outside Iraq for not doing enough for those Kurds, but its hands in that sense are politically tied. Yet what it can do for other Kurds is to continue to build on its successes, further consolidate the democratic process in Iraqi Kurdistan and fulfil its promises to reform the less effective forms of governance. In doing this they will continue to strengthen the argument for granting all Kurds full rights and regional autonomy within Iran, Turkey and Syria. This current round of good will is not likely to mean a quick end to the problem, but it should not be discounted lightly, with careful nurturing it could lead to the emergence of a second KRG, then the problem would indeed have been halved. — BY LARA FATAH IN LONDON


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009

The KRG’s representative in the US discusses the scope of his work and the challenges ahead.

An open door policy Raz Jabary WASHINGTON, DC Qubad Talabany is the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) representative in the United States. Second son of Iraqi President Jalal Talabany, he was one of the key negotiators in the drafting of the Transitional Administrative Law, Iraq's first postSaddam Constitution. Does the KRG office attempt to unify the various Kurdish groups to create a stronger lobby? To some extent we have been able to refocus the priorities of the variously different Kurdish organizations in the US to adapt more to the needs and challenges that Kurdistan as a region faces today internationally. Every Kurd living in the US can and should act as an ambassador for Kurdistan,

Qubad Talabany

whether it is socially, culturally, politically, economically or a whole host of different ways. It is not just our office that should represent Kurds. We have not wanted to replicate or replace the work of existing and capable organizations, but we have tried to coordinate some of their activities better. Does your office also maintain ties with Kurdish organizations not from Iraq? Undoubtedly being the official representation of the KRG to the United States a lot of people look to this office, whether it is for guidance, assistance or for a whole lot of other reasons. We have an open door policy. We deal with our obligations to have an open door policy to the Kurds living in the US. We maintain relationships with nonIraqi Kurdish organizations, but mainly for coordination on cultural or educational activities, rather than of a political nature.

How do you gauge the effect of the June 25th elections on the political development of the Kurdistan Region? Elections always generate excitement and I am delighted to see the level of excitement that was generated with the elections. Our political progress is important. The fact that there was a viable and healthy opposition in the elections was important for Kurdistan’s political development. We must respect the process, respect the different ideologies and different opinions, and we must try to act within expected norms; not to try to create instability. I am confident that the leaders of the various slates will operate with integrity and decency and with the wish to continue developing the Kurdistan Region’s political development... The fact that there is a vibrant and healthy opposition is exciting to watch.

Do you think that in the near future the post of KRG Representative to the US will be replaced by Kurdish ambassador to the US? First of all for Kurdistan to have an ambassador, Kurdistan would need to be a country and need to have diplomatic recognition. As that is not the policy of the KRG, I feel that our representation abroad, while continuing to formalize and institutionalize, will have to take on a creative role. It is less about the title of the person, more about the substance of the work. Fact of the matter is that today we are recognized as the representation of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, and while we work with the embassy of Iraq, we do not work for them.

What are your views on the KRG unification with Kirkuk? We have been adamant in our insistent requests and calls for the full and speedy implementation of article 140 of Iraq’s permanent constitution. That article is the basis for discussion between the various political forces in the country. It is a critical component to the validity of the constitution as a whole. [And it] allowed all sides to actually agree on this constitution as a package, and we are a little disappointed at how slowly steps have been taken to implement this constitution. It is not for Kurdistan to say that Kirkuk must rejoin Kurdistan and not for Baghdad to say that Kirkuk should not join Kurdistan. The people of Kirkuk

Democracy cannot be created overnight - Joost Hilterman

The right balance Lawen A. Sagerma SLEMANI he historic parliamentary and presidential elections in the Kurdistan Region, which saw close to 80 percent turnout from the 2.5 million eligible voters, resulted in the emergence of a viable opposition. Although the two main ruling parties retained power, 40 seats were won by opposition parties. Still, experts lament that there is still a long way to go before the Kurdistan Region’s transition to a full democratic system can be deemed a success. “Democracy cannot be created overnight. It requires not only electoral exercises but the building of democratic institutions and, more broadly, establishing the rule of law. The emergence of a lively opposition is an encouraging sign, as it could promote debate, transparency and accountability,” said Joost Hilterman, head of International Crisis Group (ICG).


The lack of dialogue and interaction between the people and their government has been a point of contention for a number of years but the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has now acknowledged that a great deal of work needs to be done to regain voters’ trust. “As the KRG undergoes its democratic transition, the people of the Kurdistan Region and their representatives in government will need to have an ongoing dialogue to define what the right balance between party and government activities is for them,” said Andrew Snow, leader of the US Regional Reconstruction Team. Snow went to explain that they were encouraged by signs of a multi-party process developing in the KRG. With the liberation process in 2003 the KRG grabbed the opportunity to exert some real influence in Baghdad but Hilterman ex-

plains that while it has exercised power effectively, it hasn't governed effectively. As a result, he says that “there is so much discontent on the street and this is why an opposition has arisen.” The issue of corruption and transparency were the main points of the election campaign by opposition parties. But with a livelier parliament soon set to commence, it is hoped these vices will soon be dealt with as Kurdistan’s nascent institutions become powerful decision making tools. “The US is supportive of budgetary and political transparency in government. For example, federal and state budgets in the United States are a matter of public record. The debate of how to ensure adequate transparency in Kurdistan is best conducted among the people of the region and their representatives in government,” said Snow. “In the US, democracy is a process supported by sound institutions. In countries around the world, we support the participation of citizens in this process and the strengthening of these institutions. Democracy is not a single event, like an election. It’s a process over time.” With new political dimensions in play, the KRG is also dealing with continuous mounting tensions between Erbil and Baghdad. The political rumor mills insist that Baghdad is slowly working for a strong cen-

must be given the opportunity to determine their own destinies, but in order for that to happen the injustices committed against the people of Kirkuk must be reversed. We cannot allow Saddam’s genocide of Kirkuk to be legitimized, which is why there must be a normalization of the disputed territories, in Kirkuk and other disputed territories, and ultimately a referendum that determines the political fate of these territories. The KRG has been criticized over the lack of progress in the execution of article 140. Could you update us on this matter? It is a very complicated issue... The political will, nationally and regionally to move this process forward and to gain the right kind of attention and involvement from the international community, has been difficult. The multinational forces have not wanted to deal with this issue quickly for a host of reasons, one of them being that it is just a very complicated issue and that there is really a win-win to be had in their mind. Another, I think, impending factor has been the lack of political will by key elements within the federal government in Baghdad and, to be a little self-critical, I think there has also been a lack of a strategic policy on the part of the Kurdish leadership. Up until very recently there was not a unity of purpose within the representations of Kurdistan inside Kirkuk, and that has resulted in a criticism of the people of Kirkuk towards the Kurdish leadership. I have seen most recently a change of focus and a greater self-reflection. The leadership of Kurdistan, as it has been resolute on the issue of hydrocarbons in Iraq, must remain as resolute and united on the issue of disputed territories and must present a united Kurdistani front on resolving the disputed territories.

the concerns of neighboring countries and creating an environment where we have mutual respect for each other and we have a mutual understanding not to interfere in the internal affairs of each other, which should be the basis for any neighbouring relations. There has been enormous progress in relations with, in particular, Turkey. If you recall about 19 months ago it was almost a full-scale invasion by Turkey into the Kurdistan Region. There were daily aerial sorties over the Kurdistan Region and there was a non-existent political relationship between Turkey and the KRG. There was even actually no recognition of the KRG. Since May of 2008 I have seen the relationship improve through behind the door meetings to slightly more official meetings, to meetings with the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, culminating in meetings between the Turkish envoy for Iraq and the President of the Kurdistan Region. I think the ice on the cake really was the meeting between the President of Turkey and the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region, which was held in Baghdad last year. That alone goes to show you the extent of the turnaround in the relationship. Neither side is getting ahead of itself; neither side is getting overly excited. There are serious concerns on both sides, but I think there is the right trend, the right attitude by both sides and I think a much greater level of respect for each other’s concerns and expectations.

What is the state of the relationships that the KRG maintains with its neighbors? The relationship of Kurdistan with its neighboring countries is constantly maturing and there is a much greater understanding by all sides involved as to respecting the rights of the Kurdistan Region, respecting

Do you have any plans to move on to the political stage in Kurdistan? I certainly do not expect to stay her forever. I have been posted to the United States for nine and a half years, take out a year in 2003 when I was in Iraq and Kurdistan. But obviously I will go where is necessary to go and if the leadership feels that I am valuable somewhere else, I will do what is right for Kurdistan and go where I could be most effective and most helpful. Of course it is my dream to one day go back to Kurdistan and serve Kurdistan from Kurdistan and not just from the United States.

tralized government. “The question of how decentralized Iraq should be remains unsettled, thanks to the fact that the constitution is so vague in this respect. In any case, settling such matters in any context would take a long time (which argues for a more deliberative and inclusive constitution-making process, both in Iraq, where it was dangerously rushed in 2005, and in Kurdistan, where it threatens to be dangerously rushed now),” said Hilterman. “Over-decentralization of the rest of Iraq could jeopardize the country's territorial integrity; no government in Baghdad is going to accept that. The KRG should hold onto what it obtained in the 2005 constitution.” Hilterman pointed out that there is going to be a tug of war between the KRG and Baghdad for some time and that as long as matters were resolved peacefully and in accordance to the law then this shouldn’t be construed as something negative. Other experts add that the emergence of a strong central government in Baghdad similar to those of the past is not conceivable. A bone of contention that has plagued the KRG and increased hostility between the Erbil and Baghdad administrations has been Article 140 that has yet to see the light of day. While President Massoud Barzani of the Kurdistan Region has pledged to push for its implementation, hope is slowly with-

ering. “UNAMI is proposing to have a confirmatory referendum in Kirkuk, a yes/no referendum following a political agreement between the principal stakeholders. This would prevent any dispute about demographic manipulations before or after 2003, and thus would take an incendiary problem off the table,” said Hilterman. “The failure to implement Article 140 and the absence of a viable Iraqi process to solve the conflict suggest that external mediation would be useful and necessary. UNAMI now has a process, fully supported by the Obama administration. Let’s give it a chance.” Recent bombings have instilled further fear in all Iraqis that a total US withdrawal could lead to a downward spiral of violence and while many would argue with the fact that foreign troops need to leave the country, the time span in which they should do so is very negotiable. “Iraqi state institutions remain very weak and may not be able to withstand a US troop withdrawal. This would be dangerous for everyone, including the Kurdistan Region,” said Hilterman. “The basic conflict between the KRG and Baghdad over power, territory and resources (oil and gas) will need to be settled in some way prior to a US troop withdrawal if the country is to stay together.”


