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Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009

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Jordan expo empowers Iraqi artists SOMA Digest is a subsidiary of KHAK Press & Media Center.

Dangerous minds


CTG ready to tackle any security threat

Captured terrorists recount how they were recruited by ‘Jihadi’ groups and reveal the grizzly details of their crimes against Iraqi civilians. REGION page 4

Bedrock principles

Lawen A. Sagerma

There may be some risk in departing from the unified list in the upcoming elections, but the advancement of Kurdish interests in Baghdad depends on the Kurds’ ability to forge strong coalitions with non-Kurdish parties. REGION page 5

SLEMANI hether hunting down bloodthirsty terrorists or ransom kidnappers, the Slemani-based Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG) works around the clock to ensure that security threats are kept at bay, and that investors keep pouring in to the Kurdistan Region. Lahur Talabany, head of the CTG, explains: “There are no boundaries for us. If there is a threat against the Kurdistan Region we’re willing to go anywhere to take care of that threat.”


Life is beautiful A festival celebrating Kurdish culture is an opportunity to highlight the progress in the region and in doing so, banish many of the negative impressions held in the west. VIEWS page 12

Wealth of nation Personal wealth in the Kurdistan Region is kept as cash or invested in real estate, particularly the family home. Thus, a lot more wealth is likely to be floating around Kurdistan than official numbers suggest. BUSINESS page 14

Kurdistan Regional Prime Minister Dr Barham Salih opens the Post War Arts and Culture Festival with Hero Ibrahim Ahmed and a number of guests who had come to Slemani specially for the occasion. (photo by Aram Eissa)

read more page 3

Election plans in limbo he fate of the next parliamentary elections scheduled for mid January 2010 lies in the balance as Vice President Tariq Al Hashmi used his power of veto to reject the law on 19 November. The controversy surrounded the percentage of spare seats which was set at five with calls from Al Hashmi and the Kurds that it be increased to 15 percent. “This was one of our requests as the Kurdistan Alliance List in the beginning also but we were unable to secure this because we didn’t have enough votes,” said Sozan M. M. Amin, a member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives. “We want to see this increase because large communities of Kurds reside abroad and their vote will go for the Kurdish parties.” All blocs within the Iraqi parliament are


set to meet in the next week and must come to an agreement over the new law. This is not an easy task as there needs to be a legal foundation for Al Hashmi’s call for raising the number of seats. “The only section of the law that will be reviewed is what was vetoed. If Al Hashmi had rejected the whole law, it is very likely that the elections would not go ahead because it would have taken too long to create a new law and have it approved once more,” said Amin. The Kurdistan Region, in particular President Massoud Barzani, has objected to the seat allocation. President Barzani deems the representation ‘unfair’, claiming that it has been based on the food ration cards system by the Iraqi Ministry of Trade. He has requested that this part of the law be reexamined or Kurds will not participate.

“As Kurdish members in the Iraqi Parliament, we support fully the request of President Barzani. It is illogical and inaccurate that in the last four years, the population of Slemani has not increased,” said Amin. The food ration cards have been the mechanism used by the Iraqi Ministry of Trade and the Iraqi High Electoral Commission to allocate the number of seats for the upcoming parliament. “This mechanism was suggested by the Kurds because we thought that the region’s stability would show that the population had increased in this area. But as it turned out, it was the opposite,” said Amin. Amin explained that the seat allocation is grossly unfair and put the blame on the Iraqi Ministry of Trade and the Iraqi High Electoral Commission in particular the

Kurdish representatives in those two places. “They pushed us to suggest the 2009 census at a time when we did not even approve of the census of 2007 and 2008 because after four years there will be an increase in numbers without doubt. Afterwards we realized that we were really neglectful on the matter,” she said. “The other Iraqi blocs believe that the request of President Barzani and our calls for a review of the law is unjustified. While they concede that there hasn’t been a census they submit that the food ration cards are registered.” It remains to be seen in the upcoming week whether or not the elections set for mid January can go ahead. — BY DARYA IBRAHIM IN SLEMANI




A mile in his shoes

Barber of Kirkuk

Scent it my way



CULTURE page 16

INSIDE: My first Gipa,by Agri Ismail p.8 Fixing the January 2010 elections, by Dr Joseph Kechichian p.10 Memorial prayers for 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 no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 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. Judy Roberts, an American school teacher, 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 and become serious enough to result in formal engagement. In this episode Judy and Aso continue their discussion of the Kurdish language: Aso: Would you like us to resume our discussion of Kurdish language, my dear? Gyanekem, hez dekait, des pe bkainewe be baskrdni Zmani Kurdi? Judy: Yes, darling, I would like that very much. Belle, azizm, zor hez dekem. Aso: Kurdish has been through many difficulties. Kurdi be zor sekhteda te periwe. Judy:Such as what my dear? Weku che gyanekem? Aso: It has never really been encour-

aged by the different governments. In one or two places, it has not even been recognized as a language. They have also made a big issue of its two or three accents or dialects. Le rastida, hergiz le layen meriakanewe han nedrawe. Le yek du shwen her dani peda nenrawe weku zmanek. Herweha, babety du se shewe zmanekey, krawe be kesheyeki zor gewre. Judy: Yes, I understand that too. Luckily, despite all that, I hear it has continued to develop. Other languages have gone through the same route. For instance, English has had many changes. Its dialects have been numerous too. Its spelling has seen different stages of developments also. Belle,awe te degem. Xosh bextane, sere rae hamu awane, abistem, her le pere sendnaya. Zmanekani dekesh be haman rebazda roeshtun. Bo nmune, Englezi zor gorrani dewe. Shewakani zmaneke zor zorn. Hunjekrdni qunaxi jeawaz jeawazi dewe.

Aso: Yes, thank you my dear. You are right. Think of the spelling patterns in the times of Chaucer for instance and compare them with those of the present. They are very different, as you know yourself. Belle, supas gyanekem. Tto rast dekait. Bir le shewazi hunjey zamani Chuser beke u le gul estada berawerdi bke. Her weku xot dezanit, zor jeawazin. Judy: I can understand why the Kurds have been so very proud of their language. Atwanim te bgem, ke bochi Kurdekan awende be zmanekeyanewe de nazin. Aso: You are right. The language has been the main symbol of their existence and belief in their identity. To rast dekait. Zmaneke hemay sereki bun u brwayane be penasakeyan. Judy: That is how all languages have progressed u xoyan chespandwe. Awa hamu zmanekan pesh kawtun u xoyan chespandwe.


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009




Fighting evil

‘This interference is even stretching profoundly to reach Saudi Arabian territories in a neatlyplanned way just for the sake of triggering problems and conflicts and enfeeble the Arabs.’

Suli-based CTG works around the clock to secure the Kurdistan Region. Lawen A. Sagerma SLEMANI hether hunting down bloodthirsty terrorists or ransom kidnappers, the Slemani-based Counter-Terrorism Group (CTG) works around the clock to ensure that security threats are kept at bay, and that the people of the Kurdistan Region can sleep easy at night. Set up in 2002 with American assistance, the CTG is in large part responsible for the Kurdistan Region’s moniker, ‘The Other Iraq’. It is why Iraq’s northern region is characterized as stable and secure, and why investors keep pouring in. Lahur Talabany, head of the CTG, explained that the organization was established in response to a group of fundamentalists from various Islamic parties who created the Jundel Islam group. At the time this terror organization posed a grave threat to the


‘There are no boundaries for us. If there is a threat against the Kurdistan Region we’re willing to go anywhere to take care of it...’ strongholds of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The authority of the CTG is derived from a written charter signed by President Jalal Talabani who was President of the Kurdistan Region (at that time when there was two administrations) and the general commander of the Peshmarga forces. “It authorized us to carry out counter terrorism activities in this region and gave priority to the CTG to oversee all counts of terrorism over ASAISH and other intelligence units,” said Talabany. Under the charter they have authorization to work all over the Kurdistan Region but can also work in the rest of the country. “We work all over Iraq in cooperation and coordination with chiefs of police and governors. We have bases in Mosul, Kirkuk and Diala even though these are the disputed areas but because of the presence of Kurdish communities we decided to go into those regions and offer protection to Kurds who live in those areas,” said Talabany. But claims of no legitimacy by the federal government for their operations outside the borders of the Kurdistan Region have been

aplenty. “The Iraqi government has told us many times that we have no authority but we haven’t given up and through the relationship we have built with the police chiefs and with the governors in those regions we have still been able to collect intelligence and conduct operations,” said Talabany. The disputed territories are controversial areas to work in owing in large to its undecided political fate and with many Arabs contesting the presence of Kurdish forces. “There are no boundaries for us. If there is a threat against the Kurdistan Region we’re willing to go anywhere to take care of that threat,” said Talabany. He explained that the culprits behind the Slemani Palace bombing on 25 October last year had actually planned the attack from Baghdad and Mosul. “We ended up having to go to Baghdad to arrest a couple of people and then to Kirkuk and Mosul,” he said. All the people responsible for the Abdulla Restaurant bombings in Kirkuk which claimed the lives of hundreds in a predominately Kurdish area were captured in less than three days by the CTG. The latest capture of the CTG involved those who carried out the bombings in Khaznan and Wrda, two Kurdish villages in the Mosul region. “There were more than 40 people martyred and over 80 people wounded. In less than 48 hours, we managed to capture a lot of the people responsible for those bombings,” said Talabany. “There was a recent incident in Kirkuk which involved the kidnapping of two Turkmen children, we managed to arrest the people and find the kids and hand them back over to their families. We also do stuff like that, it is good for our image.” The primary goal of the CTG is to prevent terrorists from working within the Kurdistan Region and stop them from coming in from the other areas of Iraq that are still haunted by fundamentalist groups. “We have offices in Mosul, Kirkuk and Diala, they’re set up strategically, and it’s a kind of buffer zone between us and the rest of Iraq. We try to prevent them from getting to the Kurdistan Region,” said Talabany. “If they are able to work comfortably in Kirkuk, the next step will be ‘let’s work in Slemani’, but if they are not comfortable in Kirkuk, they will not think about Slemani.” The work of the CTG is very secretive and not as glamorous as the Counter Terrorism Unit of Jack Baur but they have managed to catch some very important people, among them Hasan Gul, a member of Al Qaida who was travelling from Afghanistan to Iraq, delivering a message from Osama Bin Laden to Abu Musab Al Zarqawi. “He transited through Iran, we had intel-

ligence he was coming into Iraq so we set up an ambush in the Diala region and we managed to capture him and when we did, he had a hand written letter from Osama Bin Laden. That was one of the biggest catches because there was a lot of stuff written in that message,” he said. Talking about terrorists they have caught Talabany recalls one that was possibly the worst he has come across: “There was a guy called Abu Shalal and his assistant Abu Saafe, both Arabs from Mosul. Abu Shalal was responsible for the beheading of more than 86 people. His assistant’s job was to hold the people’s legs and arms while he was beheading them. That was one of the worst.” One hotbed for terrorists is the Talafar area in contested Mosul where a large number of Turkmen are operating. “Mosul is the worst place in Iraq at the moment because of its strategic location in proximity to the Syrian border. There is easy access for terrorists coming from Syria to Mosul,” explained Talabany. “It’s very difficult to control the borders and have checkpoints everyway, it’s impossible. But having good intelligence and good sources within those networks is the most effective plan.”

The violence that ensued after the US-led war in 2003 caused great immediate instability in the region and the operations of terrorist groups thrived. “I think one of the worst things that the US forces did was dissolving the Iraqi army during Paul Bremer’s time,” said Talabany. “They left thousands and thousands of people without jobs who couldn’t put food on the table for their families. This was a good opportunity for the terrorists to take advantage of these vulnerable people.” The Kurdistan Region’s security has been the main attraction for foreign investment and this is one driving force behind the CTG’s ongoing efforts. “We have to work around the clock to prevent a terrorist attack because God forbid something happens, we will scare away the investors,” said Talabany. With an intelligence and military wing of over 1,000 people, the CTG is looking to unify with the KDP intelligence group to work as one. “We have started the process now and... there should be one united counter terrorism center under the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG),” he said.

Mercury rising in Mosul Al Hadbaa rejects peace-keeping proposal. he policies of the Al Hadbaa List in Mosul have reportedly led to an increase in terrorist activity in that province, as well as in other disputed areas such as Kirkuk. A number of suggestions have been put forth to help control the security situation. One such proposal was submitted by General Raymond T. Odierno, who is the current Commanding General of the Multi-National Force in Iraq. General Odierno proposed a united front consisting of American, Iraqi and Kurdish Peshmarga forces. While the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) approved the proposal, it was opposed by both the ruling Al Hadbaa List in Mosul, and the Turkmen List in the Provincial Assembly in Kirkuk on grounds that it is against the constitution.


