A Statement from the new Premier of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq

Masrour Barzani, the new prime minister of the Kurdistan region of Iraq (pictured left above with the Baghdad government’s premier Adel Abdul Mahdi), has just sent us the following statement which was carried as an opinion article in the Washington Post:

After 16 years of upheaval in Iraq and five brutal years of war with the Islamic State terrorist group, a foe that imperiled all of humanity, we are embarking on a new journey toward building a stronger Kurdistan. The next four years will be a defining time for us, our neighbors and our allies in which we, the Kurdistan Regional Government, look past our recent traumas, consolidate our place in the region and secure a presence on the international stage. In short, we want to make a new start.
 
Last week, I formed a government to lead the Kurdistan region of Iraq. My mission is to change the way we do things, both at home and abroad. As prime minister, I will offer a different way of doing business that feeds off the challenges we’ve endured, builds on our achievements and responds to an evolving global dynamic.
 
The fight against the Islamic State, which we helped lead on behalf of the global community, has damaged us economically. The burden has become intolerable. The cost of war, federal budget cuts by the government in Baghdad and the mass movement of refugees to our lands has left us with billions of dollars in debt.
 
Throughout our hardships, we have remained a friend and ally of the West and a partner in the region. Since the Islamic State took over much of western Iraq and eastern Syria in mid-2014, we have shown that our fight against the terrorists was as much about protecting our allies as it was about safeguarding ourselves.
 
We have provided intelligence that has foiled terrorist attacks abroad and offered refuge to almost 2 million people fleeing persecution. We have clearly demonstrated our good faith as global citizens, sheltering Arabs, Kurds, Muslims, Yazidis, Christians, Turkmen and others. Ten kilometers from our parliament building is a thriving community of Christians, from all parts of the Middle East, who are building churches and worshiping in peace.
 
The cost of other refugees, however, is increasing and remains only partly funded. We cannot perform our role as hosts alone. We need to secure a future for the displaced and for ourselves, and we seek the help of our friends in the West in several ways.
 
Our challenges begin inside Iraqi Kurdistan, which has been our homeland throughout the ages. As prime minister, I will implement reforms that will adopt global best practices and bring accountability to all arms of our civil service and cabinet.
 
My government will create a diversified economy that delivers growing prosperity for all. We will enact legislation to make Kurdistan a welcoming and attractive location for investors. We will integrate and modernize our armed forces. And we will transform public services and tackle corruption to ensure that government serves the people, not the other way around. Engaging us politically and financially will be essential to this transformation, and I call on our friends to do so.
 
I will also take steps to reset the relationship between Irbil and Baghdad, which has remained fraught for the past 16 years. For most of that time we have essentially governed ourselves, though without breaking our tie with Iraq.
 
By agreement, we have received a quota of the Iraqi budget. But the allocations are rarely delivered in full. It is time for a more constructive and stable partnership with Baghdad. This week I made my first visit as prime minister to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, taking with me proposals to settle the disputes between us over oil, territory, budgets and the role of our armed forces. I want to ensure that our agreements are honored through a fair distribution of budget proceeds. A resolution would offer the bedrock for future cooperation. Our future is wedded to a secure and democratic Iraq.
 
In 2017, Iraqi Kurdistan held a referendum on independence. The ballot was nonbinding, but an overwhelming 93 percent of people voted in favor. While we would have welcomed greater support from the international community for our right to self-determination, our priority now is to create a strong, stable Kurdistan region anchored within the international community. We ask those whom we helped protect to acknowledge the constructive global role we have played by helping us build our economy.
 
Over many generations of conflict, every family in Iraqi Kurdistan has suffered a personal loss. We can no longer relinquish solidarity, or squander the sacrifices made by so many, through returning to the squabbling that plagued relationships between parties and neighbors.
 
We have many friends in the international community who wish us well, but it is time to do more. We reaffirm our role as honest brokers trusted by all. We do this through the prism of true friendship, having displayed our steadfast support for the interests of our allies, including the United States, and a commitment to democratic values. We need our friends to help us start again.