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009

Turkey extends olive branch to Kurds Zheno Abdulla SLEMANI he Kurdistan Region welcomes Ankara’s new position vis-a-vis the longstanding Kurdish question. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayeb Erdogan, addressing parliament, presented his ‘roadmap’ for improving the government’s relationship with the country’s 20 millionplus Kurdish population. Falah Mustafa, head of the Foreign Relations office of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), said that relations between Erbil and Ankara have improved, adding that the KRG has always had friendly and neighborly intentions towards Turkey. The KRG, he explained, is viewing these efforts as valuable progress. According to Mustafa, the Turkish government is now acknowledging that the Kurdish issue requires dialogue. He dubbed this ‘roadmap’ as a ‘positive’ step toward achieving a solution. “Turkish interests are behind these positive steps forward and we as a neighbor respect this stance. We think that it is the right decision and an important factor in establishing peace, security and stability for the parties involved,” said Mustafa. Aram Ali, a specialist in Turkish affairs, said that relations between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey have been normalized for a significant period of time now, noting that in addition to political relations, there are strong economic and commercial relations that reach hundreds of millions of dollars. “Most of those economic relations are through oil production, which are strategic ties, and the KRG has tried continuously to stabilize the situation in the region in order to make these relations a priority,” said Ali. He added that the Turkish government would blame the KRG for the activities of the PKK from time to time but that there will be ‘no more blaming and accusing the KRG.’ “The KRG will take on an important role in solving these issues because the Kurdish leaders have a lot of diplomatic experience in assuming a referee role,” said Ali. Kurds assumed an important role in ral-


Kurdish citizens could soon be given the same rights and duties as Turkish citizens as Turkey adopts a new stand. (photo by Kamaran Najm)

‘Turkish interests are behind these positive steps forward and we, as a neighbor, respect this stance.’ lying together the various communities of Iraq, whether Shiite, Sunni or other. While applauding the positive steps taken by Turkey, Ali expressed some doubt over what the Turkish model for solving the Kurdish question would involve. “We see that the Iraqi solution for solving Kurdish issues in Iraq is federalism in accordance with the Iraqi constitution which is far from perfect as there are still a number of points that need implementation,” he said. “But this model is an important step for solving the Kurdish issues in other parts because federalism is much more progressive than the autonomy system.” According to Ali, the model offered by the Turkish government, as well as the solution that Abdulla Ocalan is about to declare in his project, is a democratic model, which has no room for racial discrimination. This concept will no longer be permissible in Turkey and the solution will be on the level of citizenship meaning total

KURDISH PROVERB A thousand friends are too few; one enemy is one too many.

equality between Turkish and Kurdish citizens. “Turkey has to make changes in its constitution because I don’t think this solution is a modern one. I think that if this model is to be taken as a basic step for solving the Kurdish issue, it will have an impact on our federalism in addition to those issues that surround the disputed territories such as Turkey’s sensitivity towards Kirkuk, for example,” said Ali. “We must point out that the Kurdish issue in Turkey won’t be solved by giving Kurds the right of citizenship alone. They must follow the Iraqi example,” he added.

The Erdogan government's 'roadmap' addresses the Kurdish question in the country. The 20 million strong population has long been oppressed.


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009



‘If someone can make peace between two sides while making money in the process, he is within his rights’.

Campaign art he recent elections in the Kurdistan Region unleashed a torrent of campaign advertisements by various parties and individuals aiming to win the support of the populace. Others used the opportunity to launch their own campaign to re-ignite a sense of patriotism and brotherhood among the peoples of the region, irrespective of their ethnic, religious or political affiliations.


Darya Ibrahim ERBIL The Kurdistan Region’s landmark presidential and parliamentary elections were preceded by a month of feverish campaigning to win the support of over 2 million registered voters. There were minor sporadic clashes between diehard supporters of the competing political parties, while those watching from the sidelines prayed that the month would pass peacefully and without bloodshed. Adding another dimension to these elections was the role of artists, who mostly worked through their art to remind the people of the sense of brotherhood that must prevail in the region despite differences of opinion. National unity and brotherhood were the ideas that they sought to push forward and deep into the psyche of voters. Burhan Majeed, one of Kurdistan’s most famous singers, is well known for his patriotism and forthright manner. During the month long campaign leading up to the historic elections, he endeavored to unify the people through promoting the notions of brotherhood and patriotism in his music. Majeed’s last song, ‘Khami Khak’ (Land’s worries), paid homage to these virtues, and was broadcasted on most tel-

evision and radio channels irrespective of their political affiliations. “The day I finished recording, I gave it to all the media channels as a gift because I felt that the television channels were lacking any content that could serve to unite us all, which is our sense of brotherhood as the Kurdish nation,” said Majeed, whose song instantly struck a chord with all and sundry. “I worked on that song with all my feelings of patriotism. I gave it to the channels and allowed them the discretion to make a video clip however they saw fit with the one condition that it didn’t contain ideas from any particular side.” Majeed says that he recorded the song entirely at his own cost: “One of the parties offered me a lot of money to record the song exclusively for them but I couldn’t because I wasn’t in it for the money. My aim was to instill in everyone a feeling that we all needed.” The speed with which Majeed came out with this song took even some of his most fervent fans by surprise, but the artist is quick to correct those who think his sense of patriotism was re-ignited by these elections. “I have dedicated my whole life to my nation and my country. I will not rest easy until I see my people living in peace and

with a sense of brotherhood despite their differences,” he said. The concept of brotherhood and unity was also flagged by a number of merchants whose motives were brought into question. “It is the intention that is important so if someone can make peace between two sides while making money in the process, then he is within his rights,” said 36-yearold Pakhshan Ariz. Karzan Koey is a Kurdish merchant who owns a factory for selling olives by the name of ‘Awa’ olive. His advertisement for his olives can be seen in many places especially in the bazaars where large posters are posted familiarizing people with this brand. “I have my own style of advertising for every different occasion especially during a time when I felt that my people need me. For instance in the Iraqi elections, I participated in the propaganda campaign by supporting the Regional Kurdish Alliance because it was for the good of the Kurdish people. I also showed my happiness in the execution of Saddam as well as many other different occasions,” he said. Koey’s style of advertising is very attractive and unique. It is done by publishing and hanging posters and slogans

The presidential and parliamentary elections on 25 July engaged all layers of society especially the youth. (photo by Aram Eissa)

specialized for different occasions in public places, sometimes by writing a joke or something that resonates with the feelings or mood of the people. For example, after the execution of Saddam Hussein, the slogan they wrote was: “We send our condolences to both the channels Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya for the loss of their son Saddam.” This caused great controversy at the time. “I think about two things during such public occasions. First the feeling of patriotism and the second the advertisement of my company,” said Koey. The slogans that ‘Awa’ olive used during the campaign month for the elections included such statements as: “Youngsters, if you continue with the mindset of fighting based on color [the colors associated with the political parties] then our hands will be stained with each other’s blood.” This statement refers back to the civil war which ensued after the 1992 elections. An attractive theme that ran through

their work was the use of a variety of colors and styles. “I wanted to use all the different colors in my advertisement because I wasn’t referring to a particular list or party. On the contrary I intended to use all the colors even those used by the opposition because I was doing something for public and my olives are used by everyone,” said Koey. Despite the efforts of many ordinary citizens, artists and merchants to create a sense of brotherhood, there were some who worked in the opposite direction to complicate the situation. “All those whose work can have an impact must remain independent. As an artist, I curse those who support and encourage conflicts among the people. Art is holy and pure and must not be used as material to start conflicts,” said Majeed. “An artist’s role is to encourage people to love their country and nation, and not work to separate them,” added Majeed. Koey concurs.

‘All those whose work can have an impact must remain independent. As an artist, I curse those who encourage conflicts.’ The poster reads: “Violence during the elections will create a civil war and civil war means blood, coffins, terror, inflation, funerals...”

“Youngsters, if you continue with the mindset of fighting based on color then our hands will be stained with each other’s blood”

7 Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009


‘Brief Recollections: Personal Flashbacks in Kurdistan’

The disabled community in the Kurdistan Region ask for nothing more than equal rights.

“Brief Recollections: Personal Flashbacks in Kurdistan” is a new book by our Language Editor, Anwar Qaradaghi, that is just published by Khak Foundation in Slemani. Its content comprises his columns (and some other articles) in the first 55 issues of this paper, SOMA Digest, of the last three years or so – and it is in English. Its price per copy is 3,000 Iraqi Dinars and available through Khak or Soma The majority of the pages speak of differing aspects of life in the city of Slemani and its surrounding areas in the last 60 years or so. That is how they used to be in his recollections and how they have become or could have developed. In most cases they also contain suggestions for improvement. Consequently, they contain interesting details to tell about Slemani, the Kurds and Kurdistan and Iraq in general. Moreover, it is believed that these short articles may be interesting and useful to visitors of the region with the aim of giving them some general in-

(photo by Aram Eissa)

Kurdistan’s disabled community require the means to lead normal lives.

Able and willing Roshna Rasool SLEMANI andicapped persons are part of every community, and due to a physical or mental disability they naturally require more help and assistance in their daily lives. But in the Kurdistan Region, a law has yet to be put forth to protect their rights in society. Omar Karim Mohammad, head of the Disabled Union of Kurdistan from the Slemani Center, said that a lack of statistics has meant that accurate numbers of disabled people are not easy to come by.. However he added that in Slemani there are 50,000 people with disabilities. “Eight percent of people in the Kurdistan Region have a disability many by mines in the villages followed by car accidents and birth deformations,” he said. Mohammad added that there are larger numbers of disabled women than men. Taha Omar Rashid, a lawyer, says that the physically or mentally disabled person should be entitled to the same rights as every other citizen in the region. For those who are mentally disabled, a lawyer is allocated for them to ensure that when making important decisions such as selling or purchasing a plot of land, the final deal is made in the best interest of the person. The government has yet to allocate a lawyer for those with disabilities and so the burden falls on the persons themselves. Such transactions also include marriage. “One can enter a marital relationship, but there are terms. The person who is to marry a disabled person must be aware of their partner’s disabilities, and the marriage is granted as long as it would not cause trouble,” explains Rashid. It is not so much the physical disability of a person that could potentially cause problems in a marriage, but mental issues, points out Rashid. An institute in Slemani is dedicated to


educating those with physical disabilities. Here, the visually impaired are taught to read and write in Braille. There are also centers where they are taught crafts, which may become useful professions. The point is to help them find ways to get past their disability and earn a living. Acknowledging their disabilities does not mean that they should be looked at any differently, or that they should be pitied. “When a person behaves differently and judges a disabled person, be it on a negative level or otherwise, it simply shows the ignorance of those people, which may even reflect the general viewpoint of society,” Rashid states. Rebwar Khdir, who has lost a leg, believes that the disabled must be encouraged to live out normal, independent lives: “I personally believe, as a person who has a physical disability, that it is better for us to find work and find a way to earn a living. It’s better than just doing nothing and waiting for that monthly income support.” When addressing the special needs of a segment of society, all aspects of their lives must be taken into consideration and for those with physical disabilities this includes transport and entry and exit of public buildings that will allow people with disabilities to have easier access. Ari Rahim, an engineer, said: “In hotels, the bazaars and other public areas, there have been buildings designed so that people with disabilities would find places that would accommodate their needs.” However, easier access in this regard has at times been overlooked but in new designs there have been orders that plans should be made with the disabled minority in mind and something that would benefit the community as a whole. Rahim went on to explain that some designs have been altered so as to accommodat for the needs of the disabled before construction is given the go ahead. However, Rahim lamented that once construction has been approved there is lit-

tle that can be done to change a design that hasn’t made access easier for disabled persons. “Unfortunately once the permission is granted for construction, one can’t alter the design and once it’s done there is not much we can do about it,” he says. The fact that there are initiatives and groups of people in society that see it as a duty to assist those with disabilities is a positive sign. It indicates that with time, more will be done for the disabled, along with international standards of care for all its citizens.

formation about the Region, its history, culture, language, customs, and aspirations. Anwar Qaradaghi, who (holds MBA from Leicester University in Educational Management), has had many years of teaching, administration, writing and translation experience, has other published works that include two collections of English short stories translated into Kurdish and a history book on Kirkuk translated from Arabic into English. — EDITORIAL


Taking you of life in

Every Saturday night on Kurdsat 23:00 Erbil 20:00 GMT


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009

A bloody affair Homeopathic practicioners as well as medical professionals administer traditional ‘cupping’ treatment.