“According to the Iraqi constitution there must only be Iraqi troops based in those areas. If they want to execute this decision with force we will reject it,” said Yahya Abd Mahjub, a member of the Ninewa Povincial Assembly on the Al Hadbaa List. Sheikh Mheden Mzuri, who is in charge of PUK relations in Mosul, does not share this view: “The people of Mosul and its surrounding areas will not accept Al Hadbaa's [chauvenist] decisions... when they will always be under the danger of terror.” Mzuri believes that Al Hadbaa’s principles are akin to those of the former Baath regime, the Iraqi Islamic state and the Al Qaida organization which is why they will not allow any other groups to have a say in the political decisions in the province. “The task of the tripartite force is to prevent certain parties from making the situa-

OSAMA AL NEJEFI, Secretary General of the National Iraqyoon Grouping, on Iran’s ‘negative’ role in the region.

‘Iraq witnesses an exceptional condition and the coming government will map out plans and new strategies for Iraq’s future.’ HOSHYAR ZEBARI, Iraqi Foreign Minister, on interference by neighboring countries.

‘The surge was really a surge of ideas as much as it was a surge of forces.’ DAVID PETRAEUS, Head of US Central Command, claiming that the surge led to social stability and decreased violence in Iraq.

tion unstable. This is an honorable task and it’s in the constitution,” said Harem Kamal Agha, head of the PUK office. According to Abdulkarem Gargari, a member of the Kurdish Brotherhood list in Mosul, Al Hadbaa List is made up of former Baath regime members and racist Arabs who are “working to create conflicts between the other nationalities”. “They don’t want coexistence in the Mosul administration so when suggestions are offered to improve the political process, they will be barriers in front of the reconstruction process, re-arranging the army, shared authority in the area and stabilizing democracy in Mosul,” he said. Gargari explained that if Al Hadbaa continue with their policy, they may succeed in extending their influence over its neighbors. However, he expects Al Hadbaa will receive a lower percentage of the votes in the upcoming elections because the people of Mosul and its surrounds are angry with their administration. — BY ZHENO ABDULLA IN SLEMANI


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009

Captured terrorists recount how they were recruited by ‘Jihadi’ groups, and reveal the grizzly details of their crimes against Iraqi civilians.

Dangerous minds Zheno Abdulla KIRKUK edin Fakhraden Esmael Jasim Al Mawla, a Turkmen from the Horij tribe, was serving time at Boka Prison when he met Ghaeb Muhammad Saeed Hassan Al Messri, also known as ‘Abu Wahshi’ (father of the wild). A recruiter for the Abu Talha terrorist group, which organizes attacks against US troops stationed in Mosul, Abu Wahshi, a 35-year-old Turkmen from Talafar in Mosul, was captured by the Americans four years ago, detained in Boka Prison, but released last March. Without any trace of remorse, Al Mawla and some of his cohorts -- now in the custody of ASAISH -recounted to SOMA Digest the gruesome attacks in which they took part. “[Abu Wahshi] gave us religious lessons and told me that I must get in touch with them when I was freed and I did,” said 30-year-old Al Mawla, who was a resident of the Mihalabi area in Mosul. “They told me to go to Kirkuk because there was a group of seven people there and I was to be their leader.” Placed in charge of the group’s finances, Al Mawla provided salaries for the members of the Islamic State of Iraq in Kirkuk, in addition to controlling the funds necessary for purchasing cars, weapons, and mobile phones.


Mahir Muhssen Taha, who was in charge of finances for a group of Turkmen from the Chalabi tribe, said he became a member of a ‘Jihadi’ terrorist group in November 2007. “I joined this group through Ali Muhssen Karem in 2007 and I continued my activities till I was captured by the police in Mosul,” he said. “I was detained for seven months but after I was freed, I rejoined them.” Another inmate at Boka was 23-yearold Sofian Abdulmajed Sleman, who was detained in 2005. Upon his release, he says that he resumed working with his group in Mosul and after four months he went to Kirkuk to take part in organized

my willingness,” he said. Shagara recounted that after he had met with Abbas Quli, the Wali of Mosul, he and other new recruits were sent to Kirkuk and told to work on explosives on vehicles, planting road bombs and killing people. “He put six people under my command and I became their Amir, then he introduced me to Jabir Abu Kazim who was Kirkuk’s Wali,” he said. Shagara explained that Abu Kazim’s agenda did not discriminate against a particular ethnic group or religious community; his mandate was simply to destabilize. “[Abu Kazim] was working on all the different components of Kirkuk because he thought that since there were no terrorist actions in Kirkuk, we must act quickly and have activities there,” he said. Shagara recalled one day that Abu Kazim brought them a car packed with explosives and a Syrian suicide bomber ready to detonate it near the fruit and vegetable wholesalers area. They were told to carry out this action and ensured that this unnamed Syrian knew the neighborhoods well.

‘The family fought back but we shot them. We killed the mother, the father and a son. Then we were ordered to kill another Christian homeowner.” terror activities in the conflict ridden city. Abu Talha Muhamad Khalaf Shagara, who was Mosul’s ‘Amir’ (meaning leader) and had links with Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, said: “I had nearly 50 students in the prison where I was held and taught them religion and resistance conceptive lessons against the Americans. Some of the prisoners became members in our organization.” Shagara himself was recruited by a man called ‘Abu Falah’ whom he met by chance one day in the market of the neighborhood of Saddam in Kirkuk. “Abu Falah told me that they wanted to start their activities again and I showed

Local forces dispose of an IED in the city of Kirkuk.

(photo by Sebastian Meyer)

The American forces in cooperation with the local forces of Kirkuk are active in the fight against terrorists and insurgents in the city. (photo by Sebastian Meyer)

“The Syrian stayed with me that night then we led him to the Kaber Mosque. [We] left him in another car and then we heard the sound of the explosion when he detonated himself among a police squad killing eight captains and a number of other people,” said Shagara “After that, Abu Kazim told me he had plans for [an attack] against the Christians and needed three people. I provided him with Jumaa, Sofian and Mahir.” Sofian Abdulmajed Sleman, a Turkman chosen by Shagara, explained how they attacked a Christian family in the neighborhood of Uzairn and spoke of the ruthless murders they carried out. “The family fought back in the beginning but we shot them. We killed the mother, the father and a son. After that we went to Domez where Kazim Abu Haidar ordered us to kill another Christian homeowner.”

He added: “Mahir, Muhammad and I climbed on the wall into the house. I remained in the front yard, Mahir in the kitchen and Muhammad went inside. After five minutes they killed two from the family. When we got back into the car, Muhammad showed us nearly 1 million Iraqi Dinars (ID), glasses and a mobile phone that he’d taken from the house.” On the orders of Abu Wahshi, Sleman explained that one time they attempted a kidnapping in Kornesh wearing the uniform of the PUK security forces. “We told him that we were from ASAISH. His family started screaming and pointed their pistols at us, their neighbors were alerted and started to gather so we escaped quickly,” he said.

The men in a village in Kirkuk are sat against the wall after a raid in the city. They await their turn for questioning. (photo by Sebastian Meyer)


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009

Bedrock principles ‘Article 140 is essential to the future peace and stability of Iraq’ - US attorney Lawen A. Sagerma SLEMANI he controversial new elections law was finally approved after prolonged delays only to be vetoed by Iraqi Vice President Tariq Al Hashmi after outcrys over the seat allocations. The Iraqi parliamentary elections set for mid January of 2010 are expected to determine the rearrangement of power in contemporary Iraqi politics as democracy goes through another phase of transition. “Transition from dictatorship to democracy always presents challenges and setbacks along the way. But in my opinion, Iraq and the Kurdistan Region in particular have made enormous progress which justifies both optimism and firm commitment to democratic principles. It takes time for a democracy to fully mature,” said Joe Reeder, an attorney in Washington, who was also the 14th Undersecretary of the U.S. Army and Chairman of the Board of the Panama Canal (1993-97). “The key is to protect the basic constitutional structures of democracy and strengthen the social institutions which make democracy possible, including education, minority rights, free press and the rule of law.” The upcoming elections are set to challenge the political dynamics all over the country as a great number of lists are participating independently including varied parties from the Kurdistan Region. “Given the current political situation, there may be some risk in departing from the unified list, but ultimately the advancement of Kurdish interests in Baghdad must depend on their ability to forge strong coalitions with other, non-Kurdish parties,” said Reeder. “Whether Kurdish entities stand together or separately will depend upon perceptions of what is in their best interest. That is why it is very important for political parties to make it clear that they don't favor anyone on ethnic grounds.” Iraq and the Kurdistan Region have made great strides toward entrenching democratic principles, with the latter as-


suming primary responsibility for its own security and governance, so much so that there have been calls for a partition from Iraq. But Reeder points out that the long term interests of the Kurdistan Region will be better served and preserved within a unified Iraq as the Iraqi Constitution grants substantial autonomy to the Kurdistan Region. The importance of a Kurdish constitution to the political and legal advancement of the Kurdistan Region and its government is huge and a task that must soon be brought to the forefront. “It is vitally important for the Kurdistan Region to ratify its own constitution as soon as possible, in order to solidify the foundation of government in the region,” said Reeder.

Joe Reeder

“Fundamentally, a government without a constitution is a threat to the rule of law. That's why the Iraqi Constitution recognizes the right of regional governments to enact regional constitutions to govern their internal affairs. The draft constitution for the Kurdistan Region is an impressive document that merits the careful consideration of the people.” The implementation of the democratically voted for Iraqi constitution has not been without its challenges. There is an impasse on a number of articles in particular Article 140 which the Al Hadbaa List in Mosul claims is now void because it was-

KURDISH PROVERB It is easier to make a camel jump a ditch than to make a fool listen to reason.

n’t implemented within its deadline. Some Kurds believe too many concessions were made on this article and they continue to wait for its implementation. “A proper and prompt implementation of Article 140 is essential to the future peace and stability of Iraq. Article 140 is based on the bedrock principles of justice [normalization] democratic self-determination [referendum]. There is no better alternative for resolution of the disputed internal boundaries,” said Reeder. “The argument that it is void because it wasn’t fully implemented by its deadline is, in a word, frivolous. The constitutional deadline gave recognition to the urgency and the critical importance of resolving boundaries. The passing of the December 31, 2007 deadline only reminds us of the urgent necessity of implementation.” Reeder continued to say that more delays would only threaten peace as well deprive the people living in the disputed territories of their constitutional right to decide their status. “While some interim compromise on the status of Kirkuk may be prudent and necessary, Article 140 remains the best path to permanent settlement,” he said. Despite the progress the country makes, it always seems to take two steps back with the issue of Kirkuk; its volatility shows no signs of ceasing and continues to be the focal point of all tensions. “As a result of the cruelty and injustice that stems from the Arabization policies of Saddam Hussein, there are very strong feelings on both sides,” said Reeder.

“Ultimately, the status and government of Kirkuk should be determined democratically under the Article 140 process, but progress cannot be made until leaders on all sides demonstrate a spirit of mutual respect and compromise.” The recent suicide attacks in Baghdad show big cracks in its security causing un-

conflict after the scheduled US troop withdrawal is political leadership. Iraq must have a successful election in January 2010 and the new government must find a way to resolve remaining political rifts between the various coalitions,” said Reeder. “Iraqi Kurds must remain steadfastly committed to a unified Iraq in order to se-

‘Kurds must remain committed to a unified Iraq in order to secure the progress that the Kurdistan Region has made...’

derstandable fear that a bloodbath is likely to ensue after the US troop withdrawal. As it stands the Iraqi forces are not yet fully capable of securing their capital let alone the whole country. “The most important factor in avoiding

cure the enormous progress that the Kurdistan Region has made since 1991. The Kurds have made a beacon of democracy, stability and prosperity in the Kurdistan Region. That must be preserved and nurtured at all costs.”


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009



First ever festival for post-war arts and culture held in Slemani.