Nechirvan takes the Crown in the KRG

Here at the NCF we are thrilled at the election of our old friend HE Nechirvan Barzani to be the next President of the Kurdistan Region.

Under his leadership as Prime Minister, Kurdistan weathered extraordinarily difficult times: a war against ISIS, an enormous and complex humanitarian crisis, and an economic crisis brought on by a precipitous crash in oil prices and an unfortunately timed referendum on independence that also resulted in the loss of much of the disputed territories including Kirkuk. Despite long odds in the past five years, under his leadership Kurdistan survived and is setting the stage for a renewed period of peace and prosperity.

Prime Minister Barzani will be inaugurated as President on June 10 in Erbil. His first order of business will be to designate a Prime Minister to form a government. Already, there is much excitement about the prospects and priorities in the new government. The expected Premier is likely to be the outgoing President’s son, Masrour Barzani, the current Chancellor of the KRG.

This move forward would not have been possible but for an alliance between the old established Barzani party, the KDP, and the new reformist anti-corruption party, Goran. But it comes at a price. The party left out in the cold is the PUK, a party traditionally associated with East Kurdistan and the Talabani family. See the following from Iraq Oil Report:

Kurdistan begins government formation despite unresolved divisions

The KRG Parliament elected Nechirvan Barzani president, as the rival PUK party boycotted and questioned his “political legitimacy.”

By  of 
 
ERBIL – Nechirvan Barzani was elected president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region on Tuesday, despite the potentially destabilizing breakdown of a political deal between his Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and its most powerful rival.
 
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which effectively rules the eastern half of the region, boycotted the Parliament session in which Barzani was elected, and accused the KDP of failing to honor an agreement that had been negotiated over more than half a year.
 
“The election of Kurdistan’s president without the vote of PUK MPs raises concerns about the decision-making process and political legitimacy,” the PUK politburo said in a Tuesday statement. “Whatever the consequences of these unrealistic politics, it will not be the responsibility of PUK; it will be the other side’s responsibility.”
 
Barzani, who is currently the prime minister, is expected to name his cousin, Masrur Barzani – currently the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) security chief, and son of former KRG President Massoud Barzani – to be the next prime minister, and task him with forming a government after the Eid holiday.
The KDP and PUK have faced a political quandary ever since the KDP won a lopsided victory in regional elections eight months ago. While the KDP had enough seats in Parliament to lead the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) without the PUK, both parties have viewed such a scenario as a threat to the region’s stability.
 
Despite the KRG’s aspirations toward democracy, the KDP and PUK exercise command over their own security forces and split de facto control over the western and eastern halves of Iraqi Kurdistan, respectively – a legacy of a decades-long rivalry between the parties, which fought a civil war in the 1990s. 
If the PUK were excluded from a new government in Erbil, leaders in both parties worry it would push the KRG back toward the days of “dual administration” over Kurdistan. That, in turn, would weaken the regional government, which has functioned as a vehicle for inter-party coordination on key issues related to the oil sector, the economy, and relations with Baghdad.
 
In an effort to forge some unity, the parties have been negotiating a deal that attempts to give the PUK enough political incentive to join a KDP-led government while also ensuring the KDP a level of political dominance reflecting its election victory. 
The parties recently appeared to reach an agreement under which the PUK would support Nechirvan and Masrur Barzani, and the KDP would help its rival regain the governorship of Kirkuk, a position now held by Rakan al-Jiburi, the first Arab governor of Kirkuk since 2003. 
But those negotiations have also been complicated by internal divisions within the PUK. 
It appeared the two sides had achieved a breakthrough, when one senior PUK leader, Kosrat Rasul, agreed on a short list of three prospective candidates for Kirkuk governor with Massoud Barzani, the former president, who still wields power as the head of the KDP. But other leaders within the PUK did not agree on the candidates, leading the party to insist the KDP essentially write a blank check to support any PUK nominee – a proposal the KDP has consistently rejected.
 