The treatment originates from the Arabs. In Islam, it was recommended by the Prophet. As such, most people regularly used these cups to purge the blood of toxins. The Kurds later adopted the practice as well. Aram Eissa & Rashid Kh. Rashid SLEMANI here are many traditional Kurdish treatments of complicated ailments, for which medical science has yet to find a cure. It is a known fact that everywhere in the world, most people do not care about how any given treatment works, so long as they are told it will cure their affliction. Most traditional remedies work because they provide an immediate sense of comfort to the patient, at a psychological level at least. They are given a sense that they are being cured at once, whereas medical science involves investigative tests and waiting for results before any treat-


A little bit of Taoism in volatile times

THE BORNE IDENTITY AGRI ISMAIL here is a well-known Taoist parable which goes something like this: Once upon a time, there was an old farmer who had used his one and only horse to work his crops for many years. One day, his horse runs away. His friends and neighbors come over to visit to offer their sympathies. The farmer shrugs and says: “We’ll see.”


A couple of days later, the horse returns. With it it has brought a whole band of wild horses. Again, the friends and neighbors come by, this time congratulating the farmer on his good luck and once more, the farmer shrugs and says: “We’ll see.” A few weeks after that, the farmer’s only son tries to ride one of the untamed horses, and is thrown to the ground and breaks his leg. The friends and neighbors run over with flowers and say how sorry they are. Again, the farmer - who truth be told is acting rather more like a Zen master or someone with a severe case of autism at this point than a worried father - says: “We’ll see.” Finally, the imperial guards come by, taking all the young boys of every family (think the introductory scene in Mulan) to fight in a bloody and pointless battle somewhere on the other

side of the kingdom. Since the farmer’s son had a broken leg, they do not take him. Everyone runs over to the farmer, congratulating him on how well things had turned out. And of course, the farmer merely said: “We’ll see.” In a related anecdote, I recently went to see Wagner’s opera “The Ring Cycle”. For those not in the know this is the longest opera ever written, lasting four nights and a total of over nineteen hours. It was a trial of endurance I would probably never do again, although I am pleased that I did. There is something about works on such epic scale: be it watching Fassbinder’s 15hour Berlin Alexanderplatz, reading David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest or listening to the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs or partaking in Apted’s Up-series of films… something touching, something that impresses us

ment is administered. Medical clinics also require greater costs as well as time. Many patients complain that doctors give less personal attention to their needs. While proponents of modern science will argue that traditional procedures are out-of-date and sometimes make no sense, average people still resort to their usage especially when science has told them all hope is lost. The traditional remedies used by any nation draws heavily on the particular climate or weather prevalent in that area. In Kurdistan in the last two decades, the rate of blood pressure problems have been on the rise. Most specialists claim that this is a direct result of the high levels of stress endured by the people. It also reflects the mediocre quality of imported food products, which come through the UN Oil-for-Food program. According to data from the Ministry of Health, there is also a high percentage of first and second-hand smokers. This also contributes to blood pressure problems. ‘ Natural cupping ability’ One traditional remedy widely considered effective is Kalashakh or, ‘cupping’. There are different forms of cupping practiced in the region. Some are professionals in cupping, but there are also some homeopathic centers which administer the treatment. “Humans have the natural cupping ability in their body through the spleen and liver but there will still be some non-active blood cells in the system due to their dying as they have a limited lifespan,” explains Homayoon Abdulla Hama Khan, a specialist in cupping and

in the way that human nature can aspire to such scale. As I was sitting there, watching the drama unfold over the course of many, many hours I was struck by how tragedy was striking these characters although they had nothing but the best intentions at heart. Everyone else in the audience seemed to know the plot already (maybe because it was written right there in the programme) but I was happy not knowing because I truly wanted to know how it would turn out. We’re so jaded by Hollywood’s insistence on happy endings we’ve forgotten how liberating art can be when the ending is hidden from us. And so, when tragedy befell them at the end, when the handful of main characters had genuinely tried their best, it was all the more moving. We are formatted to believe that there is a positive causality to things: namely, if something good happens to us now, the consequences will be good and vice versa. We need

a certified nurse. “Daily I treat 10 persons for cupping, but I can’t treat more than 10, because it needs half an hour for each person.” The treatment originates from the Arab tradition. In Islam, the practice is ‘sunna’, advised by the Prophet. As such, most people took it religiously, regularly using these cups to purge the blood of toxins. Afterward, the Kurds adopted the practice, using a deer’s horn and did the cupping by sucking the blood through the horns. Cupping also existed in China and other cultures some 1,200 years before Islam, employing cups per se. They would suction the air out of the cups and stick the cup upside down over the area of the body where blood was to be drawn. Healthcare standards Generally cupping has two methods, traditional and medical. Most of those who practice the traditional method do not abide by healthcare standards. They often use their equipment for more than one person and as such, cause the spread of viral infections. For this reason, most informed people will seek out the treatment from certified medical professionals. Prior to receiving the treatment, the patient must not have eaten or smoked a cigarette for two hours. Sexual intercourse is also prohibited until 24 hours after treatment. This treatment is used for those who suffer from body pains, headaches, blood problems, diabetes, high cholesterol and those who want to give up smoking. But there are special precautions for those who suffer from coronary complications.

this form of thinking to stay sane, otherwise we’d never stop worrying about whatever impending doom might befall us, but it is also a logical fallacy. The truth is simple: we have no idea what the future will bring. So, when I’m asked about the election results, what this will mean for the Kurdistan Region, whether the power of the regional government will be eroded or not all I can say, in the echo of the Taoist farmer, is: “We’ll see”.


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009

Word on the street Aram Eissa asks average Kurds what they make of the price hike in the bazaars during Ramadan and how they rate the KRG’s efforts to build entertainment venues. Jamal Mahmud, 35 (shopkeeper) What do you make of the increase in prices? “The increase has mainly been in food prices which has meant that some shopkeepers have seen a decrease in their customers. This has hampered the way people celebrate Ramadan but the increase hasn’t affected other goods like clothes.” Has the KRG built enough entertainment venues? “We need to have big parks and gardens in every area because people won’t leave their cars if they have to park it far from a park. Erbil has a smaller population than Slemani but it has more parks.”

Jamal Qadir, 29 (shopkeeper) What do you make of the increase in prices? “There is no monitoring or supervision by the KRG and so everyone sells as they please. I would like to have more customers but stabilizing the prices is on the KRG’s shoulder.” Has the KRG built sufficient entertainment venues? “There are not enough places even for children. There are private places but they are full of smokers and loud games and most people need some rest so they can’t stand those places.”

Rebaz Anwar, 20 (barber) What do you make of the increase in prices? “One of the factors is the tax imposed by the KRG on exports. Sometimes the government bans some goods so the local ones are sold which also leads to increases in price.” Has the KRG built sufficient entertainment venues? “We don’t have a place that makes me feel that I’m in nature. We need more green spaces. The people have the education to have new trees Hussen Mustafa, 42 (greengrocer) and green spaces in the city but the governWhat do you make of the increase in prices? ment doesn’t know how to keep them green.” “The main problem is that the whole bazaar has increased their prices but this is something normal during Ramadan because the increase in demand causes the increase in price.” Has the KRG built sufficient entertainment venues? “I don’t think we need places for comfort or to have fun, we need the situation to be better and for people to feel they are living in comfort which means they will feel it everywhere.”

Hardi Jalal, 29 (carpenter) What do you make of the increase in prices? “This unstable market is a misunderstanding of the free market, which people believe to mean that everyone is free in setting prices. Ramadan is a holy month and we must have respect for every people.” Has the KRG built sufficient entertainment venues? “Our country is a place that has great potential in being a big place for rest and leisure. I hope that Kurdistan becomes a land of greenery from east to west like it always has been.” Rahem Azez, 64 (retired) What do you make of the increase in prices? “If I talk about myself, I can’t afford those high prices, there must be a limitation on prices because most people especially those who are retired have a limited salary.” Has the KRG built sufficient entertainment venues? “Most places are full of youths in crowds with some coming to study but need places that are suitable for us. We would love to have some place peaceful in the city where we would go and relax.”

Ibrahem Nasrulla, 54 (shopkeeper) What do you make of the increase in prices? “There are two factors: one, the majority of retailers have lost their conscience and two, the government do not supervise the market and so cannot set prices.” Has the KRG built sufficient entertainment venues? “We lost our old parks by neglecting them and by building many houses and big building which have made everything crowded and uncomfortable. We don’t have new parks and places, they are all for special groups of people, not the general public.”

Raza Muhammad, 39 (butcher) What do you make of the increase in prices? “Our economic system doesn’t have a strong infrastructure. One of the important elements is the villages and animal resources but they are underdeveloped and so the government can’t maintain market prices.” Has the KRG built sufficient entertainment venues? “What venues? We had a beautiful resort inside the Sarchinar neighborhood which the government was busy with for more than three years and it will be worse year after year. And Azadi Park is not for us except when foreigners come, we welcome them there.”