Post war art Barzan Kareem SLEMANI he Kurdistan Region held for the first time ever an art and culture festival under the slogan, “Post war arts and culture”. The threeday event, which kicked off on 7 November, was organized by the Slemani-based Khak Press and Media Center in partnership with ArtRole from the United Kingdom. This unique celebration of art and culture was held at the Kurdish national museum, 'Amna Suraka' (Red Security building) in Slemani, often dubbed Kurdistan’s cultural capital. Kurdistan Regional Prime Minister Dr Barham Salih inaugurated the event, alongside Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, a noted patron of Kurdish arts. In attendance were many academics and politicians. Several foreign agencies also participated in the event, presenting the history of contemporary art in the UK and Europe. Curators from Iran, Turkey, UAE, Palestine, the UK, the USA and Asia were also invited to offer their perspectives on contemporary art and the development of Iraq. To introduce the horrors of the Amna Suraka to the predominately non Kurdish audience, a 27-minute documentary film on


the Red Security building was screened. After this brief introduction of the last Baath holding during the Kurdish Uprising of 1991 in the city of Slemani, the crowd was ushered to see the internationally acclaimed installation, 20:50, by renowned British sculptor Richard Wilson R.A. This eyecatching piece of installation art consists of a lake of sump oil that reflects the ceiling. Attendees were awed by this artwork, with some even putting their hands into the oil. It is the first time that Wilson’s 20:50 has been brought to the Middle East. “As you walk into the room, you are confused because you don’t fully comprehend how there is a reflection on the floor, it looks like black glass,” said university student Zheen Mahmud. Susan Meiselas, author of ‘Kurdistan: In the shadow of history’, had flown in to participate in the festival and presented an interactive photographic installation and a slide show based on her book project. The public were invited to participate by bringing their own old photographs of the city while some others were sent out to take new photos. A number of students turned up to take part which was an encouraging sign of their desire to become elements of the festival.

“It was great that we were able to work with Susan because she is such an inspiration and her book is a great contribution to the archives of our history,” said 21-year-old student Hawar Shwan. The first day’s event ended with an evening performance called the Memory Game by Adalet R. Garmiany, chief executive of ArtRole, in participation with invited artists Anne Bean, Richard Wilson, Chris Gladwin and 46 Kurdish artists and musicians. Using an entire section of the Amna Suraka, Garmiany related his experience as a refugee in the Red Security building after the Uprising. His mother also took part with a short monologue of their time there. “The main aim of the festival is to send a message of peace to the whole world, declaring that Iraq and the Kurdistan Region were destroyed by wars, but now they are a center of culture and arts,” said Garmiany. “This is just the beginning to ensure that people come here and see our people and culture and learn our history and it is also the first of many more festivals to come.” The second day of the festival included a presentation on post-war Iraq by Professor Maki Omaran in which he explored art and cultural developments in Iraq since the fall of the Baath regime and recollected on art during Saddam’s reign. The festival ended with an evening of Kurdish music with performances by Kurdish folk musicians Gariyan, contemporary music band Sahand and upcoming new group Sardam. The Post-war arts and culture festival was the first of its kind in post-war Iraqi Kurdistan to bring together people from such a range of social, political, and cultural contexts and create a unique platform for them.

Richard Wilson’s 20:50 installation piece which filled a room with engine oil up to the waist left the crowds in awe. Author Susan Meiselas’ interactive photo presentation was another contribution to the festival. (photos by Aram Eissa)

AMIDEAST is seeking to recruit an Instructor of English as a Foreign Language in its Iraq Field Office to work on a variety of education, testing, and training activities. TO APPLY: Please submit resume with cover letter to AMIDEAST, AMIDEAST/Ira, Bldg. #5, Street 240/4/15 (Former WFP Office) Ainkawa, Erbil, Iraq or e-mail 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 - Participate in professional development programs, inc. workshops & conferences in Oman, etc - 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 This job description is not intended to be all inclusive, and the employee will also perform other reasonable related business duties as assigned by the immediate supervisor and other management.

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 Preferred: First language is English M.A. in TEFL, TESOL, Linguistics, or related field Experience in U.S. education system Knowledge of U.S. standardized tests (TOEFL, TOEIC, GRE, GMAT, SAT and others) Work Location: Erbil-Ainkawa


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009

KHAK-TV takes part in German training seminar in Amman.

Wave of the future Darya Ibrahim AMMAN W Academies, a German academic center, in cooperation with the Goethe Institute, organized a workshop in the capital of Jordan for three different Iraqi media groups. The participants were Khak TV, a Slemani-based Kurdish television channel, I TV and Al Iraqia TV, both Arabic satellite channels. The four-week workshop kicked off on 26 September and ran through 22 October. Dani Leese, supervisor of the project, said the workshop was part of the German program of economical development cooperation. “The DW Academy wants to promote the benefits of high quality TV and radio productions and support the building of peace, freedom and democracy throughout the world,” she said. According to Pishtiwan Muhammad, a sound and video editor from Khak TV, all aspects in preparing and publishing a TV magazine for children were presented and discussed, in addition to all the concentrated discussions on the general subject. “We learned a lot about preparing a TV magazine for children. We also worked on new computer programs which I wasn’t familiar with and which was of great interest and a great achievement for my group and myself especially,” he said.


Each group consisted of two journalists, a cameraman and an editor in order to make sure that every group carried out its work accurately, without delay, and created its own production. The instructors said they were impressed by the efficiency of the groups and their willingness to experiment with new methods of working. “The groups in the workshop were extremely well prepared and open to the workshop’s contents. To learn and try out

‘The groups in the workshop were extremely well prepared and open to the workshop’s contents.’ new working methods is very difficult since we are all very much into our daily working routine,” said Leese. “Therefore I was extremely pleased with the participating groups in how they tried to change their working methods. Their motivation to learn was exceptional.”

In the first two days of the workshop, there were specific times for the presentation of many TV programs and magazines for children which were produced by different countries for the participant groups and public in Amman – Jordan Royal Film Commission. After the programs had been shown, the forum was opened for discussion. The workshop was divided into three periods. The first period consisted of theory lessons, the second focused on practical lectures and how the equipment were used and the last period was specific to production. “In the workshop we could discuss the theoretical and practical aspects and in the end each group had produced a topical TV magazine for children,” said Marewan Umar, supervisor of the Khak TV group. The workshop was successful according to most of the participants. “A workshop is never perfect and I cannot judge how much each person learned, but as for the training circumstances and the output at the end - which is the program 'for you' - I am extremely happy with the workshop,” said Leese. She pointed out that the workshop got very close to what she wanted and the response and feedback they received was positive, “The students learned and experienced what I wanted them to experience: how to work with children in front of camera, how to work as a team, how to work quick and effectively and how to give children freedom to be active and natural in front of the camera,” she added. This workshop is arranged as an annual tradition in Amman, but according to Leese they intend to make the project wider and arrange it in Iraq next year. “We are planning a follow up in 2010. We will approach one TV station for cooperation and we want to plan an 'in house training' and our aim is to help set up a magazine program for that channel.”


‘Brief Recollections: Personal Flashbacks in Kurdistan’ “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. 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 information about the Region, its

Khak TV group were one of three groups taking part in a workshop in the Jordanian capital Amman for the duration of four weeks on a TV magazine production for children.

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

(photos by Ulrike Doerr)


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009

Walk a mile in his shoes Intrepid Kurdish traveler Karim Zand is a legend in his own time.

Every Kurdish youth knows the exploits of legendary traveler Karim Zand, now 85, who returned to Kurdistan with a detailed map of the borders of his nation’s historic lands.

Roshna Rasool SLEMANI ith 85 years behind him, legendary traveler and historian Karim Zand is still as active today as he ever was. Lines of history run through his face and nationalism shines from his eyes. From childhood, most Kurds know that they owe much of their knowledge over their nation’s historic geography to this man. Zand started writing from the 1940s and continues to do so to the present day. While the Kurds (aided by numerous western travellers and qualified geogra-


My first Gipa

THE BORNE IDENTITY AGRI ISMAIL or those readers who remember my restaurant reviews back when I was living in Iraq, it will come as no surprise that I, like most Kurds, have a passion for good food. However, unlike many Kurds that I know, I also have a desire to try out new dishes, something which stems from the first time someone made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and I realised it was a combination that I would never have come up with my-


self and Lord only knew what other exotic flavors were out there. And so it happened that I’ve come to eat everything from durian (a smelly spiky fruit) and petai beans (which smells like methane) all the way to snake (it’s ok, nothing special) and fried scorpion (quite lovely). And yet, until now, I had never had the most lauded and controversial Kurdish dish of them all: gipa. Gipa is a distant cousin of haggis in that it consists of boiled sheep stomach that contains a mixture of rice and herbs and spices. Traditionally, the gipa is served along with sarope, a portmanteau word literally meaning “head and feet” and is sheep brains and tongue, alongside knee joints. It’s one of those Kurdish dishes that take the better part of an Equinoctial cycle to make and is either eaten every morning, once or twice a year or never ever even under threat of having to have every letter in Finnegans Wake engraved into one’s

armpit. Those who eat it in the morning will queue up from three in the morning at one of the local sarope vendors and usually the food is all finished by 10am. People who like the street vendor variety claim that eating it in the morning gives you strength and prepares you well for the day to come. Others claim that what is sold in the street is as close to the real deal as, say, a fossilised pterodactyl is to Monica Bellucci. These gipa connoisseurs will tend to have it in their homes or in the homes of friends or relatives, mainly in the winter, and due to the difficulty in making the dish well, only have it a few times a year. I was, up until recently, firmly camped in the third camp. The aesthetics of the dish are so lacking, the process of making it so grim, that I had just never tried it. While back in Iraq for an all-too-short week, however, I decided to finally have myself a taste. It’s the same reason I forced myself to read that godawful Twilight book (how did something so filled with

phers, historians and politicians) have known their borders for a long time, Zand’s contribution was to help inculcate this knowledge among primary school children. He is the author of more than 20 books and nearly 500 of his articles have been published in numerous magazines and newspapers. He also undertook the challenging task of translating the Bible. Zand was born in the Malkani neighborhood in the city of Slemani in 1924 and grew up to become a teacher. He has fought in many of the Kurdish uprisings, notably the battle of the Kurdish republic in Mahabad in Iran in 1945, the revolt under the leadership of Peshawa Qazi Mohammed in 1945 and the Barzani uprising in 1961. Zand also participated in a guerrilla war once headed towards Russia. Having traveled on foot across Greater Kurdistan, he headed further north to Africa, then the Middle East and Russia. On his return from Russia in 1958, he had with him a firsthand travel account of historic Greater Kurdistan and was able to publish it in Zheen Magazine. Fluent in five languages - Kurdish, Arabic, English, Persian and French Zand’s education began before he turned six years of age when he was taught by a religious teacher to read and write. He was also educated on how to read the Quran. Before starting primary school, he already knew how to read.

blocky sentences and clichés ever even got published, let alone spark a worldwide phenomenon) or sat through 18 hours of teutonic opera: I like to know what I’m talking about. So, in brutally dismissing gipa’s culinary value due to its utter lack of aesthetic appeal, I was being hypocritical. As my father’s family are renowned for their gipa, that was as

good a place as any to have it. And so it came that on an early Tuesday afternoon, I sat down with a sown lamb’s stomach on a plate in front of me. One is not meant to eat the stomach itself, although there are some hard-core eaters who do, which is all the better because the texture of the stomach was

During this time in the 1930s there were only three schools in the city, one for girls and two for boys. What pushed Zand to be a traveler was a field trip that was organized for his class when they went to Gozhia Mountain with the school in his first year. However, his teachers had told him he was not allowed to participate because he was physically weak. “When I went home I told my mother to boil me two eggs for breakfast. On the morning of the field trip I got there before my teachers and my classmates. This encouraged me to travel to a different area of Kurdistan each summer,” explained Zand. Most of Zand’s books were under the title ‘Tomari Tamand’ (Record of Age) and to explain this Zand said: “I chose this name not because of my age but the age of our nation.” The house in which Zand now lives has been in his family for generations. His many years of travels have made him want to give back by doing something for the children. This is where his geographical publications came from and gave reference to Kurdish children, so that they would be able to know the historic borders of their country. From southern Armenia to the mountains of Zagros, to Askandarona, to the villages of Razho, all areas claimed by Kurds as part of their historic lands, have been mentioned in his publications with great detail in order to paint a clear picture for the children.

fuzzy and seems about as appetising as skewered fish eyes. It took a while to remove the thread used to sew the stomach together but after I had reenacted the battle of Thermopylae on my plate and looked like an idiot, I managed to get it open and start eating. I looked around as friends and family where trying to gauge my reaction. It was absolutely lovely and a taste so unique I have nothing to compare it with. It was one of the best meals I’ve ever had, a warm almost autumnal taste, both complex and subtle. I actually felt sad that so many years had gone by without me ever having tasted it before. Then the sarope came and although the knee joints were perfectly edible, I am not a big fan of the texture of tongue nor brain. But the main event was the gipa, a dish I now will be trying to convince everyone to taste. You might hate it, true, but you’ll never have had anything quite like it. As for me, I'm just hoping my first gipa won't be my last.