Following the apparent agreement between Rasul and Massoud Barzani, however, Parliament was already mobilized to elect Barzani; at the same time, the PUK was reverting back to its hard-line position. KDP members of the regional Parliament claimed they did not know the PUK was boycotting until just before the vote.
 
“The PUK informed us about its boycott just a few minutes before the session,” said Umed Khoshnaw, head of the KDP’s bloc in the Kurdistan Parliament, in a press conference Tuesday. “We are concerned about this issue. If we had wanted to elect the president of Kurdistan without PUK, we could have done it six months ago.”
 
PUK leaders say the KDP is responsible for the breakdown of their agreement.
 
“We boycotted the session because the KDP has not taken any practical step toward honoring our agreement,” said Shamol Sabir, a PUK member of the Kurdistan Parliament.
 
Nechirvan Barzani received 68 votes, including 45 from the KDP and 12 from Gorran, a party that was originally formed as an offshoot of the PUK and competes for votes in much of the same territory. The PUK’s 21 MPs, as well as eight MPs belonging to the New Generation party, did not attend the session.

Spring is Sprung in Iraqi Kurdistan

The NCF’s longstanding member and friend from the Kurdistan region of Iraq, Stafford Clarry, sends these pictures of the mountains in Spring. He writes: It’s as green as it gets. Snow is still deep. Always welcoming. The best part of Kurdistan is out there, friendly and easily accessible. Why waste time indoors?

Spring in Kurdistan
All in a leisurely day’s drive up the Hamilton Road.

Kurdistan elections – the final results

Weeks after the Kurdistan Region held parliamentary elections on September 30, the election commission has published official results:
The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) achieved 688,070 votes, giving it a big lead over its rivals, securing 45 seats in the 111-seat parliament – leaving it 12 seats shy of an outright majority. The party will therefore need to enter a coalition agreement to form a government.
The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) came in second with 319,219 votes, securing 21 seats. This marks an improvement on its 2013 result of 18 seats.

The Change Movement (Gorran) was pushed into third place with 186,903 votes, securing just 12 seats – down from 24 in the last parliament.

New Generation got 127,115 votes, securing eight seats.

Komal seven seats.

The joint Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU)-Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK) Reform List won five seats. When the KIU ran alone in 2013, it secured 10.

The leftist Modern coalition one seat.

The Communist Party, as part of the Azadi List, secured one seat.

The Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ), which officially boycotted the election, failed to secure a seat.

Of the 11 seats reserved for the Kurdistan Region’s minority groups, the Turkmen secured five, the Christians five, and the Armenians one. No seats are reserved for the Yezidis.

Among the Turkmen parties, the Turkmen Development Party secured two seats, the Nation List one, the Turkmen Reform party one, and the Turkmen Front one.

Among the Christian parties, the Rafidain List secured one seat, the Assyrian Syriac Chaldean Popular Council one, and the National Union Coalition three.

An Armenian independent secured one seat.

The election commission also published figures detailing which candidates secured the most votes for each list:

Qubad Talabani, head of the PUK list, won 182,000. Shaswar Abdulwahid, head of New Generation, won 106, 289. Ali Hama Salih, head of the Gorran list, won 81,934. Hemin Hawrami, head of the KDP list, won 47,000.

The election commission had delayed the announcement of official results while it investigated several allegations of fraud.

The commission decided to annul the results of 96 polling stations, voiding around 119,000 votes. The majority of annulled ballots were in Erbil province.
A number of opposition parties threatened to boycott the next parliament if the preliminary results were approved by the commission. There are no substantial differences between the preliminary results and official figures.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) issued a statement following the results urging people – in the interests of public safety –not to shoot firearms into the air in celebration.