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009



hat is now eagerly anticipated is how influential the success of the Kurdistan Region’s elections will be in dissipating problems with Baghdad. One problem that has seen sporadic face offs has been the role of the Peshmarga forces alongside the Iraqi army. Iraqi Defense Minister Abdulqadir Ubaedi has denied such tension, stating that a conflict involving the two forces is a ludicrous notion and something that the central government will never allow. From the onset of the US-led war, Kurds were aware of the danger in Iraq being able to stand on its own two feet in the future and resume the cat and mouse game with its Kurdish minority. Recent bouts of friction between the two administrations on a number of key issues, oil and gas, Article 140 and the armed forces to name a few, has meant that the Kurds have had reasonable cause for concern. In an interview with Asharq Al Awsat newspaper in late July of this year, Ubaedi played down the tension between the two forces when he was asked if there was a possibility that the Iraqi army and the Peshmarga forces be involved in a battle. “We have tried all our methods to avoid this ridiculous situation because the Peshmarga are a part of the national Iraqi forces and there is no way that something like this would be allowed to occur,” he said. Ubaedi said that there is continual connection and understanding between Arabs and Kurds ‘so that we don’t allow our enemies to be happy’.


BAGHDAD BLUES KURDAWAN MUHAMMAD The statement of the minister of defense comes after a statement by the Kurdistan Regional G o v e r n m e n t ’s (KRG) prime minister, Nechirvan Barzani, who pointed to the danger of an armed conflict between the Iraqi army and the Peshmarga forces. In a statement by the KRG’s prime minister to the Washington Post in June, Barzani said: “We were barely able to avoid a bloody war with the Iraqi army in late June in the town of Makhmoor between Kirkuk and Mosul when the Iraqi army wanted to access Makhmoor but the Peshmarga forces there didn’t allow them.” In the same statement, he added: “Discussions among the American, Iraqi government representative and Kurdish representative continued for 24 hours until the Iraqi army were pulled back.”

Both Massoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region, and Nechirvan Barzani, in two different statements to the Washington Post, pointed out that if the Americans hadn’t interfered in that situation, a war would have probably started. The former speaker of the Iraqi army referred to the situation as a misunderstanding and nothing

Kurdish contribution to Iraqi democratization

DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ DR JOSEPH KECHICHIAN uly 25, 2009 will long be remembered in contemporary Iraqi affairs for a variety of reasons but, perhaps, the most interesting may well be as a model to emulate for peaceful changes. Throughout a long campaign, many hoped that these elections would “shake up the entrenched regional government, and help reduce longstanding tension with Baghdad over oil and land disputes that threaten the country’s stability.” They were not disappointed as preliminary results indicated that Gorran, the new challenger party apparently won a significant portion of the 111 seats in the re-


gional parliament. A concurrent race for the region’s president, the first time Kurdistan elects its head of state directly by popular vote, reinvested the incumbent, Massoud Barzani, who now has to maneuver around three dominant parties. Because this vote was the first to offer meaningful choices beyond the two established parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), there was a rush to judgment that the future was bleak and that Kurdish politics would now become messy. Comically, any change in an Arab country, especially when it is achieved through peaceful elections, produces such stale conclusions. It is, as if electors last Saturday could not possibly know how best to look after their own interests. Sadly, when rapid reactions conclude that the end result would be chaotic, one wonders what else but lunacy motivates such commentators. Useful democratization lesson In the event, and while the entrenched leadership appeared disappointed in early returns, there were and are no reasons to believe that the process itself, as well as the results, would not be accepted to everyone. On the contrary, it seems clear that Kurds in Iraq have just put on a useful democrati-

zation lesson to their fellow citizens, even if some individuals were shaken given that no politicians anticipates or appreciates a loss. Of far greater importance was the lesson that these regional elections provided, which ushered in a new coalition running on a change platform, and which managed to convey its message more effectively. Needless to say that this will put the onus on the majority to deliver on repeated promises. Defensive position According to Aram Sheik-Mohammed, a Kurdish civil society activist quoted by the New York Times, the election results were “historic because there was opposition and the authorities were in a defensive position.” Whether serious internal rifts will now be exploited by the central government in Baghdad, as envisaged by Sheik-Mohammed, is difficult to ascertain, although Baghdad may actually be far more impressed by the way these elections were conducted. Putative challengers in Baghdad will surely and very carefully study the nascent party that catapulted itself into the Kurdish scene and see whether they may learn how to live with similar phenomena elsewhere in Iraq. To its credit, and because of internal con-

more. The Iraqi troops that went to Makhmoor, he explained, did so only to replace another set of troops but the people of the town who saw their arrival misjudged it and they were the ones who allegedly created the problem in mistaking the intention of the Iraqi army. The issue of Kirkuk is one of the most important issues occupying Iraqi and Kurdish politics and has been a point of conflict between the KRG and the federal government. Last April, Stefan de Mistura, then UN special representative, offered a suggestion for the Iraqis to solve the Kirkuk problem, but it wasn’t the solution. The Turkmen and Arab communities of Kirkuk have asked for the administrative positions to be equally divided among the different ethnic groups in Kirkuk. The Kurds have rejected this suggestion, argu-

cerns—ranging the gamut from financial corruption to nepotism and cronyism—that preoccupied citizens for two decades, all three parties will now assume their full responsibilities. Nevertheless, no one should doubt Gorran’s bona fide as far as purely Kurdish questions are concerned, as it will jockey with both the KDP and PUK but never on existential matters. There will be unanimity on the fate of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, as well as sharing budget revenues for oil and gas resources exported from the Kurdish semiautonomous region, with Baghdad. To expect otherwise is infantile even if such contemplations cannot be dismissed. Naturally, Prime Minister Nouri Kamal Al Maliki is aware that these unanimous views are held by the entire Kurdish spectrum, which will place him and his government at odds with Kurdish officials unless a modus vivendi is found soon. Setting precedent Far more serious is the precedent that has just been set, with several non-Kurdish factions facing serious challenges elsewhere, which will probably empower reformists throughout Iraq to launch similar efforts. Whether Al Maliki will favor opposition from within his own ranks will be tested before long after the media points out to the Kurdish model where real issues were discussed and significant competition upset the proverbial political applecart. Al Maliki will

ing that if this equation were practiced in Kirkuk then it is also the right of Kurds to have it implemented in Mosul and Salahaddin provinces, which hold large Kurdish majorities. But this has been rejected by Sunni Arabs. In addition, Kurds are adamant that Article 140 must be executed, which would, they believe, restore the demographic situation to that prior to the rule of Saddam Hussein, who Arabized the city. Kurds have called for the population census to be completed and then a referendum held to allow Kirkukis to determine their own fate but Arabs believe that Article 140 (six years after it was constitutionally agreed on) has expired and cannot rule on any matter. An official of the UN told Reuters in July a bloody war was viable in Kirkuk if a referendum was held in the city to determine whether or not Kirkuk must be put under the jurisdiction of the KRG. The Iraqi Prime Minister in a statement to an American newspaper accused the Kurds of crossing over their permitted lines many times but the recent success of the parliamentary and presidential elections in the Kurdistan Region has instilled hope for attempts to resolve pending issues between the central and regional government. The primordial question, however, remains: when will this hope materialize into positive actions? It also remains to be seen whether on the back of highly publicized and successful elections, the KRG will change its attitude towards Baghdad or continue with more of the same.

draw a sharp lesson from these changes, noticing that Noshirwan Mustafa led Goran with gusto, even if the former stalwart separated from his former patron—President Talabani. The Iraqi Prime Minister will now look closely at his lieutenants, hoping that most would remain loyal, and refrain from denouncing him for corruption, nepotism and cronyism. With the exception of Lebanon, the Arab political arena is predictable with dominant groups stifling opposition voices. Kurds in Iraq have now joined the Lebanese in putting on a rare display that should make Baghdad, as well as most Arab capitals, blush with envy. Many Iraqis are persuaded that their government is far worse than they are led to believe, with significant oil resources lining the pockets of a new oligarchy that emerged after the collapse of the Baath regime. It behooves Prime Minister Al Maliki to accelerate reforms unless he wishes to confront angry citizens who, like in neighboring Iran, may take to the ballot boxed to usher in change. A failure to respond will send the masses into Iraqi streets to voice their discontent. Kurds in Iraq just showed the way how to avoid such an outcome. Dr Joseph Kechichian is an expert in Arab and Gulf affairs, and author of several books.


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009

THE WAY FORWARD IN IRAQ The sole litmus test is whether there will be sufficient determination, persistence and follow-through. DR HARRY HAGOPIAN s my SOMA readers might recall, I had already surmised the outcome of both the presidential and parliamentary elections in my previous article almost a week before Iraqi Kurds went to the polls. And it seems I was not far off at all. Indeed, with the regional elections in Kurdistan now done and dusted, the recently-formed coalition of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) won again a majority of the popular votes. In fact, such has been the case since Kurdistan acquired a sort of de facto independence in 1991, with those two parties being regularly voted into power - first separately, and now collectively - that they have almost established a sense of predictable complacency. However, the major change that took place last month is that a real opposition emerged at long last and garnered overall 24 percent of the votes for the parliamentary seats - in fact reaching almost 51 percent in the important powerbase of Slemani. The party that managed this breakthrough is Gorran, or Change, that was formed only three months ago. It ran on a platform pledging to abolish backroom dealing and autocracy that together had become a trademark of regional politics. Moreover, it stood for transparency and accountability. Mind you, Gorran, headed by Nawshirwan Mustafa, sprang out of the PUK and is rumored to enjoy the backing of Baghdad. Regardless, it could still become the fresh impetus - the political spark as it were - that would open up the region towards more democracy and establish it as a model for the whole of Iraq. However, what is the model the country ought to seek now that the regional elections are past? After all, as evidenced by the recent visits of Prime Minister Nouri Al Ma-


liki to the USA and then to Iraqi Kurdistan, it seems to me that the US Administration is already turning impatient with its different Iraqi allies and is nudging them testily toward compromise. It is also clear to me that this model can only be political, not military, whereby Iraqi Arabs and Kurds unfreeze the five leadership committees in Baghdad and learn to compromise on a solution that includes a division or sharing of power, resources and territory. Such a series of deals should focus on a federal hydrocarbons law, a settlement over Kirkuk and other disputed territories, and agreement over the division of powers that would pave the way toward consensus on amending the constitution. But this should occur now, not after the Iraqi legislative elections in January 2010, and the biggest conflict remains Kirkuk, with Arabs, Kurds and Turkomans, where everyone is fighting everyone else over untold reserves of oil and gas. All political actors have a role in tailoring solutions to outstanding issues, or at least in facilitating those solutions. Perhaps one key catalyst would be the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) whose report on disputed internal boundaries of April 2009 offers an important draft for negotiations. An overarching strategy would then focus on power versus resources, and UNAMI is quite well-placed to facilitate a deal since it is the least partial international body in Iraq. For me, though, the real problem is not necessarily one of impossible solutions but rather of impossible problems. After all, many global conflicts could be resolved relatively expeditiously if only genuine goodwill were present in those negotiating rooms! Instead, conflicts simmer endlessly and usually lapse into gory violence. In the Iraqi case, all parties, both Kurdish and Arab, should stop believing that they could

win outright against their opponents and then impose willy-nilly their own political and military will. As I read the geo-political map of the whole region, let alone the loose federation of alliances supporting different Iraqi factions, I know that there is no possible knockout or checkmate available here. The sole answer - and in that sense, the sole litmus test - is whether there will be sufficient determination, persistence and followthrough. If we look at the history of Iraq, at least its contemporary chapter spanning the past few decades, one can surely realize that common sense and joint action might take this rich country to impressive heights of prosperity whereas bellicose actions - whether coming from Baghdad or Erbil - would plunge it into further mayhem and instability. This is the most difficult part of the equation, a realization by all and sundry that since there are no friends in politics, only interests, it is not useful for any Iraqi party to allow one group overrunning the other. If this were taken as a truism, even a paradigm to build upon, then any political shift-shaping becomes redundant and counter-productive to the interest of all Iraqis. After all, is it not this sense of placid cronyism and political corruptibility that hinder progress and oppress people? And is it not this short-sightedness marketed as political interest which pushes extremists and radicals into prominence? Treat your people with equality, and deal with your people democratically, and the dividends become manifold. Do it with contempt, or apply other powers’ agendas, and you, your people and your country, would be the ultimate losers. This rule applies almost to the whole world, and I pray that Iraq in the months ahead would prove an exception to this regrettable two-way traffic. Š hbv-H @ 4 August 2009