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009

Word on the street Aram Eissa asks average Kurds what they think about the new Iraqi elections law and if they have faith in the abilities of the new Kurdistan cabinet. Hasan Sa’id, 44 (civil servant) What do you make of the new Iraqi elections law? “The new law is more suitable. I’m very happy with it as the Kurds had a hand to play in the issue of Kirkuk after all the barriers put in front of its progress by the Arabs. This instills great faith in the Kurdish leadership once again.” Do you have hope in the new Kurdish cabinet? “My hope comes and goes but this is the right time for the government to prove that they are loyal to the people. We need more social justice, like fixing the labor law which contains a lot of injustices.”

Umed Kwekha, 34 (industrial worker) What do you make of the new Iraqi elections law? “The new law is much more generalized, and it is in the interest of the public because everyone can participate in the election with their different ideas about the law whether it be closed or open lists, and it was an important achievement that Kirkuk wasn’t separated from Iraq.” Do you have hope in the new Kurdish cabinet? “I have hope because their work appeared right from the beginning when they reduced the number of ministries which makes the work easier and more specialized.”

Jutiar Umar 20, (industrial worker) What do you make of the new Iraqi elections law? “I don’t have any faith; they don’t understand the simplest thing that people ask of their parties which is that our real interest is not in our separation but in our harmony.” Do you have hope in the new Kurdish cabinet? “I don’t see any justice in our work for Kurdish achievements. There are simple things that either we neglect or we don’t know them. The government and the people must fight for our own rights as much as we fight for Kirkuk.”

Braiem Ali, 45 (industrial worker) What do you make of the new Iraqi elections law? “I’ve got no hope for things being done the proper way with the Arabs. Firstly they made many silly excuses for opposing Kurdish suggestions and now they have cheated in the census. I don’t know how things will work in the elections.” Do you have hope in the new Kurdish cabinet? “I have hope as the people are more efficient and there is creative competition between the lists. Prime Minister Barham Saleh has achieved many things; he doesn’t differentiate between the Kurdish cities.” Sideq Muhammad, 35 (factory manager) What do you make of the new Iraqi elections law? “I like the new law because the seats are given according to the province population, even though there was much cheating in Mosul. This makes the competition fiercer among the lists inside those particular provinces.” Do you have hope in the new Kurdish cabinet? “All I hope is for it to be better than the previous one and for them not to forget that the people complted their duty on Election Day, now it is for them to do theirs. However they done good things from the beginning as they reduced 10% from the salary of ministers and put it on the salary of martyrs.”

Azez Ismael, 53 (industrial worker) What do you make of the new Iraqi elections law? “The thing that is very obvious is our disadvantage from the outset: our population is not counted right. They have also cheated us in the compensatory seats by putting a big percentage for the Sunnis and have even asked for more while the Kurds are excluded.” Do you have hope in the new Kurdish cabinet? “I’m hopeless as are most people because it is only the parties that take part in the government which is a normal thing but what is not normal is when you work only for your party and your party's interests.” Muhammad Abdulrahman, 27 (industrial worker) What do you make of the new Iraqi elections law? “The Kurdish provinces, especially Slemani, don’t have accurate representation in the seats and that is why I think the election must be in one circle, meaning all of Iraq together because what will the Kurds do in the south and middle of Iraq as they don’t have the right to vote for Kurdish candidates.” Do you have hope in the new Kurdish cabinet? “I have no hope because they’re too slow. They have done nothing for the unemployment issue, but still, I hope that they will be better than the previous cabinet.”

Kamil Hama, 26 (unemployed) What do you make of the new Iraqi elections law? “I have hope because of the new law, but my only fear is that the seats for Slemani are not a fair representation of Slemani’s population in comparison to Mosul. It is impossible that Slemani has increased only 200,000 since 2003 but in Mosul they have increased by 1-1.5 in the same period.” Do you have hope in the new Kurdish cabinet? “I have 100 percent faith in the new cabinet because the people are suitable for their positions, and I was happy with their decision to reduce the extra unused ministries.”


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009



THE MORE THEY KNOW RAZ JABARY n an age where the television screen and computer monitor are essential tools for spreading one’s voice, the Kurds have remained silent. Like the Palestinians, the Kurds are still struggling for their independence, but unlike the Palestinians the Kurds do not enjoy support from vast majorities. Why is this? For one thing, the Kurds have failed to adequately document the injustices they have suffered. One of the main reasons for this phenomenon, which has been severely criticised, is the divisions among the Kurdish population – be they linguistic, geographic or political. As a consequence, ever since the first recorded Kurdish uprising by Sheikh Ubaydallah in 1879, mixed messages have been sent to the world by various Kurdish parties with different agendas. As a result any form of desired progress for the nation has been thwarted by certain parties or movements that have worked first and foremost to maintain their own grip on power. As a reader of various British papers, I have come across the words ‘Kurds’ and ‘Kurdistan’ only twice over the last academic year. I say ‘only’ because at the moment we are lumped into a nation that world attention is greatly focused on – Iraq. Un-


like the rest of Iraq our region is prosperous, secure and stable; a big contrast to the everyday image the Western television viewer is made to adopt of this war torn country. Comprising about a quarter of this conflict stricken nation whose fate has sparked debates all around the world, it is shocking to find that many Brits remain ignorant about the people that make up ‘the other Iraq’. I would further like to stress that on both occasions the words were solely in reference to the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, not of any other part. If we as a long oppressed people do not utilize the situation as it is in Iraq to make a permanent mark in the international community and public awareness, it is likely that we never will. After Israel bombed the Iraqi Osirak nuclear reactor in 1981, world opinion heavily turned against it, accusing it of violating international law. When in 1990 Saddam showed its aggression by invading neighbouring Kuwait, Israel’s act of 1981 was suddenly justified as a necessary preventive measure, in one of recent history’s best known cases of drastic turnarounds in the perception of the public. On a smaller scale, ongoing Kurdish guerrilla movements are being downgraded by Western governments, particularly in

Fixing the January 2010 elections

DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ DR JOSEPH KECHICHIAN n the 2005 electoral landscape most Shiite parties were grouped in a strong coalition, the two main Kurdish parties allied, while Sunni Arabs and secular voters were fractured. It was an ideal set-up to usher in a majority that governed for four years. Although the January 2010 elections panorama is still under the spell of disenfranchised elements seeking redress, and against Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani’s public reservations, Prime Minister Nouri Al Maliki and his Dawah party jettisoned from the current coalition to run independently. Will this factionalism result in victory for Al Maliki or will we witness a resurgence of religious parties?


Press reports confirm that the Prime Minister will lead a broad political coalition, setting the stage for an electoral clash with rival blocs, which claim intrinsic appeals across the country’s sectarian and ethnic divides. This may be a useful approach but Al Maliki’s pledge to uphold the law—itself a redundant pledge since that would be a basic requirement for any government—cannot guarantee stability via sloganeering. His “State of Law” coalition may be successful though it is fair to inquire what were the reasons for delaying the application of its planks for four long years? In fact, a more accurate evaluation might—and it is important to underline the word might because the premier’s allies were not blameless for the resulting “State of Lawlessness”—be attributed to power politics, as Al Maliki and the current Iraqi National Alliance clashed. “State of Law,” which embraces 40 parties or organizations, is a reflection of this lack of commonality even if in addition to Shiites, several Sunni, Kurdish and Christian leaders have joined in. Al Maliki’s rationale, which is quite evident by his many carefully articulated partnerships, is to emphasize Iraqi tribal interests above the clerical, which is almost akin to the tactics used by Saddam Hussein. “State of Law” aims to

Turkey. As pointed out by famous scholar Noam Chomsky, Turkey has in fact violated more Security Council resolutions with regards to aggression, war crimes in breach of the Geneva conventions and human rights violations during military occupations than Iraq has under Saddam Hussein. Nonetheless, the current failure from the Kurdish side to effectively reach out to the world in pointing out, for example, Turkey’s consistent violations of amassing troops onto Iraqi sovereign territory leaves their own struggle unjustified. More lobbying needed Although far from criticizing Kurdish authorities responsible for the media and the maintenance of international relations – in fact, the Ministry of Tourism’s recent television campaigns aimed at attracting Eid Al Fitr tourists this year were a great success and the ongoing openings of various consulates in Erbil illustrate a great improvement – it is essential for the new KRG administration under the newly elected Prime Minister Barham Salih to emphasize efforts to lobby internationally. For a start, greater resources ought to be committed to the overseas KRG offices for the purpose of encouraging involvement from resident Kurds and facilitating the process of maintaining ties with a more widespread political and business community in the given countries. As today’s most able body representing the Kurds and utilizing its status as a recognized government for the purpose of favoring the perception of other Kurdish bodies,

the KRG should be more involved in attempts to organize national conventions, as opposed to individual parties organizing their own respective events. In order to recruit support for the Kurdish cause in an increasingly interconnected world, international sympathy is essential. In that regard, the Palestinians – although fewer in numbers – are far ahead of us, which indicates that lobbying efforts are not based upon quantity but rather the quality with which they are carried out. There is a

misconception among many Kurds which is that we as an oppressed people are being ignored by the outside world and seem to pin the blame of our situation on others far too rapidly. Instead, by ensuring that vast crowds become familiarized and sympathised with our history of victimization and current status, foreign ruling authorities will be far more restricted in the approval of policies that could potentially work against our cause. Our future lies in our own hands.

weaken the Iraqi religious establishment although this is both dangerous and, frankly, impractical. Iraq remains a deeply devout society where major blocs of voters are safely embedded within either the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, now led by Ammar Al Hakim, or the Iraqi National Alliance, who follow Moktada Al Sadr, whose checkered past is widely known and whose capabilities are legendary. To ignore either group may be politically convenient but probably impossible to overcome in any transparent election. What is even more problematic for Al Maliki is a nascent alliance between the Supreme Council and the Sadrists. The premier may be hoping that these two groups, which were implacable foes in the past, would perpetuate their hatred towards each other. In 2010, however, such a split is unlikely largely because of Iranian diplomatic initiatives that seem to favor a coalition and whose local influence is now established. It remains to be determined whether the two main Kurdish parties will support Al Maliki and/or form their own separate alliance, perhaps to act as power-brokers after the elections. In the event, Kurdish leaders are in a wait-andsee mode, without any urgency to commit themselves before the ongoing political winnowing. Naturally, the premier’s platform, which supports the establishment of a powerful federal authority over Iraq’s se-

curity institutions while empowering Baghdad with an independent judiciary, is attractive. What is problematic is his conviction that such powers—which some Iraqis perceive as too authoritarian—are necessary. Though he has pledged to root out corruption, little tangible progress was registered on this score during the past four years. Security forces are still beholden, and many urgent socio-economic concerns are in abeyance, precisely because of his concentration on security matters. Al Maliki perceives the clerical establishment as being responsible for many of Iraq’s ills, with little attention to cronyism and nepotism practiced by his government. When it is not the clergy, blame is generously bestowed on neighboring countries, especially Syria, most of which allegedly plot against Iraq. In fact, the January elections will probably hold Al Maliki and his government to account, especially if an open list system is introduced, which would allow voters to select individual candidates. Voter revenge should not be underestimated under the circumstances. Even a closed list system, which will reward party loyalty, will not shield individual candidates, including Nouri Al Maliki, from pressure. The latter option would literally pit the powerful prime minister against equally powerful clerics, most of whom support an open list, with the near unanimous guarantee that a fresh politi-

cal crisis will ensue. There are no doubts that a law-andorder message will resonate favorably with voters who recognize Al Maliki’s gargantuan efforts to limit bloodshed and a gradual restoration of basic services, even if neither is permanent. Still, Iraq is a conservative country where the clerical establishment enjoys unparalleled influence, something that politicians will ignore at their peril. Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani does not want a closed list system, and while Al Maliki may have little choice but to accept this alternative, an open list will be nothing short of a referendum on his four-year record. Moktada Al Sadr is also for individual candidate ballots, rather than parties, which may require behind the scenes negotiating to come up with an alternative, perhaps a hybrid semi-open list, to satisfy both sides. The Prime Minister faces a dilemma, for a push to reinvent Iraqi society might be riskier than assumed, especially if he decides to forego the country’s legitimizing clerical establishment. His imminent decision to either acknowledge or neglect clerical authority will mean the difference between internal confrontations or another four-years of steady nation-building. Dr Kechichian is an expert in Gulf Arab affairs and author of several books.