Summarised Breakdown of seats by party:

Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) – 45 seats
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) – 21 seats
Gorran – 12 seats
New Generation – 8 seats
Komal – 7 seats
Reform List – 5 seats
Modern Coalition – 1 seat
Azadi List – 1 seat

11 minority quota seats as follows:

Turkmen:

Turkmen Development Party – 2
Nation List – 1
Turkmen Reform party – 1
Turkmen Front – 1

Christian:

Rafidain List – 1
Assyrian Syriac Chaldean Popular Council – 1
National Union Coalition – 3

Armenian:

Independent – 1

Statement on Syria

Statement from the Next Century Foundation to the 37th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva on the 5th of March 2018 on the Syrian Arab Republic.

Mr. President, The Next Century Foundation shares the concern of the entire world with regard to Eastern Ghouta. However, we do not think that the UN approach of promoting temporary ceasefires is credible any longer, exemplary though it may have been at one time. By the UN’s own admission there are some 500 fighters from the group formerly known as Gebat al Nusra in Eastern Ghouta. This group has been supported by some in the Arab World. The Arab World as a whole could offer refuge to the fighters whose only other prospect is to fight to the death. Were they to do so, then a ceasefire might be of value. In any other context, a ceasefire is merely a breathing space before the resumption of further fighting and yet more misery for the population of Eastern Ghouta. Indeed conceivably one dire but unintended consequence of a UN promoted ceasefire might be to enable the population of Eastern Ghouta to flee and thus become IDPs or refugees, a prospect that is scarcely enviable. A ceasefire is only of true long-term value if it enables progress on the evacuation of the opposition fighters.

The Next Century Foundation also wishes to beg for the compassionate care of the citizens of Afrin, who suffer much the same torment as the citizens of East Ghouta. We wish to express our concern with regard to Turkey’s incursion across the Northern border of the Syrian Arab Republic. It is profoundly saddening to see the world turn its back on the YPG militia group (or People’s Protection Units) which served the world so loyally in the attack to liberate much of northern Syria from ISIS.

Turkey has been engaged in the bombardment of the Afrin region in the northwest of Syria to vanquish the US-backed Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) fighters. As a consequence, there have inevitably been civilian casualties. Around one million people are trapped in Afrin. Some 250 of the surrounding villages have been stripped of their population as people flee the advancing troops and take refuge in the town. The homes they abandon are often looted. And meanwhile, the hospitals cannot cope with the wounded.

We appeal to Turkey to recognise the territorial integrity of Syria. In a reference to its intention to channel Syrian refugees in Turkey back into Syria, Yasin Aktay, a senior member of Turkey’s Parliament and a chief adviser to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “Turkey will try to enhance the infrastructure and resources in Afrin after it is secured for them to return.”

Turkey’s previous cross-border operation – dubbed Euphrates Shield – ended in March 2017 after seven months. During that offensive to dislodge ISIS, Turkey captured the border town of Jarablus by the Euphrates River.

Turkish troops are currently still in control of a substantial area of Syria as a consequence of that offensive. Turkey’s actions are part of a pattern of territorial encroachment in Iraq and Syria which is doubtless well-meaning but is cause for concern.

Those in Afrin with whom the Next Century Foundation is in contact beg the UN to send in a peacekeeping force. They acknowledge Turkish concerns about the presence of the YPG and YPJ (the YPJ are the female fighting units that comprise around 35% of these Syrian peshmerga) in Afrin. They assure the Next Century Foundation that they would ask the forces of the YPG and YPJ to withdraw from Afrin to positions East of the Euphrates, in the context of the arrival of a UN peacekeeping force. This the YPG / YPJ would, they believe, agree to do. This would, they believe, ameliorate Turkey’s concern and enable Turkish forces to cease their advance on Afrin.

Thank you.

On Power and Leadership, Love and Hope

The following report is the first in a new monthly series from the Next Century Foundation’s Secretary General. It represents the personal view of the NCF Secretary General and should not be regarded as an NCF perspective:

British Prime Minister Theresa May continues to serve as a world leader out of a sense of duty. The 1922 Committee that controls the Conservative Party to which she owes her allegiance is frightened to allow her to fall on her sword. So a lame duck Premier limps on past her sell-by date, an embarrassment to the nation at a critical time, with the Brexit negotiations collapsing around her ears.