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009

AND THE WINNER IS The recent elections broke taboos and created opportunities. The real winners were the people. DR HUSSEIN TAHIRI raqi Kurdistan went through parliamentary and presidential elections amid many claims and counter claims. Security, corruption and service provisions topped the agenda in this election. The final result of the Kurdistan elections announced by the Independent High Commission of Elections in Iraq showed that the Kurdistani List (a coalition of Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) has won 59 seats, the Change list 25 seats, and the Reform and Service list 13 seats. Adding other lists, the opposition lists won 42 seats. This is by any measure a huge swing against the KDP and PUK which have dominated Kurdish politics for decades. This is despite the fact that the Kurdistani List had huge media and publicity outlets, including government resources, at its disposal to run a concerted campaign against their less prepared and less resourced opposition. There were various reports of electoral violations and irregularities that occurred during the election. The Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) election monitors visited a total of 12 polling centers within the Erbil Governorate and observed voting in 36 polling stations. They reported some irregularities but in general assessed the election as fair. Of course, no one should claim or can claim that the Kurdistan election was on par with democratic elections in a Western country. Above all, Kurdistan is a part of the Middle East and the region has no experience of modern democracy. However, the election as a whole could be considered as a success. The Kurdistan election on 25 July showcased some interesting issues. It highlighted some lessons to be learned by the population of the region, the ruling political parties and the opposition groups. It was interesting to see that the Change List, though it was in the making for a long period, as a political entity which emerged just a few months earlier gained 25 seats. This showed the depth of dissatisfaction with the ruling powers. If the Change List did not run in this election, the protest votes would probably have gone to the Islamic parties and they would emerge in this election as the big winners. Another interesting issue in this election was the PUK’s support for Masoud Barzani’s presidential candidacy. If the PUK was not a part of the Kurdistani List it would have face a resounding de-


feat and might have become the third major party in Iraqi Kurdistan. The PUK was defeated by its main rival the Change List in its own traditional territory. This has weakened their position in Kurdistan and as a coalition partner. More interesting was the alliance of another opposition group comprised of the coalition of four smaller Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Islamic Union, Kurdistan Islamic Group, the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party and the Independent Kurdistan Toilers' Party. Who would have thought that Islamists and socialists who historically have been considered as sworn enemies, would come together to form one list? The presidential election showed another interesting dimension in Kurdish politics. In some parts of Kurdistan, which traditionally used to be a stronghold of the PUK, Dr Kamal Mirawdali, another presidential candidate, was ahead of President Barzani. Dr.

Mirawdali, though considered an intellectual, is a lesser known figure in Kurdistan. This means that PUK constituents still have issues with Barzani’s leadership. The KDP and PUK won the election and they have a majority to form the government but there are many lessons to be learned. They should know by now that the support of the people of Kurdistan cannot be taken for granted and the old slogans are no longer effective. The population expect decent services, a transparent government, and an end to nepotism and corruption. The KDP and PUK should know that the business of running the government and a political party must be separate. The parties with majority votes form the government but the government and political parties are not the same. In no democracy is the government funded by political parties and run by members of political parties who do not hold offices in the government. When a

government has no power it cannot be transparent and accountable. This encourages corruption and nepotism. Just imagine if the opposition groups won the election; how could the power be transferred to them? Even if the KDP and PUK allowed the opposition to take over the government, what would the opposition do with a government with no power and no funding? The KDP and PUK, of course, would not finance a government run by their rivals. This could cause a major dilemma. Maybe, it was a blessing for the people of Kurdistan that the Kurdistani List won the election. Otherwise, a huge problem would have arisen. The opposition also has a lot to learn from this election. They need to unite in order to put effective pressure on the ruling parties. They should criticize when the government does not carry out its duties as it should. Opposition is not about political assassination of their opponents; it is about criticizing their policies and proposing alternative policies. Opposition does not mean opposing anything the ruling parties say. There are issues of national interest that all parties, both the ruling parties and the opposition parties, need to unite for. An ineffective opposition leads to an ineffective government and vice versa. To conclude, this election, despite some irregularities, was a step towards democracy in Kurdistan. The people of Kurdistan showed that they would not blindly follow any political party; they expect good governance. If the KDP and PUK do not fulfil their expectations the people would not hesitate to vote them out of office. The same applies to the opposition. They need to fulfil their duties as the opposition to earn the trust of the people. They must be extra effective if they are to be voted into office and form a government. This election made many things possible that would normally be considered impossible. It reconciled contradictions and broke many taboos. It created opportunities. The real winners in this election were the people of Kurdistan. Dr. Hussein Tahiri is the author of the structure of Kurdish society and the struggle for a Kurdish state. He is a commentator on Middle Eastern affairs. He is currently an Adjunct Research Associate with the School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University, Australia.

L E T T E R S Compilation of columns It is a brilliant idea to publish a compilation of ‘Flashbacks’, the regular column penned by Mr Anwar M. Qaradaghi. I began reading SOMA Digest a year ago, but I understand he has been writing since the very first issue three years ago. It will be interesting to read what I’ve missed. However, I would suggest that you publish similar compilations of the works of your other columnists as well, some of whom share excellent insights on the political and/or social realities in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region. This would benefit your readers, I am sure. There is so very little out there about Kurdistan that those who are interested are keen to get their hands on any source of material.

erally unkind to animals. I have seen the most brutal treatment of cats and dogs by people in this region, and I think this boils down to the lack of education. Animals are also God’s creatures and deserve to be treated humanely. There should also be a municipal program to keep stray animals healthy so as to avoid the spread of diseases. This means, routine vaccination of stray animals. The media has an important role to play in promoting a better understanding of this issue and I was happy to see SOMA Digest taking the lead. May I also take the opportunity to congratulate you on your new website! It looks great. Pinar Kurdi AMMAN



Kindness to animals I commend your effort to promote a love for animals in Kurdish society. (‘How much is that doggie in the window?’ page 17 no.60). I think more should be written about the benefits of keeping pets, whether for security, companionship or other. Sadly, the Middle East is gen-

Want to be published in SOMA? We’d really like to know what you’re thinking. If you’ve got a comment on one of our stories, or about an important issue, simply email it to: Letters may be edited for purposes of space, clarity and decency.


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009



‘We want to diversify our economy’ - Talabany Talking business with Qubad Talabany, KRG Representative to the United States.

Pressure points. Why the Shiite majority are likely to continue exerting control over Iraq’s vital oil ministry. Zheno Abdulla SLEMANI here has been much controversy surrounding Iraq’s oil and gas wealth from the very beginning of ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ in 2003 when the American army took control of the country’s oil wells. Many argued that the Americans did so in a bid to prevent Iraq’s infrastructure from falling apart, while others maintained that the US administration’s policy intended to divide Iraq’s oil wealth among the country’s three main political groups. Oil is undoubtedly a source of power in the country, and all political groups have sought to exert control over this vital resource. After the formation of the first elected Iraqi government in 2005, it is important to look at who took control of the oil ministry. During the transitional phase, the position went to Dr Ibrahim Bahr Al Ulum,


a Shiite candidate. In the Nouri Al Maliki governing cabinet, Dr Hussein Shahristani, who was very close to the prime minister, got this post. Why has this position been given to the Shiites for such a long period of time with some monitors thinking that it will not be handed over to anyone else in the future? Is this because the Shiites who form the majority in Iraq feel they have the right to this position, or is there another reason? And what is America’s role in all this? Dr Jaza Talib, a university professor and national security specialist, believes that this is a natural consequence of the authorization of a governing cabinet; the majority will take the positions of power. However, political monitors see a different trend. They view the Shiites’ continued control over Iraq’s oil ministry as involving other factors. Oil makes up a significant part of the Iraqi budget and constitutes a great economic

source. It also aids in forging local relationships as well as international ones, notably with America, and those parties with vested interests in Iraqi economic affairs. Absence of law The absence of a law regulating oil and gas in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime was one of the main points of conflict between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil and Baghdad. The federal government has always criticized the KRG over oil contracts they have signed with foreign firms, considering them void. As such, the issue of oil and gas has always been a bone of contention between the two administrations despite other pending issues that require attention. How much of an impact will these conflicts between Erbil and Baghdad have on the political equation in Iraq and how will it affect the upcoming parliamentary elections in January 2010?

Dr Talib believes that if the two governments do not resolve the issue by 16 January 2010, then the elections for the next parliament may be delayed which will put great strain on the already fragile relationship between Erbil and Baghdad. Other critics disagree with Dr Talib in the belief that Al Maliki’s visit to the Kurdistan Region and his meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and the Kurdistan Region’s President Massoud Barzani in the resort town of Dukan went some way to appease the political malaise that surrounded a number of issues. In a press conference, Al Maliki explained that his visit was aimed at furthering mutual understanding and finding a solution for pending issues. But cynics have said that the Iraqi PM’s visit was nothing more than a political stunt to gain popular support among the Kurdish population.