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009

MEMORIAL PRAYERS FOR IRAQ The Archbishop of Canterbury speaks of ‘the invisible enemy hiding in the temptation to look for short cuts in the search for justice.’ DR HARRY HAGOPIAN lmost a couple of weeks ago, I promised the editor of SOMA that I would soon write about the levels of violence against minority communities in Ninewa where the carnage and bloodshed continue to outstrip those in other regions of Iraq. In addition, Arabs and Kurds remain locked in a political deadlock, and the institutional paralysis that refuses to give way threatens to undermine any real progress that Iraq could make in the future. However, I deferred my article on Ninewa for another time and decided instead to reflect this time round about the war in Iraq that started in 2003 - six long and testing years ago. My readers might well wonder why I suddenly decided to revisit this topic now when it has been covered time and again by so many seasoned writers and analysts. The reason is simply that Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, happened to preach at a Memorial Service held at St Paul’s Cathedral in London for the 170 British personnel who have died in the conflict. Attending the service were the grieving families of the dead soldiers as well as members of the British Royalty, the Iraqi President, members of the British armed forces as well as members of parliament and politicians from the United Kingdom and Iraq - including the current prime minister Gordon Brown and his predecessor Tony Blair who was one of the main architects of the war. The Archbishop’s sermon was powerful, nuanced, evocative and moving, suggesting that those who decided on the war may have failed to consider its true implications in terms of justice and “long-term building and healing.” It also touched upon the exaggerated rhetoric in its build-up, adding that “perhaps we have learnt something, if only that there is a time to keep silence, a time to let go of the satisfyingly overblown


language that is so tempting to human beings when war is in the air.” Archbishop Rowan Williams quoted St Paul from the Christian Scriptures in order to address any underlying spiritual conflict embodied in all public choices. He spoke of “the invisible enemy [who] may be hiding in the temptation to look for short cuts in the search for justice - letting ends justify means, letting others rather than oneself carry the cost, denying the difficulties or the failures so as to present a good public face.” Although he rightly praised the costly duty of our troops on the ground, Archbishop Rowan has in fact never hidden his personal opposition to the war in Iraq where he has previously spoken about the shortcomings of policymakers and criticised those policies as ‘ignorant’ and ‘flawed’. In fact, the overriding message at the memorial service might well have been an indication of the raw sentiments countrywide since it focused on one of the most potent biblical passages in chapter six of St Paul’s letter to the Ephesians about “spiritual wickedness in high places”. Indeed, feelings were running so high after the memorial service that the former prime minister was snubbed by the father of one of the servicemen killed in the conflict. Although I realise that a considerable number of Iraqis - including Shi’is, Kurds and also some Sunnis - supported the USled invasion, I think it is helpful if they too take in the levels of opposition that still percolate within the UK - and the larger EU against it. The real costs of this war - in fact of any war - can never truly be measured in words, but one cannot overlook the colossal loss in human lives both among the British military and the Iraqi civilian population let alone the financial cost to the UK of £7.8 billion already. Here in Europe, there is an aversion to the kind of triumphalism that former US President

George W Bush exposed during his presidency, and many questions are still being constantly asked about the moral values that were absent from the decision to go to a war under dubious and unconvincing pretences. Mind you, I fully understand when some Iraqis demonstrate enthusiasm for this war since it rid them of a bloody tyrant and might even have helped them acquire some fundamental freedoms. But much as I empathise with them - and their supporters worldwide - I would also urge them to understand in return that there are many other voices who are bemoaning the sacrifices that have been visited upon Iraqis or the allied forces, and who remain decidedly uncertain about the effect of this war on global security. In fact, I believe that one of the major obstacles that will face the possible appointment of Tony Blair as president of the EU once the mechanisms of the Lisbon Treaty are in place will be his role in waging this war. But given the realities today, no amount of soul-searching or even conniption would undo the misgivings of the past six years. This is why I suggest that Iraqis could best honour the huge sacrifices of their fellow citizens let alone allied soldiers by re-doubling their efforts at re-building the country and ensuring that its future becomes brighter than its past. So much bloodshed and devastation could best be countered by an awakening of collective and healthy unity amongst all Iraqis. This is what might help reassure the Archbishop of Canterbury and scores of other men or women that the Iraqi horizon holds some hope and peace for its citizens. Otherwise, it will have all been a costly and deadly loss, and will lead the country anew into a political labyrinth that would prove counter-productive to its communities. © hbv-H @ 20 October 2009


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009

LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL People are not always interested in hearing about progress but this must not prevent Kurdish artists from moving beyond the past. BENJAMIN HALL rt can be a means of expression, a means of therapy, a means of education and a means of escape. It can bring awareness to global issues, but it can also stifle them. I have seen this over the last month while involved in the pre-selection of films for the 6th London Kurdish film festival, and what I have seen has been both promising and at times lacking. I say lacking not because of poor quality but rather because of content. The films are powerful; they are thought provoking and many will stick in your mind for a long time; indeed I would advise anyone who can go to do so. However at the same time I believe that a festival celebrating Kurdish culture is an opportunity to highlight the progress in the region and in doing so, banish many of the negative impressions held in the west. I believe that it should show the hope that can be felt for the future and be used as a tool to usher in a new era for Kurdish identity. Instead however many of the Iraqi films in particular highlight only horrors past; they are tragic and speak of loss and hopelessness. So in one sense I am enthralled by the calibre but I feel also that this was an opportunity lost, an opportunity to portray the region in a different light and show the


world how things are changing. It was on reading Lawen Sagerma’s article in SOMA issue 63 (“Kurds of the World Unite”) about the importance of cultural identity in the Kurdish diaspora that I decided to examine more closely the role played by Kurdish artists abroad and how their art can have a hand in shaping the impressions of foreign cultures. Until recently I myself knew little of Iraqi Kurdistan other than the horrors of the Baathist regime; principally Anfal and Halabja. However having been travelling to the Kurdistan Region for the past year I have seen first hand the regeneration taking place. I have worked with Kurdish groups in London and listened to the joy that people feel about the growing stability and security, and I had felt that these were themes that might now start to be reflected in contemporary art. So it was with much anticipation that I sat down to watch this year’s films. Kurdish directors based in countries all over the world had submitted entries but I was looking closely at those by Iraqi Kurds, optimistic that the theme of hope would resonate more so than in years past. It did not. The films are a combination of re-enactments of war stories; of orphaned and lost children, of scattered families and honour killings: they were of what

was and what had been. Most end in tragedy. Those made by directors living in the West speak of the hardships faced in host countries and of their own haunting experiences. But when I look at Kurdish Iraq, I see something different. I see a region beginning to heal, a region moving forward, and a region that is both beautiful and welcoming. It is a region filled with hope, which has a plan for the future, for its autonomy and for lasting peace. The recent elections offered a big step towards a fully democratized government and this progress must not be overlooked. We must of course not forget that Kurdistan is moulded by its past, and we must never forget the atrocities, however I believe that for things to change, people must also begin to heal, and that the image of them abroad must do so too. One thing that was never destroyed was the pride of the Kurds and the inherent beauty of their land and culture and these are the things that should now be talked about and the things that can bring about a change in the minds of western societies. I looked also at art by Kurdish Iraqi painters in London hoping to see whether the same themes of loss came across, and in general they did. Many of the pieces I saw are dark and abstract; drawn out faces stare out at the viewer;

scenes of Halabja haunt the images and deprivation is rife. But when asked about their feelings, about how they now see their homeland, each person I spoke to was optimistic. They speak of their mountains, of community, of family, of beauty and of heritage and folklore, and herein lies a contradiction which I struggle to understand. Why is this not reflected in their art? Perhaps one answer lies partly in my own culture, in the culture of the west, a culture that thrives on shock value and bad news. It has been said that to startle people into action here requires a tugging of the heartstrings, and this is certainly the case whether it be humanitarian support or simply artistic. A number of artists I spoke to said that being awarded grants in England was a lot easier if the subject matter was about war and connected to the hardships of the artist or the immigrant. Another said he had been awarded a grant only after applying as an Iraqi rather than a Kurd and having spoken about

the relevance of tragedy in his art. To be pigeonholed as a refugee and to feel that your art must reflect only what others know about you already is in my mind an insult. I heard another story of an artist proposing an exhibition at a gallery; the curator suggested repeatedly that he qualify his art based on the atrocities that inspired them. She asked him to recount personal experiences, horrors that he had seen so they could be typed up and placed in a neat sticker on the wall. People are not always interested in hearing about progress but this must not prevent artists from growing. It should encourage them to strengthen the diaspora and make it different. There is now a new generation of artists and filmmakers coming onto the scene. They are young and keen to experiment and combined with a growing urbanization and support from the department of culture it seems as if more and more young people will begin expressing themselves through art. There are already established platforms from which the Kurdish identity can grow. The film festival in London is one example. In its 6th year it is steadily growing, and is now in multiple venues around the city thereby reaching people it never has before. There are festivals in five other countries around the world and the interest is strong; people want to hear. If they can be shown beauty they do not expect perhaps it is possible to effect change, perhaps it is possible to paint a picture of the future.

L E T T E R S Terrific website Congratulations to the team behind SOMA Digest’s new website. It not only looks great, but the daily updates are very useful. It is tragic that there is very little on Iraqi Kurdistan in mainstream media, and those of us who are keen on closely following the region’s day-to-day developments, are at a loss. Moreover, Kurdish language news may be great for Kurds, but not for those of us who do not speak it. So, many thanks for the service you provide. I only wish the hard copy of your paper were available abroad. Perhaps you should put that on your agenda for the near future. Name withheld LONDON

‘Mother of Kurds’ I was pleased to hear that former French First Lady Danielle Mitterand made a visit to the Kurdistan Region. The schools she opened will no doubt be of great benefit to the young people of the region, and help them secure a better future. But

equally, in making a visit to this relatively secure part of Iraq, Mme Mitterand has sent a message to the world that if she is able to visit, then so can anybody else. We can only hope that this helps dispel any misconceptions that people abroad may still have that Erbil and Slemani are no different from Baghdad or Falluja. Iraq is a country made up of different components, and it is important for this fact to be made clear in the media. Our development depends upon it. Again, my gratitude to Mme Mitterand for not forgetting the Kurds, and a heartfelt thanks to SOMA Digest whose good work is well appreciated by English-speaking Kurds and foreigners alike. Azad Ardalan ERBIL

C O N TA C T U S LETTERS TO THE EDITOR 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 no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009



Find me a home. Up to 140,000 units needed to solve region’s housing crisis f construction is one sign of economic boom then the economy of the Kurdistan Region is really flourishing. In July 2006, a munificent, alien-friendly investment law was approved by the Kurdistan Parliament with hopes of luring foreign capital to the region. The new legislation gave foreign investors the same rights as Iraqi investors, including full ownership of the project. It also provided incentives, such as comprehensive tax exemptions. Foreign companies could freely transfer their profits abroad without paying taxes or customs. Although this generous investment law supports the ongoing building boom in the Kurdistan Region, does the construction of new international airports, streets, parks, pleasure grounds, shopping malls, governmental buildings, and plush villas really stand for economic growth? A recent study has revealed that nearly 140,000 residential units are required in the Kurdistan Region to solve the housing crisis. However, these figures may drop as many housing projects which are on the threshold of completion would be delivered to the rightful owners very soon. The housing problem of more than 25,000 Kurdish families is expected to be solved by the end of 2010. The residential units which are underway in Erbil are claimed to have been sold to the citizens with an initial down payment equivalent to 25 to 30 percent of the total outlay and the remaining amount to be paid in monthly installments of $300 to $400 for the next 10 years. Government sources are ecstatic with these unrealistic projections and claim that the benefits of these projects would inevitably percolate to the poor. With an average income of $300 per month and below, such claims are unfounded, utopian and add insult to the injury of thousands of homeless Kurds. Affordable housing is the need of the hour. But what is an affordable price? Has there been any realistic and sincere initiative to find out? What price can a middle income group (MIG) family and/or low income group (LIG) family pay to own a house? We need to start from there. Analyze and calculate the minimum affordable price taking all variables like monthly food expenses, expenses on children, medical expenses etc into account and arrive at an amount which may remain surplus every month with them. Based on this surplus amount which can be presumed as equated monthly installment (EMI) to be paid for the next 10 - 15 or 20 years, it is advisable to arrive at the net/total amount of loan and this loan amount is viably the affordable price for various economic strata.