Why is the 1922 Committee so very frightened? Evidently because the leader of the opposition, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, is both charismatic and effective. The Committee feels it needs to face like with like and, alas, there are just three charismatic public figures in today’s Tory Party with any real high-profile presence. They are:

Boris Johnson,

Boris Johnson and

Boris Johnson.

I had thought of including other names but there are only two bitter choices for the Conservative Party: either win the 2021 election with Boris – or lose it. A difficult choice, because the British Foreign Secretary is a wildcard, a maverick schemer and a narcissist. He is no predictable pragmatist. He despises Bashar Al-Assad, or so he claims, whilst seemingly being complacent about the blockade on Yemen. Boris as Premier is a catastrophe waiting to happen. The current Tory Party only has one other charismatic public speaker and that is the foppish Jacob Rees-Mogg. There is a drive to polish him up and bring him out of the dark ages and shape him into an alternative to Boris, but that would perhaps represent too great a challenge. Difficult times for Britain, because to limp on with Theresa is to lose all credibility.

Iran faces a similar challenge. President Trump intends to defer to congress the decision on whether to reintroduce sanctions on Iran. This act of moral cowardice is no doubt prompted by his friends in Saudi Arabia and Israel, who so fear a hegemonic Iran. Iran for her part is concerned about the US returning to a hardline position. As a consequence, Iranian President Rohani has chosen to visit Oman and use the occasion to offer, astonishingly publicly, to reign in Iran’s client group, Hezbollah as well as encourage the Houthi of Yemen to attend peace talks. Curious that last point. Our experience at the Next Century Foundation in promoting second track discussions in Switzerland has been that the Saudis are the reluctant party when it comes to discussing peace. That aside, Iran’s offer on Hezbollah is nothing short of astonishing.

How does this impact on leadership? Well, Iran has made it clear in private discussion with the NCF that she will face a hardliner with a hardliner. Which means what? It means that if Trump’s hardline approach is to be the order of the day, then at the end of Rohani’s current term he will be replaced by Qasem Soleimani, the head of the foreign division of the Revolutionary Guard (the Quds Force) and a charismatic hardliner.

Charismatic leaders are in vogue. Sissi in Egypt, Mohammed Bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, and the emergent Hadi Al-Amri in Iraq and Haftar in Libya are examples of hard men who through sheer grit and determination have seized or are seizing power.

We are moving out of an era of mediocrity, simply because the people of the nations of the world have had enough of the complacent establishment, that has led to an era of the rich-poor divide becoming more acute, and increasing globalization. There is a clear difference between commercial globalization with the uneven playing field that rewards the sweatshop and the polluter, and the advocacy of a world without frontiers, in which we should  all believe.

So the world has leaned, and is leaning, toward a preference for ‘What-you-see-is-what-you-get’, transparent leaders and protest ballots. Hence the Brexit vote and the rise of Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. Hence Trump. Hence Mohammed Bin Salman’s incredible popularity in Saudi Arabia. These are all anti-establishment trends.

Clearly people seek something new from their leaders. What I believe the people of the world now yearn for in leadership is integrity. That is far more than mere box-ticking honesty. Integrity is empowered honesty in action.  Integrity means that you mean what you say when you say it. But that is not to say that there isn’t still room for old-fashioned loyalty. Theresa May and Sultan Qaboos of Oman are both examples of people who live for loyalty, by loyalty, with loyalty. And that is admirable. Combine loyalty with genuine risk-taking integrity and you get a leader who may truly change the world.

And so to Love, the other quality necessary for leadership. Here we are not talking of sit-at-home, watch television and weep sort of love. We are talking of love-in-action. This means love for all those for whom you are responsible. I have just returned from Kirkuk in Iraq where, questioned about care for the refugees in his province, the Governor of Kirkuk told me, ‘They are not my responsibility’. His issue was that they couldn’t vote for him, so why should they vote?