Could you give us an update on the latest American private investment in Kurdistan? US investment by and large outside the oil sector has been slow. We have tried to attract US private sector investment, but the US business community has been somewhat more conservative when you compare it to the private sectors of other countries. We have been disappointed at the relatively slow pace of US investment in Kurdistan. I am a little more optimistic in the coming years that there will be greater US investment. We already have a significant US oil presence in Kurdistan, but we want to diversify our economy. We want to reach out to other sectors, in particular agriculture, industries, banking and finance, and with the recent change to the US travel advisory for Iraq that has made a distinction between Kurdistan and the rest of the country I think this will be an important incentive for greater US investment in Kurdistan. How many US companies are currently operating in the region? There are currently 49 US companies operative in various sectors. But rather than looking at the number of companies, what we try to assess is the kind of different projects that they are engaged in. We want to get them more involved strategically. How has Kurdistan’s political development been affected by foreign investors over the years? By opening Kurdistan to the international community politically, socially and economically it intensifies our own efforts to develop. We know that to attract the right kind of investment, we need to have the right kind of political and economic climate for the region. We need to have the right kind of checks and balances to ensure that there is the rule of law. I think that the passage of the relevant laws in parliament are a direct result of the need for Kurdistan to change politically and our government’s ability to adapt to the requirements of today, which is to be more transparent and put in place mechanisms and processes that limit corruption. — BY RAZ JABARY IN WASHINGTON, DC


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009

Meeting the needs. Critics pan the lack of planning in building projects across region. Brwa Ab. Mahmud SLEMANI he sluggish pace of development and reconstruction in Slemani has often been panned and compared to the relatively speedier progress witnessed in the Kurdish region’s capital, Erbil. The reality boils down to the failure of those individuals in decision-making positions to prioritize projects on the basis of the city’s actual needs, says one expert. Hama Ghareb Tagarani, a member of the Executive Committee of the Contractors’ Union in Slemani,


‘The province is supplied with 175 megawatts of electricity, whereas it needs 500 megawatts.’ ABDULNASSER AL MAHDAWI, Governor of Diala, describing deteriorating situation of services and economy in the province, and calling on the govn’t to provide further support for Diala’s residents.

‘The agricultural sector in Basra will be wiped out before winter.’ AAMER SALMAN, Director of Agriculture Department in Basra, on damage incurred by imports, shortage of funds and low levels of water supplies.

laments the lack of such a ‘priority list’, which he says results in a haphazard building of projects across the city and hampers the development of the region. He refers to unnecessary projects carried out in inappropriate locations for what he calls ‘political reasons’. Priority list “The government does not appear to have a list of priority projects, which it must carry out at a particular time for a particular area, especially in Slemani province,” he says. “Sometimes the decision of starting and completing a particular project is based on political motives. For in-

‘Crude oil prices are still going up, worth nearly 70 dollars per barrel. [Iraq Iraq is now] exporting close to 2.38 million barrels. The ministry has an urgent plan to add 300,000 to 500,000 barrels daily in one year or more, which should sustain the budget.’ ASIM JIHAD, Iraqi Oil Ministry Spokesman, stating that the daily rate of crude oil barrel for the state budget of 2010 is within ‘reasonable limits’.

stance, there is a library that was built in a far district some four years ago, but up to now, no one has benefited from it. This is because they don’t need a library. The only benefit of having this building is so that they

can pretend that they have a library!” The tragedy of this scenario is that the truly necessary projects often take the backburner, he says. According to Tagarani, the process itself is also wrought with problems. As all contracts for the region pass through the Prime Ministers’ office in Erbil for permission and funds, this has posed obstacles for projects intended for Slemani. The two administrations only united in 2006, and then the Ministry of Planning was not efficiently coordinating the projects of the various ministries. “The Ministry of Planning must study all projects and set a suitable time-period and budget, because it is not a practical procedure if all projects automatically go to execution mode after receiving approval from the prime ministers’ office,” Tagarani points out. Quality and quantity Moreover, there is controversy over the quantity and quality of projects carried out in Slemani as compared to those in Erbil. Many Slemani residents are both wow-ed and disspirited when they visit the capital, wondering when such development will take place on their own home turf. Some critics claim this is a result of Slemani getting a smaller portion of the region’s budget, while others claim the problems stem from the central government. Wherever the blame is to be pinned, the troubles do not stop there. ‘Wasta’ (connections) is another factor that affects the pace and progress of projects. More often than not, personal relationships dictate

‘The planning ministry must set a suitable time-period and budget [for each project]. It is not practical for projects to be executed on approval by the PM’s office.’

‘Until August 4, wheat production was 1.232 million tons. Barley production was 289.2 thousand tons.’ IRAQI TRADE MINISTRY, in a release, said that wheat and barley production in 2009 had exceeded all expectations, and would cover one third of total local demand.

‘I have put forward a fiveyear plan, which will put the Iraqi economy on the right track.’ ALI BABAN, Iraqi Minister of Planning, proposing a fiveyear plan to revive domestic economy.

‘The Iraqi government is determined to develop relations with Britain in all levels and in various domains. Challenges will not affect us and will not weaken our determination to rebuild Iraq.’ NOURI Al MALIKI, Iraq’s Prime Minister, in a meeting with a British Petroleum (BP) delegation in Baghdad last month, called on BP to develop its work in Iraq.

whether a project gets approved and executed, versus the actual requirement of such a project in that particular area, says Tagarani. However, a general lack of planning is the principal criticism levelled at the government by most experts. “Most projects do not finish on time because, as contractors claim, of the ponderous procedures they must undergo. On the other hand, the government has special committees for evaluating time and budget for all projects. Then the government gives the contracts of these projects to someone who will finish them at a cost far less than the evaluated budget, which leads to cheating,” explains Tagarani. Devil in the details According to Wasta Rauf, the supervisor of a building project, the problem stems from the very beginning when the government appoints an engineer as a supervisor of all projects. “This engineer may not be aware of every detail in every project because of his limited knowledge so when projects are finalized, there are many deficiencies that may have been prevented either at the beginning or even mid-way in the project,”he says.

Hama Ghareb Tagarani

‘The ministry has abandoned the patchingup methods and embarked on an integrated strategy to overhaul power in Iraq.’ KAREEM WAHEED, Iraqi Minister of Electricity, announcing an integrated strategy for power in Iraq.

‘Kirkuk’s share of fuel is more than one million liters a day, but the province currently receives 680,000 liters a day.’ ABDULRAHMAN MUSTAFA, Governor of Kirkuk, asking for a larger share of fuel for the province.


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009

Culture FILMS


Drumroll please he holy month of Ramadan is a special time of the year for the Muslim community of the Kurdistan Region and weeks before the first day, it is the topic of conversation everywhere. But there are a number of traditions associated with this occasion that have slowly diminished over the last few years. Among these is the sound of drummers going through the streets during the early hours of the morning when people are having their ‘parshew’ or their last meal before the morning or ‘fajr’ prayer. This was a very audible part of Ramadan. The drummer has the task of hitting hard on his drum through the neighborhoods to awaken the Muslims for t h e i r ‘parshew’ meal and for many this was a delight during t h e month. Pishko Abdulrahman, 36, believes Ramadan was more joyful years ago than it is now. “When we heard the drumming, we knew that we didn’t have much time left before it was time for morning prayer so we had to eat fast and get ready to begin the day’s fasting,” he recalls. “I believe it was not only joyful for us but also our mothers because they were very eager to wake up before us and prepare the meal. But now there is no drumming and Ramadan has lost that joy.” Hamadameen Qadir, a 65-year-old religious teacher, said that the drums were very useful in making people aware of the time: “There was not another way to awaken people as there wasn’t communication and technology like there is now with phones and alarm clocks so people would wait to hear the drums to know what time to stop eating.” Although Qadir conceded that his memory fails him often, he does remember that the drummers didn’t only wake people up for their very early breakfast but also to stop them eating just before the morning prayer, which was the sign that the fast for that day had begun.



“Most of the drummers were gypsies who didn’t believe in the holy month but were doing it for money and gradually asked for more as the month went on,” said Abdulrahman. “To earn more, they would continue the drumming in particular neighborhoods for a few days and then at the end of the month would ask for more money from the people.” Although the drumming was very useful for Muslims to wake them up so they would engage in their religious duty, the noise did become a nuisance for those who were not of the Muslim faith or were not fasting. There were also some fasting Muslims who felt that the loud drumming wasn’t necessary, especially in the early hours of the morning. Sometimes there were scuffles between the drummer and the people which often ended up with the drummer having to run away. According to Abdulrahman, there are many factors that contributed to people getting annoyed by the drumming: “In the past, communication was a difficult matter and people were more emotionally connected so they were concerned about one another and always made sure to make one another aware of particular matters.” H e added: “Now it is different and people wake when they want without causing annoyance to anyone. This is one reason why the drumming has vanished.” Latif Mustafa, 42, says he enjoyed the drumming during the month of Ramadan: “It is a fact that they are more visible in Ramadan mainly because they make money from it but I myself enjoy hearing them, especially during this month.” “When they come to ask for money at the end of the month, I have a condition before I hand anything over. They must play music and beat the drum for a few minutes until everyone in the neighborhood is dancing,” added Mustafa. With the onset of the holy month, some of the drummers still go about their Ramadan duty and can be heard now and then. “Although this phenomenon has been drastically reduced, there are still some drummers who visit a number of neighborhoods in the city and earn money,” said Abdulrahman. — BY SAKAR ABDULLA IN SLEMANI


An old testament to harmonious co-existence JEN A. SAGERMA IN SLEMANI


Traditional Kurdish games are still played by the children in the streets of their neighborhoods.

(photo by Aram Eissa)

Child’s play Modern electronic gadgets and games have eclipsed traditional Kurdish pastimes. Roshna Rasool SLEMANI odern electronic gadgets and games have meant that many traditional Kurdish games have been forsaken, or forgotten, and as a result, there are many differences between the youth of yesteryear and those of today. New inventions and electronic game stations have offered today’s children a more sophisticated way to play, but critics say they have robbed them of the social interaction and intellectual stimulation that the olden games provided. “When we were children we used to play a number of games, it was something that stayed in our memories till this day,” recalls Zana Ahmed. Haluken and Tultulen There are two old games that are known in Kurdish tradition, ‘Haluken’ and ‘Tultulen’. These two games consist of rhymes that may be chanted or sung by the children. The rhymes were improvised by the children and they were repeated and memorized. ‘Tultulen’ is a game that requires two stones, one of which is flat and is called ‘bardi sar yaprakh’. This name originated from the stone women used to use over the yaprakh (stuffed vine leaves)


dish once it was cooking. The other stone needs to be round and smaller than a tennis ball and is often shaped using a hammer. “The flat stone is thrown like a frisbee and aimed at the smaller round ball causing the ball to move from its stationary position. The distance in which it travels is measured by steps, and the first to get to an agreed number of steps after successive rounds, is the winner,” said Nahro Shawqi, an artist who went on to explain that this game in fact is similar to a French game that is played using metal balls and frisbees. Halmaqoh The game of ‘Halmaqoh’ or ‘Halmaten’ is a popular game often played by girls, using five small round stones, with six rounds to determine the winner of the game. Each round consists of different placements of the stones. One stone is thrown gently in the air and while in the air, the stones in their placements are to be picked up and then the stone in the air to be caught with the hand of which the other stones were grabbed. Depending on the level of success of each round, points are awarded, collected and then counted to conclude who the winner is at the end of the game. Buzhanawa ‘Buzhanawa’ is another game that is

the Kurdish equivalent of ‘hide and seek’, with the Kurdish headquarters known as the ‘qala’ (the castle), which could be as simple as a plain wall or barrel, where the other participants of the game will aim to reach in order to strike the seeker out of the game which is how the game comes to an end. The participants take turns to be the seeker and they continue the game until they choose to stop playing. Chil bard A very unusual game that was played in those days was one that was often played by youngsters who were no longer considered children. The game of ‘chil bard’ translated to ‘40 stones' was played by those who did not wish to leave their homes but wanted to remain active to a certain degree. The game consisted of 40 stones which were placed in a corner of a room. A stone was taken from the pile and had to be taken to another corner. One would return to that corner and take another stone and would go back and forth, until all 40 stones were situated in another corner of the room and this was repeated a number of times. This game however did not have a winner or loser and was played by one person alone as a form of exercise rather than a recreational game.