Besides, what are the bases of the prices US$50,000? Has there been any positive initiative undertaken to assess the actual price? In a place where land is almost free and since land constitutes 30 to 35 percent of the total outlay, elsewhere in the globe, the price tag of US$50,000 awfully gives reasons for fresh assessment/analysis by a team of unprejudiced experts carrying unblemished credentials. Although the import of all construction materials, machines, raw materials – cement, steel etc invariably swells the price tag but once a thorough exercise is undertaken, cost analysis is done using realistic parameters I am quite hopeful that prices will come down drastically. The government, with limited resources has functioned quite admirably. With its strenuous efforts enormous foreign capital has entered the country that has actually laid the foundation of infrastructural development we have witnessed to date. But as I had pointed out initially, do all these speak of economic prosperity for all, rich and poor classes and the mass. It may not. I may sound sarcastic but I am quite close to reality. Is it not a fact that foreign investments are fetching very high returns and the spoils are being funneled back to its origin. If that were the case then it is high time the government pull up its socks because while stimulating its economy, the measures undertaken are perilously allowing its own revenue to be drained out of the country. We may have benefitted in the short term but in the long run, our own economy has to suffer. So the earlier the better, the government should take immediate actions to prevent such huge revenue drain from the country. Of course investments are done to fetch good returns but the government needs to examine whether the returns are good or exorbitant. A more proactive approach is required. Committees can be set up, comprising specialists and public representatives as watchdogs along with government officials who would function in the interest of the citizens. Also support from international consultants and international NGO’s can necessarily be solicited to procure relevant information like cost analysis from different countries. Systematic, methodical and sincere initiative would surely bring down the prices drastically. My gut feeling is US$15,000 – 20,000. If not then we should look for builders, realtors who can build houses at that price. — BY DEVANJAN BOSE IN NEW DELHI

Money talks. Experts mull adding Kurdish script to Iraqi currency Zheno Abdulla SLEMANI lans are reportedly in motion to modify the Iraqi currency to include the Kurdish language, but with regard the matter of removing the zeros, it appears the authorities have reached a deadlock. “Putting the Kurdish language alongside the Arabic language on the Iraqi currency [will] encourage Kurds to feel that they are a part of Iraq and are participating in the political process,” said Faesal Ali, a member of the Kurdish Economic Forum. Ali explained that the inclusion of more than one language is nothing out of the ordinary and happens in other countries, citing as example the Chinese currency which carries four languages. He pointed out that this move is part of the democratic process in the country, which has compelled the central government to accept the existence of other nationalities within its borders. In the past, the non-Arab communities in Iraq were never accomodated in this manner, said Ali. Since the Iraqi currency is used more locally than internationally and most Iraqi traders deal in dollars, displaying the country’s two official languages on the currency will likely not have a negative impact on the Iraqi economy. Political tension from neighboring countries may arise given the sensitivity of the Kurdish issue in countries


with sizeable Kurdish populations, but as Ali points out: “This is an internal [Iraqi] affair as it is done legally by the Iraqi government so the other counties must respect it.” Dr Aras Hussen Dartash, a former economics lecturer at the University of Slemani, concurred that the use of two languages on the Iraqi currency is entirely normal for a country that is moving toward federalism. According to another economics lecturer from the University of Slemani, Ezzat Sabir, the move will not have any negative impact on the economy of the country because it is related to the system of the country. “Especially in countries where English is not the native language of the country, for instance in some countries in western Europe like the Czech Republic, they have Czech and English on their own currency. This state for us as Kurds is something unique and we can feel that we are participating in Iraq, but unfortunately this does not bode economic advantages though it doesn’t have any disadvantages either,” he said. Aram Aziem Said, an institute graduate, disagreed, explaining that having more than one language on a currency does not show the strength of a country but rather its weakness. “This tells people that this country contains many different views, but they don’t

get along which is the problem, and I think it is a sign that no one can trust this country and it is about to split away,” he claimed. “But to create a rich future for the economy of Iraq, they must think about reducing or even taking away the zeros on the Iraqi Dinar. But if this process is done without proper planning and a viable economic system it will lead to inflation. There have been many successful plans for removing zeros from a currency, such as in Turkey, Russia and Argentina because they did it with strong economic plans.” Sabir conceded that the current state of the Iraqi economy would make such an endeavor difficult because Iraq doesn’t have a strong economy, big factories and its local products are weak. He pointed out that 70 percent of Iraq’s goods are imported. Sabir added, however, that Iraq must consider removing the zeros in the next few years because it shows the weakness of a country’s economy when there are many

‘Putting the Kurdish language alongside the Arabic language on the Iraqi currency [will] encourage Kurds to feel that they are a part of Iraq and are participating in the political process.’

zeros on its currency. “For instance when Turkey’s currency had many zeros, it suffered from economic weakness but when they planned to remove the zeros stage by stage, the Turkish economy saw a lot of progress,” he said.


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009

Slippery commodity. 30percent of oil is lost to smugglers. Galawizh H. Rashid SLEMANI s the people of Iraq struggle to emerge from years of war and crippling sanctions, oil exports are the government's greatest source of revenue. However, in addition to funding the reconstruction of Iraq, this commodity also fuels the black market and is a central component of the web of corruption, terror and criminality in Iraq. Hassan Nuri M. Amin, the Director of ASAISH in the province of Slemani, the Kurdistan Region’s security apparatus says: “Sadly the authorities turned a blind eye to smuggling operations in the past and this is how the black market has thrived, and underground business networks grew.” During the period of the UN sanctions, Hassan says that the vast smuggling network involved many vessels, vehicles, and trucks. “The former regime used to smuggle oil in ships carrying wheat in order to bypass the UN inspectors,” he recounts. “Unfortunately, some of those smugglers are still active now.” A mandate to protect Of his organization’s function today, Hassan says: “We are fighting against the drug trade, terrorism, foreign espionage, and people who try to smuggle our historical artefacts out of the country... Our mandate is to protect our people and maintain security in our area.” Hassan concedes that despite fierce efforts by his organization, smuggling is an ongoing problem in the Kurdistan Region and across Iraq. “Oil smuggling places an enormous burden on our revenue and our economy,” he


‘The allocations made for the Environment Ministry is less than 1 percent in a country that has 25,000 mines and is suffering from radioactive pollution.’ MP BASSEM SHAREEF, on more funds for health, environment.

‘The committee will prepare the land... in coordination with the Foreign Affairs Ministry and [per] instructions from the Iraqi Cabinet.’ NIZAR RABIE AL JABIRI, deputy governor of Basra, on the project to provide housing for those who lost their homes after the 1991 demarcation.

says. “Up to 30 percent of oil is lost through smuggling networks. Not only could this revenue have been used to fund vital projects, but a portion of this missing revenue goes toward financing the insurgency.” He cites the example of one organization of smugglers who operate along the Iranian border.

Hassan Nuri M. Amin, Director of ASAISH in Slemani.

“The smugglers put thousands of plastic containers filled with about 20 liters of oil and they throw these containers into the river, which come from the Sardashit area,” he says. “On one occasion, they put about 1,500 containers, and nearly 600 of these containers exploded when they hit rocks. This was a disaster because it combined with the water and reached the Dukan Dam. It even affected the fish in that area.” According to Hassan, smugglers resort to such desperate measure “because our security is so tight at the borders.”

‘We have agreed with the Turkish and Iranian governments to open two large trade and industrial zones in Zakho district, Dohuk, and the border area of Bashmakh in an attempt to promote trade exchange.’ BARHAM SALEH, Kurdistan Region Prime Minister, says that the two zones will open the gate to economic prosperity in the whole country.

“Sometimes, smugglers take advantage of the local situation. For example at one point, the price of oil was cheaper in Slemani so even the gas stations were involved in this operation. They were giving the locals to get gas because they were smuggling it to Erbil, where they’d get a higher price for it,” recalls Hassan. If the price is right “In another instance, the smugglers would park their truck on some high point in the mountains around the border and they’d send the oil through pipes or sometimes they’d use a hose. The smugglers would collect it from the other side of the border inside Kurdistan.” According to Hassan, this also occurs when the city’s share of oil is received from the south of Iraq whereby “the smugglers try to take as much as they can even from our share and they send it to some other city for a better price”. “This causes friction between the cities in our area and then the population complains about ASAISH or the government for not managing the distribution of oil equitably among the cities of Kurdistan,” he says. “Because the money they make from oil is unimaginable and they get help from high ranking people to back them, they won't give up easily.” According to Hassan, ASAISH has cracked down on 70 percent of the smuggling operations. “As a result of relationships between the governments, oil smuggling networks grew between Iraq, Syria and Iran. This continues to this day although most of the oil smuggling is concentrated in the south of Iraq,” he says. “Officials complained several times about Iranian coast guards allowing Iraqi smugglers to seek refuge in Iranian waters. Smuggling goes as far as the UAE.” Hassan, however, highlighted that the organization’s efforts are not focused solely on the battle against oil smugglers. He says that drug trade, human trafficking and endemic corruption also top their agenda.

‘The private sector can play a vital role in attracting investors to the province…’ JABBAR AMIN, head of Basra’s provincial council, following a meeting between local businessmen and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss mechanisms for developing the private sector in the province.

‘The dam is 2,160 meters in length and 60 meters in height. Its storage capacity is 40 billion cubic meters..’ DR LATEEF RASHID, Minister of Water Resources, on Khassa Jay Dam in Kirkuk

Wealth of nation A lot more wealth is floating around Kurdistan than official numbers suggest ne of the most attractive business opportunities looming in Iraq is financial services. Currently, Iraq and Kurdistan largely function as a cash economy primarily because people do not trust banks and other financial institutions. This means that personal wealth is kept as cash or invested in real estate, particularly the family home. Thus, a lot more wealth is likely to be floating around Kurdistan than official numbers suggest. The idea of holding wealth in a tangible form like a house is a common marker in less developed and less stable economies. China is an excellent example. The Chinese have long been known for keeping cash hidden rather than in banks. Now, the growing sophistication of Chinese financial institutions is changing that. People from developed economies know that personal credit is big business, and so it will eventually be here in Kurdistan and Iraq. For example, major opportunities exist to build a mortgage industry to finance homes. This simple idea of applying leverage to home ownership will take root here slowly. The major reason is that the basic financial infrastructure does not exist to support a robust mortgage business. For example, if people borrowed money to purchase homes, then facilities must exist to collect and record payments received. Yet, if mortgage financing were available, it would not take long before Iraqis realized the benefits on offer. Mortgages would allow young families in particular to afford better housing earlier in life during important child-rearing years. A mortgage industry would have important spin-offs. It would, for example, encourage the development of an insurance industry to protect the dwelling and its contents. In addition, the money not tied up in a home would be available for use elsewhere. A family could obtain a mortgage on its home “freeing” money which could then be employed to start a business or finance private school or university. Or the money could be invested elsewhere. The homeowner gets the benefit of the appreciation on his or her home whether it is financed or not. In addition, the money freed by the mortgage could be invested in assets. These could include a second home, real estate rented for profit or financial investments. The array of financial investment options is huge in developed economies. A very large financial services industry exists to help people put their money to work to earn profits. Money from many people is combined and together this is invested in opportunities not available to small investors. For example, people could invest in ownership shares of large, successful companies.


Of course, the homeowner who has a mortgage must pay back the money borrowed over time plus interest. Though Islamic law does not permit the receipt or payment of interest, an Islamic bank or other financial institution that lends money for home ownership still charges a “spread” between the amount the purchase price of the house and the amount the homeowner must repay. Another obvious financial service is insurance which protects individuals from risk. Some insurance is available in Iraq, but the turmoil of the last few decades has made it a dicey business at best. More importantly, the insurance business in developed countries is driven largely by the financing industry. The blossoming of a mortgage industry, for example, would undoubtedly create alongside a robust insurance business. The reason is simply that those who lend mortgage money require that homeowners to carry adequate insurance on the property. Thus, if a house burns to the ground the homeowner would have an incentive to walk away from the property on which so much debt is owed unless insurance restored the value of the property. Another major opportunity in the financial services sector is the expanded use of credit cards. These allow consumers who use credit cards to purchase when the need arises. For example, most families spend proportionately more than they earn during holidays then cut back at other times per year. Before the widespread use of personal credit, the idea was to spend only after one had saved for the event. But credit cards offer much more since their use is deeply ingrained in modern business. For example, one cannot rent a car, stay in a hotel or shop online without a valid credit card. Thus, this form of personal credit would connect Iraqis to the modern international economy. And it’s fair to say that as Iraqis get a taste of the global cornucopia they will want financial instruments like credit cards that will allow them to participate. But to flourish the financial services industry would require that banking and other infrastructure be significantly improved. The list of needed upgrades is long: improved Internet penetration and reliability, a workforce educated in international finance and accounting practices, and increased transparency of financial institutions. — ROD MONGER, PHD, TEACHES BUSINESS AT THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF IRAQ - SLEMANI