This is not genuine leadership. Genuine leadership means that you take responsibility for everyone for whom you have responsibility, even if you don’t particularly like them. This is a key aspect of leadership. You do not have to like people to love them. There are those who advocate the practice of loving your enemies. That is the nature of truly great leaders. Sissi of Egypt and Al-Amri of Iraq, take note. Great leaders care for the minorities, for the vulnerable. You could do better if you wish to build the nations we know you cherish.

We seek heroes,

We need heroes,

We demand heroes.

And we expect heroic leaders to love us, to protect us, to nurture us, even if they don’t particularly like us. That way they earn our loyalty. And people can be incredibly loyal.

And when we meet gross failure in love and leadership, we must call those responsible to account. Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar for example, who has let herself down, let the world down and, most importantly of all, has let the people of Myanmar down by being complicant in the Rohingya genocide.

Cruelty in all its dimensions is unacceptable. May God have mercy on the souls of all those world leaders responsible for the blockade on Gaza. The collective punishment on a people is an act of great wrong, whether in Syria, Gaza, Yemen or in Qatar. Leadership without love is not leadership – it is oppression. Even Machiavelli understood the need for wodges of love. He advised his disciples that, if they needed to use a heavy hand to keep things in order, they should do so ruthlessly and severely, but then stop, let go and treat people well. For he recognized people deserve love and care, and must get it if stability is to be engendered.

And then there is hope. We have an obligation to hope. Indeed without hope the very fabric of the universe could fall apart. And there is much reason to hope. We live in one of the most peaceful eras in all human history. You don’t think so? Remember our parents lived through the twentieth century with its two World Wars, its genocides in Europe for the Jews, in Turkey for the Armenians, in Africa for the Tutsis. The Vietnam and Korean wars, plus the partition of India. I could go on and on. Names parade through my mind. Aden. Kenya. Uganda. Then famine on famine. Live Aid was not for nothing. Ah, and Sudan. Misery on misery on misery in the twentieth century. And so many miserable footnotes. Little Kashmir, for instance. A century defined by human suffering. Things are better now in terms of sheer numbers of the dead in wars: the world has improved.

Plus things have got better in terms of war avoidance. We, as already stated, are just back from Iraq. There could reasonably be a war- a new war – between Baghdad and Arbil in order to curb Kurdish aspirations for independence. There won’t be, because Washington and Tehran want war avoidance so that they can concentrate on the existing war against Daesh. They have said so both publicly and privately, which is hope in action. Leaders, just like the rest of humanity, but even more so, have an obligation to hope. Whichever obligation or duty the rest of us has to be moral, the responsibility on the shoulders of our leaders is greater still.

The women of the little Christian town of Alqosh in the Ninevah Plain keep suitcases by their bed in anticipation of the coming war. But now they can unpack. There will be no new war in Iraq. Hope? Write the word large. It is often all that we live for.

William Morris LL.D.

Secretary General, The Next Century Foundation 10 October 2017

The Next Century Foundation at the United Nations – Intervention on Discrimination and Intolerance against Women

The Next Century Foundation took part in the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva. During the General Debate on Item 9 “Racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related forms of intolerance” the NCF delivered an oral intervention on the issue of gender discrimination in the Arab States urging them to take the necessary steps in order to improve women’s conditions, following the recent example of Bahrain.

Language as a bridge and a barrier in Iraq

 

Since the creation of Kurdish Regional Government in Northern Iraq in 1991, political and linguistic disparities have been accentuated between Kurds and Arabs. The number of young people proficient in Arabic in the Kurdish governates of Dohuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyah is decreasing. This means that many young Arabs and Kurds no longer have a common language. Language is a very important, but also useful tool, in creating a shared identity. Language in many cases acts as a barrier between Kurds and Arabs in Iraq. However, there is hope that more Arabs will learn Kurdish in order to better understand Kurdish society. Luma Hussein from Al-Noor, a woman’s Non-Governmental Organisation in Baghdad, believes learning Kurdish would benefit her because Kurdistan has more experience in developing civil society organisations. The forced use of Arabic during the Saddam regime has caused Kurds to view the Arabic language as a potential imposition and an attempt to dilute Kurdish identity. Attitudes are however changing slowly since the demise of Saddam. Will bilingualism no longer be the norm in Iraq’s Kurdistan?