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009

The old church in the Sabunkaran neighborhood in Slemani has stood the test of time.

(photo by Aram Eissa)

An old testament The church at Sabunkaran stands as a testament to harmonious co-existence in the Kurdistan Region. Jen A. Sagerma SLEMANI narrow street in the neighborhood of Sabunkaran in Slemani is home to one of the oldest churches in the city. Its simple door takes you into a rather unorthodox dwelling used by the Christian minority. Dating back many decades, this plot of land was used not only for prayers and religious gatherings but also served as a graveyard for the local Christian community. The Virgin Mary Church in Slemani was built in 1862 and its current garden area used to be a cemetery. “This used to be the church graveyard that has now been laid with grass. We didn’t have a graveyard as such back then so they were buried here,” said Abdul Meseh Yusuf, a Christian resident in the Sabunkaran neighborhood. Six French Christians who died working on the tunnel in Darbandikhan are also buried under the green grass of the garden that was once a cemetery. “This church consists of a number of parts. There is the prayer hall, this used to be a small graveyard consisting of 49 graves that were put into the walls. The lower part is a hall for guests. The upper hall is much bigger and up until last year it was used for funerals. This house used to belong to Bahjat Eissa who bequeathed his house to the church after his death,” added Yusuf. Up until last year a large cave took up a great portion of the garden but it was torn down to make way for something much simpler, which also serves a symbolic purpose. The cave that was built by Goriyal Mati Allah Wardi in 1988 and contained three relics from the Virgin Mary but because the cave took up a lot of the space it


was torn down this year and a smaller statue was built in its place. This cave is just one of many that are created in churches all over. It is an example of a cave in France where Virgin Mary was first seen. The statue of the Virgin Mary with baby Jesus in her arms has its symbolic place in the church garden. Christians as well as some Muslims come every day, although larger crowds tend to come on Sundays to light a candle and wish for a certain something that they want to come true.

two bowls of water that they dip their fingers into and then use for saying in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. The hall apart from being used for morning and evening prayers is also used for Christenings, weddings and funerals. “The prayer hall of the church has been renovated a number of times. Ten years ago it was destroyed in a fire and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani paid for its reconstruction. Last year a large part of the church was ren-

The prayer hall of the church has been renovated a number of times. Ten years ago it was destroyed in a fire and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani paid for its reconstruction.

Many of those who come are students wishing to do well in their exams. A small room within the church grounds serves as the cemetery for 49 tombs of ordinary Christians of Slemani. “This graveyard has 49 graves that are on the wall. This goes back to the time of priest Pari who created this graveyard himself. All the 49 graves are of ordinary citizens of Slemani. I think the last burial that took place here was 15 years ago,” said Yusuf. As people enter the prayer hall, there are

ovated with funds from the fourth branch of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in Slemani.” The prayer hall walls are adorned with 14 photos depicting the different stages in the life of Jesus Christ, from when he was captured to the Crucifixion. This simple yet beautiful church has been part of the Christian community for generations and is a testament to the peaceful coexistence among the various communities of the Kurdistan Region.


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009

Lifestyle DINING





As modernity seeps into everyday life in Kurdistan, affluent young Kurds find ways to reconcile global trends with tradition. The advent of modern technology and global trends in Iraqi Kurdistan have not dissipated the beloved customs of old. The onset of the holy month of Ramadan never fails to rekindle the warm sense of community prevalent among all the peoples of Kurdistan, irrespective of religion or ethnicity. Lifestyle, a vista to an emerging society, takes you inside.

The global Facebook phenomenon has not spared Iraqi Kurdistan.

Face to Facebook

I spy with my little iphone

The Facebook phenomenon has swept across the world like wildfire and it has not spared Iraqi Kurdistan. As if it weren’t hard enough to safeguard one’s private life in Kurdish society, Facebook has added another dimension, yet another portal through which friends, acquaintances and even strangers can learn of your daily activities, meetings or state of mind. Albeit, privacy settings can be adjusted to control the level of public access. The Kurdish presence is steadily increasing on this popular social-networking site as countless sign up daily. The youth are great ethusiasts, but even those with little grasp of the English language are joining and learning as they go along.

The people of Slemani have always been known for ‘keeping up with the Joneses’. Despite financial constraints, they never deprive themselves of the latest gadget on the market. The latest craze is none other than the glorious iPhone. Costing over US$700, the touch screen marvel was initially restricted to the elites of the region or those who had saved for months on end. Slowly the iPhone episode became a gadget that everyone seemed to own. Depending on the model and functions, the iPhone’s price tag can exceed US$1,000. The iPhone offers networking facilities, games and access to the Internet. With fads such as Facebook and Twitter, the iPhone is primordial to the daily life of the modern Kurd.

Most Kurds save up for months to buy the latest craze on the market, the iPhone.


Delicious puffy treats during Ramadan he holy month of Ramadan is primarily a period during which Muslims are meant to engage in self reflection and soul cleansing. But for those who observe the month-long fast from sunrise to sunset, the holiday also brings sumptuous feasts and delectable desserts specially prepared for the occasion. The bazaars during the holy month are no less busy than any other time but there is a strict change in the lifestyle of many who are faithful servants of one of the five pillars of Islam. What people tend to do during the holy month is to sleep more and work less. Admittedly, it slows down the pace of work in the office but no food and drink from sunrise to sunset does mean it is best not to get on the wrong side of those fasting for they are often cranky. However, these negative side effects of abstaining from food and drink are overshadowed by the warm sense of community during


Nawsaji can be seen made on the streets in the bazaar and sold to be taken home ready and warm, often eaten with natural yogurt and tea early in the morning or as a snack in the evening. Not quite the healthy option but nobody counts calories this month!

Ramadan as people become more social and generous, giving food or money to those in need. Plates of sweets or dates can be seen on every corner of the market to hand out to those in the bazaars to break their fast with. But the most tasteful treat around during Ramadan is ‘nawsaji’. If every holiday has its staple food, then ‘nawsaji’ may be the symbol of the holy month in Kurdistan. The fried puffy bread is often made at home and sometimes given in charity by families to the less fortunate in the neighborhood. Nawsaji can also be seen made on the streets in the bazaar and sold to be taken home ready and warm, often eaten with natural yogurt and tea early in the morning or as a snack in the evening. Not quite the healthy option but nobody counts calories this month! Its sweet flavor with a slight salty aftertaste is eagerly eaten by Kurds of all faiths especially when it has just been fried. The smell and hot steam coming off it is sim-

ply too hard to resist. There are a number of houses in the Kurdish community that make them and send it to their neighbors during the month but there are also shops and individuals in the bazaar who make them as well. There are more than 50 places that sell ‘nawsaji’ in the bazaars of Slemani but if you are looking for the tastiest of them all, your best bet is the Khanaqa area. In Slemani alone it is estimated that 15,000 nawsajis are sold daily. The fried puffy bread also makes a cameo in contemporary Kurdish history when back in the late 1980s every male was obligated to join the army as there was conscription. During that period, there were a lot of economic hardships and not much could be afforded. Nawsaji was easy to make, cost less money than a full meal, didn’t require a lot of luggage space and always got the taste buds going! — BY BRWA AB. MAHMUD IN SLEMANI


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009


War in the Garden of Eden Maureen McLuckie LONDON Kermit Roosevelt (1889 –1943) was the son of U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt. Kermit was an explorer, a graduate of Harvard University, a soldier serving in two world wars, a businessman, and writer. Kermit joined the British Army to fight in Mesopotamia during World War I. This book covers his experiences in Mesopotamia, and includes details of the Tigris Front, patrolling the ruins of Babylon, skirmishes and reconnaissance along the Kurdish Front, and the attack on the Persian Front. It was first published by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1919 but has been reprinted many times since. There are still many original hardback copies available from around £25.00 and paperbacks published in 2007 and 2008 from around £5.00 nce we had reached the far side we set out to pick our way round Kirkuk to get astride the road leading thence to Altun Kupri. This is the main route from Baghdad to Mosul, the chief city on the upper Tigris, across the river from the ruins of Nineveh. It was a difficult task finding a way practicable for the cars, as the ground was still soft from the recent rains. It was impossible to keep defiladed from Turkish observation, but we did not supply them with much in the way of a target. At length we got round to the road and started to advance down it to Kirkuk. The town, in common with so many others in that part of the country, is built on a hill. The Hamawand Kurds are inveterate raiders, and good fortifications are needed to withstand them. As we came out upon the road we caught sight of our cavalry preparing to attack. The Turks were putting up a stout resistance, with darkness fast coming to their aid. After approaching close to the town, we were ordered to return to a deserted village for the night, prepared to go through in the early morning. The co-ordinates of the village were given, and we easily found it on the map; but it was quite another proposition to locate it physically. To add to our difficulties, the sky clouded over and pitchy blackness settled down. It soon started to rain, so we felt that the best we could do was select as likely a spot as came to hand and wait for morning. I made up my mind that the front seat of a van, uncomfortable and cramped as it was, would prove the best bed for the night. My estimate was correct, for at midnight the light drizzle, which was scarcely more than a Scotch mist, turned into a wild, torrential downpour that all but washed away my companions. The waterproof flap that I had rigged withstood the onslaughts of wind and rain in a fashion that was as gratifying as it was unexpected. The vivid flashes of lightning showed the little dry ravine beside us converted into a roaring,