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009

Culture FILMS




An ode to a fragrant Kurdish flower ROSHNA RASOOL IN RANIYA


Grains of time S awar, qara kharman, birwezh, danula, doh koshik, qubli and harisa are all types of grains made of wheat, which are integral to Kurdish cuisine. Housewife Kazhal Mohammed invited SOMA Digest into her home to watch her prepare the vastly popular dish called sawar. “Back in the day, sawar had an important role in warming relations between people,” she recounted. “ Once the grain had been cooked, the people of the area would queue with a plate to receive some of this cooked grain, danula.” Children in particular would run to queue for this dish, she said. “Most of the time, the women of the area would cook a number of pots of grain to make sawar all together and help each other in the process,” she added. Sawar is part of the grain family and the grain that is used to make sawar must be yellow so that once cooked, it shows up its characteristic color. M a n y would a d d tomato paste to the grains and once cooked, it took on a rich orange hue. The process of making sawar is not easy and it needs to pass through a number of steps. After the grain has been chosen, it is washed and put in a big pot of water. When cooked, it is drained and spread over an area for a couple of days to dry naturally. Once dry, it is gathered and bad grains or little stones are removed. The lot is then taken to the mill to be granulated. Amina Khan, a housewife who cooks sawar regularly, explained how she makes a large quantity of sawar for the winter. “Each year I make three big containers of sawar to be kept for the winter. My children often complain about me making sawar as they know all the hard work that goes into making it but I don’t listen to them and do it anyway and have it in the pantry for winter,” she said. Sawar also has medical benefits. Shopkeeper Osman Kawa, explained that a kilo of sawar in the bazaar is now 2,000 Iraqi Dinars (ID), adding: “Most of those who buy sawar suffer from diabetes and as it

has lower sugar content, it is a more suitable grain for them to consume and doesn’t cause them any harm.” Sawar can be cooked in many different ways and a popular sawar dish in the Erbil area is ‘shila sawar’, a stew consisting of cooked sawar and meat in tomato puree. “Now when women cook sawar it is different compared to the days when it was either plain yellow or plain red and only those who had the means could eat it with cooked meat,” said Mohammed. She added that nowadays some cook it by adding meat or vermicelli, and many new recipes have been improvised. During the days when it was difficult to obtain rice grains, ‘yaprakh’ (vine leaves stuffed with rice) was made of sawar rather than rice. Another one of these grain dishes that is popular in Kurdish cuisine is ‘qara kharman’. These are grains that are harvested before they are completely mature. They are then roasted before b e e n spread out to be in the open air. The result is a green grain. This differs from sawar in color and in the way it is produced as making ‘qara kharaman’ does not need to be boiled. For sawar, the grains have to be completely mature whereas for the qara kharman, they must only be of the vibrant green color for which it is recognized. Birwezh is another member of the grain family and is used for Kurdish dishes such as ‘kofta’ and ‘koba’. Unlike sawar, birwezh is white and also like qara kharaman the grains for preparation do not need to be cooked. When the birwezh is used for cooking it needs to be soaked in water for several hours beforehand and later grinded to form a kind of dough which can be shaped into a ball to be filled with a particular filling. Despite the hard work and time that goes into the preparation of these grains, food plays an important role in Kurdish life and is a relevant feature of Kurdish culture. — BY ROSHNA RASOOL IN SLEMANI

The exhibition in Jordan’s capital was an innovative way to empower Iraqi artists. (photo by Rebeen Ahmed)

Amman’s world Jordan expo aims to empower Iraqi plastic artists. Darya Ibrahim AMMAN n a very Iraqi atmosphere and in a very traditional neighborly manner, an exhibition presenting a number of paintings by Iraqi artists was held in Amman. The exhibition was opened on 17 October in the Foresight Gallery in the Umuzaman area in the capital of Jordan in the presence of Prince Raed Bin Zaid and with the participation of more than 75 Iraqi plastic art artists. “This is a gathering of Iraqi artists from different fields of plastic art. Collecting the art took a long period of time because some of the artists are very young, some are older and some of the works belonged to artists that had passed away,” said Ibrahem Al Abdali who organized the exhibition. “We wanted to generalize the exhibition and not restrict it only to the participation of some artists. The exhibition showed the power of Iraqi artists,” he added. There were a number of reasons why Amman was chosen as the location, Al-Abdali explains, but the main one was because the great majority of the Iraqi artists who participated in the exhibition are residents in Amman or had come from outside Iraq. “I am a university teacher in Amman and as I arranged it, I had to do it here,” he said. Batul Fakeki, a participating artist, said what was of greatest interest to her about the exhibition was the exchange of expertise between the two generations of artists: “This is also a message to the artists of the


whole of Iraq to unite in their aim to build up Iraq again. The union has to be between Iraqi artists inside Iraq and those outside Iraq in exile.” This exhibition is one of a number of efforts to put Iraqi plastic art back on track, especially after the big gap which was created after the fall of the regime of Saddam Hussein. All the participating artists admitted that there were some differences be-

tween Iraqi plastic arts before and after the liberation process, which has its own positive and negative points. According to Fakeki, Iraqi art was more active in Saddam Hussein’s period noting however that the artists were not free in their practice during his reign. “Before the liberation process, Iraqi artists were more active, more prepared and art was more progressive. But [back then] it was obligatory for everyone to participate in the activities and do their art, but now we are all free in which exhibitions we participate, so I hope the next exhibition will be in Iraq,” she said. Preparing for the exhibition took six months which included advertising for the event, preparing the paintings, collecting them and then finally putting on the big show in someone’s house. Suaad Al Essawi happily shared her idea about the gallery and believes it is a great honor for her to give her own house to the Iraqi artists to use as a gallery hall. “I had great feelings towards this gallery, because I’m very pleased to have those Iraqi artists in my house. I think the artists were able to present the sadness and the suffering of Iraqis in their paintings,” she said. “Any artist who had a particular style before the Iraqi liberation process in 2003, he or she still has the same style now, but the activation border has changed, the Iraqi artists are more open-handed now and they can execute their works more extensively," said Al Abdali. "Because the two generations of artists lived through the suffering of Iraq before and after the liberation process in 2003, they have been influenced by both periods and it is reflected in their paintings clearly and we cannot make the differences between them, but I think Iraqi art has progressed because it is based on the power of invention,” he added.

The exhibition in Jordan is just one of a number of efforts to put Iraqi plastic art back on track after years of neglect under the former regime. (photo by Rebeen Ahmed)


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009

Scent it my way A fragrant flower once used for various purposes in Kurdish life may soon be forgotten. Roshna Rasool RANIYA he evergreen clove tree yields fragrant flowers that have been used by Kurdish women throughout generations. The clove has many uses ranging from medicinal purposes to fashion accessories. In some villages it is also used for cooking. This clove in Kurdish is called the ‘mekhik.’ The mekhik flower is distinguished by its pleasant scent. The cloves also have a distinctive shape; they are thin and long, with the flowers coming in various colors, whether white, pink or magenta. It is a commonly planted species; the buds of the plant are gathered and dried in the sun to form the dried clove. For those women who like to pamper themselves, the cloves are a highly sought after accessory, as explained by Nazaneen Ahmed. “The ladies in the villages used to get some newly picked tangerines and would pierce the tangerines with the cloves and put it in their wardrobe and drawers to keep their clothes smelling nice,” she said. A token of love In the Iranian Kurdistan region, in the city of Mukrian, instead of the tangerine, an apple would be used and lovers would make one for each other and exchange it as a mark of their shared love. “Often it was given as a gift to loved ones instead of perfume. It was a more convenient option as it could be in abundance depending on the farm and it was more economical for people,” Ahmed added. The perfume used in the villages that were often given as gifts were also a sign of affection from a boy to a girl and this made it a priceless gift. It was considered as a thoughtful present because it was made by hand and a lot of time and effort was put into its creation making it more personal. In an attempt to revive this tradition, Sewan Saadian, sets up a time and place for couples to meet and exchange this traditional token of affection annually on Valentines Day. For Saadian, it is a way to marry Kurdish tradition with global commercial trends.


The Kurdish mekhik is distinguished by its enticing smell and was used to make fragrances back in the days of yore. (photo by Aram Eissa)

There are also many health benefits that come with using the clove. It is often used for stomach pains, toothaches and sometimes it used put on a pierced ear to keep the hole from being infected. Use in Kurdish cuisine In many dishes both Kurdish and international it has been known to be used as an ingredient for cooking. It can be put in whole and later removed, or ground into a fine powder.

used as an accessory for the décor of the home or office or even for one’s jewels. It is often used with gold, silver and beaded jewelry whereby by using a special needle and thread the cloves are clustered together to form a pattern along with the gold to make the tradition Kurdish piece the ‘mekhik band.’ A source of inspiration It has been said that the fragrance and the décor that have drawn women for so

In modern times, the mekhik is no longer used as it once was. It is far simpler for women to buy a bottle of perfume and so another Kurdish custom is slowly dying out.

Using henna on hair or on the skin is a very common practice for Kurdish women as part of their beauty regime, and the clove is used here as an incorporated ingredient. It is left to soak in water for a day or a sufficient period of time, and it is that water which is then used with the henna to make the paste. It has been said that using the water in which the cloves have been soaked adds further benefits to the henna, in that it is healthy for the scalp. This multi purpose clove can also be

many years have also spurred emotions and ideas that have inspired many poets who have gone on to write songs and poems about the mekhik. In modern times, the mekhik is no longer used as it once was because it is far simpler for women to go to a shop and buy a bottle of perfume. With improving living standards and better incomes, this endearing Kurdish custom is slowly dying out.


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009

Lifestyle DINING





As modernity seeps into everyday life in Kurdistan, affluent young Kurds find ways to reconcile global trends with tradition. Seven years after the US-led invasion of Iraq opened the floodgates to foreign investment and modern fads, young Kurds are reveling in liberties that were denied their parents, thus compounding the effects of the generational divide. Kurdish society is at the threshold of momentous changes. Lifestyle, a vista to an emerging society, offers a glimpse.


The barber of Kirkuk t is similar to a scene from the Barber Shop but with big mustachioed Kurdish men instead of slick looking African-Americans. Kirkuk’s youngsters may have to deal with the growing violence that engulfs their city but personal grooming is never compromised. A routine trip to the barbers is a moment of respite from the hardships of daily life. Such places often serve as popular meeting points for old friends and acquaintances, to catch up on the latest news and gossip, exchange jokes and pass the time leisurely as they await their turn. Khak Barber is the most famous barber shop in Rahemawa inside the city of Kirkuk. It is where most of the youth go, and not just for a hair cut or grooming session but to spend time with their friends and share the latest jokes. The small shop contains only three chairs and three barbers who have become familiar with all the youths in the city. Despite the restricted space they have all the latest in necessary tools and are very conscious of hygiene. In addition to the lively atmos-


Khak Barber is the most famous barber shop in Rahemawa inside the city of Kirkuk. It is where most of the youth go, and not just for a hair cut or grooming session but to spend time with their friends and share the latest jokes.

James Bond café may not serve up danger or intrigue, but their kebab is pretty good.

phere that they create, a hair cut at Khak costs very little. At only 3,000 Iraqi Dinars (ID) per cut, it beats the rate charged by many other barbers inside and outside the city. Unbelievable though it may seem, Kirkuk’s barbers are in tune to the latest fashions and new styles for grooming. They are full of ad-

vice for the young men who patron the shop. But these serious consultations are often overshadowed by the humorous exchanges between the youths who make jibes about one another’s hair styles. Comments

such as ‘your hair looks like that of a caveman’, ‘we need garden scissors to cut your hair’ and ‘I only have one pair of scissors, if I use them I will lose them in your hair’ are in abundance here. As they await their turn, new jokes are created as every customer retells a true story from their week while sitting in the chair getting their hair cut. Even though the barber shop is a male environment, stories about the fairer sex are not absent especially when it comes to discussing their girlfriends. Their age dictates that their proclamations as ‘experienced lovers’ are a tad premature. As they talk of their plans for romantic rendezvous, they leave themselves wide open for ridicule. It must noted that many of the jokes told in the barber shop, whilst very funny, are not really suitable for print but I’m sure everyone can use their imagination and the young men who frequent the barbershop know only too well what cannot be written here! — BY AWARA JUMAA IN KIRKUK

A license to serve

It’s a splash

Erbil is home to a restaurant named after renowned agent 007. The James Bond is open from 7am till the wee hours of the next morning. It is the only restaurant in Erbil to serve breakfast. There is comfy seating for those who wish to dine and benches for those who opt for the café. With 19 waiters, service is fast. James Bond comes in two parts, a café and restaurant serving both eastern and western cuisine. The special 007 order is mixed meat and chicken kebab and sells for 14,000 ID. In the small hall, there is a gallery filled with photos and posters of James Bond. With the intention to open 24 hours seven days a week, it is the place to go and feel like a glamarous spy.