swirling torrent. The water was rushing past beneath the cars, half-way up to their hubs. A large field hospital had been set up close to the banks of the stream at Taza. We afterward heard that the river had risen so rapidly that many of the tents and a few ambulances were washed away. By morning it had settled down into a steady, businesslike downpour. We found that we were inextricably caught in among some low hills. There was not the slightest chance of moving the fighting cars; they were bogged down to the axle. There was no alternative other than to wait until the rain stopped and the mud dried. Fortunately our emergency rations were still untouched. Our infantry went over at dawn, and won through into the town. If it had not been for the rain we would have made some important captures. As it was, the Turks destroyed the bridge across the Khasa Su and retreated to Altun Kupri by the road on the farther bank. From a hill near by we watched everything, powerless to help in any way. At noon the sky unexpectedly cleared and the sun came out. We unloaded a Ford van, and with much pushing and no little spade work managed to get it down to a road running in the direction of Kirkuk. We found the surface equal to the light car, and slowly made our way to the outskirts of the town, with occasional halts where digging and shoving were required. We satisfied ourselves that, given a little sun, we could bring the armoured cars out of their bog and through to the town. Next morning, in spite of the fact that more rain had fallen during the night, I set to work on my tenders, and at length succeeded in putting them all in Kirkuk. We were billeted in the citadel, a finely built, substantial affair, with a courtyard that we could turn into a good garage. The Turks had left in great haste, and, although they had attempted a wholesale destruction of everything that they could not take, they had been only partially successful. In my room I found a quantity of pamphlets describing the American army—with diagrams of insignia, and pictures of fully equipped soldiers of the different branches of the service. There was also a map of the United States showing the population by States. The text was, of course, in Turkish and the printing excellently done. What the purpose might be I could not make out. The wherefore of another booklet was more obvious. It was an illustrated account of alleged British atrocities. Most of the pictures purported to have been taken in the Sudan, and showed decapitated Negroes. Some I am convinced were pictures of the Armenian massacres that the Turks had themselves taken and in a thrifty moment put to this useful purpose. This pamphlet was printed at the press in Kirkuk. There were a number of excellent buildings—mainly workshops and armouries, but the best was the hospital. The long corridors and deep windows of the wards looked very cool. An up-to-date impression was given by the individual patient charts,

with the headings for the different diagnoses printed in Turkish and French. The doctors were mainly Armenians. The occupants were all suffering from malnutrition, and there was a great deal of starvation in the town. I did not wish to return to Baghdad until I could be certain that we were not going to advance upon Altun Kupri. The engineers patched up the bridge, and we took the cars over to the other side and went off on a reconnaissance to ascertain how strongly the town was being held. The long bridge from which it gets its name could easily be destroyed, and crossing over the river would be no light matter. The surrounding mountains limited the avenue of attack. Altogether it would not be an easy nut to crack, and the Turks had evidently determined on a stand. What decided the army commander to make any further attempt to advance was most probably the great length of the line of communications, and the recent floods had made worse conditions which were bad enough at the best. The ration supply had fallen very low, and it seemed impossible to hold even Kirkuk unless the rail-head could be advanced materially. I put in all my odd moments wandering about the bazaars. The day after the fall the merchants opened their booths and transacted business as usual. The population was composed of many races, chiefly Kurd, Turcoman and Arab. There were also Armenians, Chaldeans, Syrians, and Jews. The latter were exceedingly prosperous. Arabic and Kurdish and Turkish were all three spoken. Kirkuk is of very ancient origin—but of its early history little is known. The natives point out a mound which they claim to be Daniel's tomb. Two others are shown as belonging to Shadrach and Meshech; that of the third of the famous trio has been lost. There are many artificial hills in the neighbourhood, and doubtless in course of time it will prove a fruitful hunting-ground for archaeologists. As far as I could learn no serious excavating has hitherto been undertaken in the vicinity. The bazaars were well filled with goods of every sort. I picked up one or two excellent rugs for very little, and a few odds and ends, dating from Seleucid times, that had been unearthed by Arab labourers in their gardens or brick-kilns. There were some truck-gardens in the outskirts, and we traded fresh vegetables for some of our issue rations. There are few greater luxuries when one has been living on canned foods for a long time. I saw several ibex heads nailed up over the doors of houses. The owners told me that they were to be found in the near-by Mountains, but were not plentiful. There is little large game left in Mesopotamia, and that mainly in the mountains. I once saw a striped hyena. It is a nocturnal animal, and they may be common, although I never came across but the one, which I caught sight of slinking among the ruins of Istabulat, south of Samarra, one evening when I was riding back to camp.

Post-election expectations: revision and improvement


FLASHBACKS oday is Monday, 27 July and the subject of the elections is the third consecutive one for this column. To this moment, the number of seats obtained by each of the different factions has not been clarified with complete certainty. However, the approximate totals were announced and the final pronouncements are not believed to cause much alteration. It is expected that the new Kurdistan Parliament formation would be representative of the true wishes of the inhabitants. If this is interpreted into a clearer statement, it would mean the commencement of a clear system of opposition together with an assured mandate for formation of a government of a reliable majority. During the canvassing and electioneering period, all the main related sides made numerous pledges for bettering the current state of affairs. Therefore, one hopes that as they all claim to desire and want to serve the region's multiple needs, they would or should soon develop a working relationship based on counseling, constructive dialogue and civil discussion as authority and opposition towards reaching their announced objectives. This is relevant as the modern world has become so unpredictable that it has cut many bonds among people and their common ambitions. The election results provide a suitable hub of information for all parties and others who wish and want to further promote democracy in the region. Here the role of an objective media is very desirable. All might also wish to look and see what lessons could be learned from the recent elections as such observations could play an important part in fulfilling promises made during the election campaign and assist in preparations for the next Iraq parliamentary elections, not to speak of the next Kurdistan parliamentary elections. In view of some of the difficulties experienced by those who were not able to locate where they could vote or why their names had not been registered, it is essential to realize that the right of the individual to register to vote is of fundamental importance in


any system of democracy and individuals should take responsibility for their own registration. It is pertinent to record here that the forms introduced by the Independent High Electoral Commission were simple and easy to complete. Moreover, it is proper that in future elections, all efforts are exerted to ensure that all those who are eligible will be able to vote, together with offering the best possible service for voters. It is pleasing to observe a high voter turnout, which goes to reveal the determination of voters to exercise their political will in a democratic manner and in an organized environment that involved no violence. Countries with a long history of successful elections, plan opportunities, after each election, through their Electoral Commissions so as representatives of their political parties participate on seminars and discussion meetings to review various practical aspects of the elections they have just had in order to learn of any criticisms with the aim of identifying performance standards leading to improving things for all in the next time round. It is useful to closely analyze a few reports made of alleged irregularities during the election process and take note of them, if found justified. It goes without saying that a large number of essential functions await the total commitment and perseverance of all members of the new Kurdistan Parliament and regional government. The tasks are enormous and pressing for improving the lot of the people. Some useful work has already been accomplished and these may require further enhancement, others may have to be tackled afresh. One can enumerate possible requirements for fulfillment. These may include support for enhancing the role of the private sector, appreciation and encouragement for internal products of whatever kind and quantity, considering possible ways and means for reducing rampant unemployment, particularly among the young and the graduates, and doing whatever is humanly possible to eliminate corruptions of all sorts, sizes and levels. For a long time the people have had to tolerate the role, status and unjustified privileges given to ineligible children and close relatives of those in authority – this needs to be changed. It is not very easy, but members of the public wish to see that the authority and the system are seen to work towards endingthat unfortunate and obvious part and parcel of our current society. All these tally with the maintenance of good governance and the sincere application of the rule of law.


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009



The annual ballet festival at the Culture Hall.

(photo by Aram Eissa)

An exhibition by Kurdish artists in Zamwa Gallery.

(photo by Aram Eissa)

Sardam Music Group perform their first concert at Tawar Hall. (photos by Aram Eissa)

The Kurdish youth are encouraged to embrace global cultural trends, without forsaking their own heritage. The summer months featured many opportunities for both.

An exhibition by Razawa Motasam and Amanj Jabar.

(photo by Aram Eissa)

Sardam Institute for learning a foreign language put on a festival at Tawar Hall.

(photo by Aram Eissa)


Issue 60 July 31 - August 13, 2009

The teahouse is a popular Kurdish institution, where wisemen (or, wiseguys) gather every evening to discuss life, politics and the future. Dr Sherko Abdullah lends an ear to the talk, and reports what Bayiz and Jwamer had to say... BAYIZ Oh my God, Jwamer, are you OK? JWAMER Yeah, why do you ask? BAYIZ You were talking to yourself. JWAMER I was just repeating some great advice I had heard.

more important than Kirkuk?

BAYIZ And are you a wise man?

JWAMER Who told you that I’ve forgotten about Kirkuk?

JWAMER Frankly speaking? No.

JWAMER Don’t trust your feelings.

JWAMER I’m afraid it’s not that easy. Give me a few

BAYIZ What great advice?

JWAMER It is just because I am worried about your feelings.

BAYIZ I feel it.

BAYIZ So delete it from your mind.

BAYIZ That’s enough. I don’t allow people to speak against my feelings.

BAYIZ My feelings never lie.

JWAMER Why? Are your feelings sacred?

At the chaikhana

JWAMER It says that if you want a happy life, you must

BAYIZ I should cry because I have honest feelings? What is wrong with you? You’re not yourself.

BAYIZ At least they don’t lie.

And you’re proud? This is not the era of truth.

I trust my feelings. They never lie.

JWAMER That is the problem. This is not the era of honesty and truth. Our world runs on lies!

pretend to be stupid. BAYIZ What nonsense. Don’t believe such drivel.

BAYIZ But we should not be a part of that world.

JWAMER How so? It’s the most meaningful proverb I’ve ever heard.

JWAMER It’s impossible. Globalization is everywhere.

BAYIZ Please go see a doctor, you’re a sick man.

BAYIZ Even still, we can manage not to be liars.

JWAMER I told you that I am quite well.

JWAMER But you know, lying is very good for your health.

BAYIZ If so, you shouldn’t believe in such silly sayings. Tell me one thing my friend, are you happy? JWAMER Of course not.

BAYIZ Here’s to your health then! days. BAYIZ A few days just to forget a useless saying! Is it

JWAMER And you are proud of it? If I were you, I would be weeping not laughing.

Dr Sherko Abdullah is editor of Sekhurma Cartoon magazine.


AMIDEAST is seeking to recruit an Instructor of English as a Foreign Language, to work on a variety of education, testing, and training activities. Interested individuals must submit a statement of interest and an updated resume/CV to Job Responsibilities


- Administer placement tests to ensure that students are at appropriate class level - Plan and teach at various levels of ESL and/or for standardized test preparation - Adapt curriculum, as necessary, to meet the level and needs of the students - Teach classes of up to 15 students - Design and deliver courses in English for Special Purposes (ESP) as needed - Develop and administer written and oral assessments, including proctoring exams as needed - Develop and maintain an objective grading system, and issue timely progress and final reports for distribution to the students - Manage a teaching load of up to 24 contact hours per week - Monitor best practices and new developments in the fields of English language training and incorporate those practices as appropriate - Assist the English Language Coordinator to prepare monthly, semi-annual and annual statistical and narrative reports on English Language Program Maintain a professional yet friendly relationship with the students and administrative staff Dress professionally and appropriately at all times Follow AMIDEAST standard operating procedures

Minimum Qualifications - Bachelor’s degree in a relevant field - TEFL Certificate (CELTA/TESOL) - Two years of English language teaching experience - Computer literacy in MS Office - Ability to multi-task and prioritize responsibilities - Excellent oral and written communication and interpersonal skills - Must possess problem-solving skills, be a team player and a self-starter - Cross-cultural sensitivity and customer service orientation Work Location: Erbil-Ainkawa


SOMA Digest is a subsidiary of KHAK Press & Media Center.

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