Most swimming pools in the Kurdistan Region work on a shift system as men and women are segregated. But this does not always suit the working woman’s schedule. Tawar swimming pool comes to the rescue. Located on the top floor of the new Tawar building, this is a place women can call their own. It’s open all day till late in the evening, which helps women fit leisure into their daily plans. Prices start at 5,000 ID for a two-hour session, or one can pay 75,000 ID for a month’s membership. In order to access the facilities, tests are required to ensure cleanliness. Once the results are approved, women can apply for membership or just opt for the daily dip in the pool.

Slemani’s women no longer need to cater their fitness schedule around gym timings.


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009


The Kurdish war in Iraq Maureen McLuckie LONDON The following article is from an address given by C J Edmonds on October 25 1966. It was published in the Journal of the Royal Central Asian society. Volume 54, Issue 1 on February 1967. I have tried unsuccessfully to find copies of the Journal; I have however found a copy which you can download for £16.00 sterling on Kurdish delegation has been in Baghdad for four months with, so far as I know, no visible result. Only the other day we were told, almost as if there had been no similar announcement in June, that, following a visit to Mulla Mustafa by the Minister of Defence and the Chief of Staff, “the Kurds have agreed to the Baghdad peace terms”, The truth is, I think, that both sides want a settlement but each on its own terms, that in the meantime both are glad of a pause in the fighting - the army to lick its wounds and perhaps to prepare for a new offensive, the Kurds to have a respite from the bombing and some mitigation of the blockade; and that, as long as the armistice lasts, each is prepared to make or promise conciliatory gestures. I am told by recent arrivals from Kurdistan that, as proudly announced by the Baghdad press, Mulla Mustafa has in fact handed back several pieces of captured heavy artillery for which he has no ammunition and has interrupted his wireless propaganda, but that, on their side (I do not know if this was mentioned in the press), the Generals gave two promises (both I fear easier to give than to carry out), namely to remove the Arab tribesmen planted in the Kurdish villages of Kirkuk and Arbil by their predecessors, and to disarm their Kurdish auxiliaries, called by the government by the high-sounding title of “Saladin’s Cavaliers”, after the most famous Kurd in history who is also a hero to the Arabs, but by Kurdish nationalists “The Mokes”. Turning to the future, I am assuming that, for the reasons I have already given, both sides genuinely want a settlement and that a settlement is well within the bounds of practical politics; on the other hand, my conviction is that their mutual distrust from the past, is such that only the intervention of a disinterested Mediator of high standing can bring them together. I think that our Mediator, after acquainting himself with the history of the problem, might tackle his task under three main headings: firstly the geographical aspects (by which I mean the boundaries of the areas to which any special arrangements would apply, together with the closely linked question of the language); secondly, the administrative aspect (by which I mean the definition of the powers to be reserved to the Central Government and those to be enjoyed by the local authorities under the promised decentralization); and thirdly, the


psychological aspect (by which I mean the establishment of mutual confidence and trust). For the first two he might take for his starting-point the Ba’th “Scheme of Decentralization” because it is, so far, the most detailed and concrete explanation given by any cabinet of how they would propose to implement the good intentions they have all proclaimed. It has been objected that since the Government, simultaneously with its publication, arrested the Kurdish negotiators and opened a savage military offensive it was not sincerely meant. But that does not alter the point: that this is an arrangement which an extreme pan-Arab Cabinet announced to the world as their conception of a reasonable settlement. As regards geography the scheme provides: (1) that Iraq shall be divided into six Muhafizas or Regions (each except the first two comprising two or more of the present fourteen liwas) to be named Mosul, Kirkuk, Sulaymani, Baghdad, Hilla and Basra; (2) that the Region of Sulaymani shall comprise the present liwas of Arbil, Sulaymani (plus the qada of Chamchamal transferred f r o m Kirkuk), and a new liwa of Dihok to be detached from the liwa of Mosul and comprising the qadas of Zakko, Dihok, Amadiyya, Aqra and Zebar; and (3) that in this region of Sulaymani, Arabic and Kurdish shall both rank as official languages, and that the language of instruction in the primary and intermediate classes of schools, that is to say for children up to the age of about fifteen or sixteen, shall be Kurdish, but Arabic in the secondary classes. The proposed Regions of Mosul and Kirkuk would each consist of the rest of the present liwa of the same name. Before I come to the Kurdish criticisms of the scheme there is one point which I think, in fairness, they ought to welcome as marking an important advance on anything that has gone before, the proposed partition of the great unwieldy liwa of Mosul by the creation of a new all-Kurdish liwa of Dihok. The five qadas are covered by the Local Languages Law of 1931, but their formation into a separate liwa, which was suggested more than once on administrative grounds under the Monarchy, was always thwarted by the opposition of the extreme Arab nationalist influences of

Mosul city. The principal reason why the Kurds have found the scheme unacceptable is that it ignores completely the presence of large homogeneous Kurdish majority in the greater part of the liwa of Kirkuk, in a large part of the liwa of Diyala in the proposed Region of Baghdad, and in two qadas of Mosul, Sinjar and Shaykhan, which have not been included in the proposed new Liwa of Dihok. In the map I have shown, in percentages to the nearest 5 per cent, the proportion of Kurds in the population of each administrative unit of these excluded areas. The figures are those which I estimated over ten years ago for my book Kurds, Turks and Arabs, with no thought other than statistical accuracy. I am afraid that some of these proportions have been gravely disturbed, especially in parts of the Kirkuk Liwa, as the result of the bulldozing out of existence of the Kurdish quarter of Kirkuk city and a deliberate policy followed by previous Cabinets of expelling Kurdish villagers and settling Arabs in their place. But since reparation and restoration as far as possible of the status quo ante would seem to be an essential condition of a genuine reconciliation and, since, as I have just mentioned, this seems to have been promised by the Generals in their recent conversations, and since Articles 11 and 12 of the Bazzas manifesto promise compensation for those who have suffered and resettlement of fugitives and evicted groups (which admittedly is not exactly the same things), I have left the figures as they are. Apart from every other consideration the ignoring of the liwa of Kirkuk in particular can be represented as a grave violation of the undertakings given to the League, for the use of Kurdish in every qada of the liwa is provided for in the Local Languages Law. The liwa of Diyala was not mentioned in the law because the League was concerned only with the vilayet of Mosul. Most of the Kurds of Shaykhan, which is mentioned in the law, and Sinjar are Yazidis; in the 1920s they were still concerned with their fortunes as a religious rather than as part of racial minority; their sense of kinship with other Kurds has developed considerably since then, but Sinjar, out in the Syrian desert, is separated from the nearest Kurdish qada of Zakho by the qada of Tell Afar where the Kurds are in a minority...”

Private education versus public education


FLASHBACKS n Slemani of some five or six decades ago, there was no private education. Informally, there were two or three one-man run places (called 'Hujra') to which children could go, either for pre-school religious instructions and the summer holiday period. In our area we had 'Kashty Nooh – Noah's Boat', run by the late gifted and patriot Najmadini Mala. Kashty Noah consisted of only a large room, situated on the Sabunkaran street and Najmadin Mala, himself, resided there. I remember that at the beginning of his endeavor, we had to bring our own tiny chairs or small mat or mattress, to sit on. Looking back, I can vouch with gratitude that Najmadin Mala was a kind person, who would read out for us from the late Peramerd's weekly 'Zheen', or other poets' works, and choose those lines and verses that called for Kurdish nationalism or urged the youth to become educated like those in developed countries. I learned afterwards that the Chaledonian Church in Slemani also provided for religious instruction and recitation sessions. Later on in my life, I became acquainted with a number of private schools in Basrah and Baghdad. In Basrah, there were two private schools. One was called the Haddad School and the other was that of the Catholic Nuns' School. In Baghdad there were many similar ones too. In fact there even was a university. It was called Al-Hikmah University. It was run by the American Jesuit Fathers and it provided tuition for Business Administration, Civil Engineering and English literature. It discontinued from late 1960s. Its premises, after renovation, became the Technical Institute and Technical College in Za'afaraniyah. There was also the Baghdad International School (or B.I.S. for short). This was a PreKg-G12 school. It was on until 2003. I recall this school with delight as I personally spent nine happy years (1991-2000) there, five of which, as a teacher in its high school and later as a principal. Though it was formally a UN


sponsored school, it was totally private and independent. Almost all its funding came from its tuition fees and some annual fund raising activities. The government had constructed and allocated its buildings. Many graduates followed their higher education in their home countries and some completed their courses in the Baghdad universities' various colleges. Apart from the foreign students, B.I.S. also accepted Iraqi students whose parents were diplomats and subject to foreign office postings. Nowadays in the Kurdistan Region, there are several private schools and universities. These institutions advocate American, British, Turkish, German, and French systems of education. However, they all run similar international educational curricula. In the Kurdistan Region, private institutions have become in vogue for reasons similar to other progressing places. The main one is to cater for children of diplomants, foreign investors and businessmen and women who travel to reside in countries of their diplomatic missions or business, away from their home countries. With this action, they wish to ensure that on return to their own home countries, their children do not suffer any academic obstacles. Moreover, in all countries, where such institutions exist, many students from the local community enrol in them too. Parents wish to have more choices for their children, especially, for the motive of foreign language fluency or perhaps for their desire to travel abroad or just for wanting to be different from the mainstream. Whilst one can list and compare the pros and cons of public and private education, it is clear that both have their strong points as well as relative weak ones. Public schools are free while private schools are for fees. Public schools are required by law to admit any student, while private schools can be selective. Public school curriculum is set by the state and has larger classes whilst private schools may have liberty in their programs and have smaller classes. However, public or private, what matters most is the individual institution. Parents should not assume that because a school costs more, it will perform better; or because it costs nothing, it will not do well. In conclusion, it is suggested that the existence of private educational institutions in the Kurdistan Region, is useful, not only to provide for the needs of our foreign visitors, but also to help enhance, inspire and develop public educational institutions' overall lot.


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 2009



A concert by Swedish music group with Sahand.

(photo by Aram Eissa)

A photo exhibition by Aram Ghafoor at the Amna Suraka.

(photo by Aram Eissa)

A halparke festival for children titled ‘children lets do the halparke’ at the Culture Hall. (photos by Aram Eissa)

It was especially busy month for Kurdistan’s arts and culture buffs, with avant-garde theatrical productions, music concerts and expos filling the agenda.

A festival for children’s theatre at the Fine Arts Hall.

(photo by Aram Eissa)

The 13th Galawezh Festival at Tawar Hall in the city of Slemani.

(photo by Aram Eissa)


Issue no.64 Nov 13 - 26, 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 Congratulations, Kaka Jwamer.

JWAMER But I heard that they have changed their mind.

JWAMER Thanks. It’s great to have rain so early in the Fall.

BAYIZ I hope so. I also hope to become a sociologist.

BAYIZ Of course, but I’m not congratulating you for the rainfall. It’s for another issue, a political event.

JWAMER Frankly that’s impossible because our brand of

JWAMER All political events are nothing but bad news.

BAYIZ Do you think it is so easy?! JWAMER Yes as easy as drinking a glass of water. BAYIZ Nowadays even water is a political card.

At the chaikhana

BAYIZ All except one.The re-election of Bin-Ali in Tunisia!

Let me see all those statistics that say our country will be okay!

JWAMER Speak for yourself. I have my own position. BAYIZ You are free to worry, but it seems to me unwise. JWAMER Everything in this country seems to be unwise. It’s like black satire. BAYIZ Black satire? Isn’t it forbidden in this system? JWAMER By the way Kak Bayiz I read somewhere that

Nope. Not unless you take off those black sunglasses. every system resembles its streets. One with narrow streets has narrow mentalities and vice versa.

JWAMER Oh my God! Do you regard it as good news?

BAYIZ That’s very serious. Most of our streets are under construction. Is our system under construction too?

BAYIZ Yes my friend, because it has occured within a democratic process. JWAMER Shame on you for playing with democracy.

JWAMER Yes, I’m sure of it because I read the statistics.

BAYIZ There is no shame in it. Everyone does it. The aim of democracy is to be played with.

BAYIZ What do they say? JWAMER They say everything in this country is okay or going to be okay.

JWAMER Maybe, but one should be a clever player otherwise the result can be very dangerous. BAYIZ Nah, the danger is not here, it is in playing with fire.

nationalism aims to produce only poets.

JWAMER Fire?! Who is so stupid to play with fire?!


BAYIZ C’mon Jwamer, we have too many of them.

JWAMER So change your plan and shift to literature.

JWAMER You mean it is a political card in our hand? BAYIZ No, a political card against us and I think it is red. But it’s for our political leadership to worry, not for you and me.

BAYIZ Show me these statistics. JWAMER I am afraid I cannot show you any data unless you take off those black eyeglasses. Dr Sherko Abdullah is editor of Sekhurma Cartoon magazine.

Soma Digest - issue#64  

SOMA Digest is a subsidiary of KHAK Press and Media Center

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