Written by Marcus Lomax on the 28/11/201

The Turkish Army’s relationship with the Kurdish people, and its role in Iraq and Syria

The Turkish Government has been shelling Kurdish fighters belonging to the People’s Protection Units, also known at the YPG, who are the armed force of the Syrian Democratic Union Party.  The recent attacks have prompted the US, the UN and EU to call for some restraint.  The degree to which Turkey’s fight against Isis is genuine has also been questioned by Kurdish officials, and doubts have arisen about Ankara’s agenda in both Syria and Iraq.  There have even been allegations about Turkey’s inability or unwillingness to control its borders. They were up until recently, allowing extremists to enter Syria from Turkey, thus helping to establish Isis in the north of the country.

There is of course a deep rooted conflict that has seen hundreds of thousands, if not millions of Kurdish people displaced from their homes or killed.  Centuries of oppression from both the Ottoman Empire and modern day Arab States have ignited the flame for an independent Kurdish state.

The YPG’s role in the fight against Isis is a crucial one.  In fact, the People’s Protection Units are one of the main ground forces battling against the self-styled caliphate.  With Turkey continuing to bomb YPG positions, could they be using the US led coalition against Isis as a cover to attack the YPG in Northern Syria?  The Turkish government certainly have no problem fighting their own people, Turkish Kurds belonging to the Kurdish Worker’s Party (PKK) being a case in point.

However, Turkey does have good relations with Iraqi Kurds belonging to the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG).  The Turkish army are training and arming a predominately Sunni militia called Hasd al-Watani.  The militia group hope that by working with the Iraqi Peshmerga, the armed force of the KRG, they will be able to help retake Mosul, the de-facto capital of Isis in Iraq.

We cannot ignore the complexities of t00he situation in the Middle East.  The number of militia groups belonging to different ethnicities seems to be growing by the month.  Different factions are fighting for territories. A cohesive effort is needed in order to suppress the threat posed by Isis.  Turkey’s role, its cooperation with the rest of the world and with the Kurdish populations needs be far more transparent.

By Nihal Patel

The Immorality of Suicide Bombings in the 21st Century

Kurdish Flag

The Kurdish Community has been the victim one of of the latest atrocites

By Nihal Patel

2016 has been a particularly worrying and frightening year for terrorist atrocities.  According to the University of Maryland’s Global Terrorism Database, from January 2016 until July, there have been an astonishing 892 terrorism related deaths in Europe alone.  That makes the first seven months of this year the deadliest for over two decades.  This figure does include terrorist attacks in Turkey, where 726 of the 892 deaths have occurred.  On 20th August 2016, a particularly harrowing incident took place in the Turkish city of Gaziantep at a Kurdish wedding celebration.  President Erdogan has claimed that the attack was likely to have been committed by Islamic State militants.  Leaders across the world have condemned the attack, including the Kurdistan Region’s President Masoud Barzani, as well as British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who tweeted his sympathies for Turkey and its Kurdish population. The incident has caused immense distress, and stood out amidst numerous acts of violence because it is claimed that the attack was carried out by a child alleged to be 12-14 years old.

Turkey-Explosion_Horo

Victims of the Gaziantep attack

It is important to understand what the working definition of terrorism is.  In my opinion, terrorism, or an act of terrorism is defined as an act of violence performed by a non-state member, to achieve a political, social, religious or economic goal through fear and coercion.  Historically, suicide bombings have been used as a primary weapon by terrorist organizations in order to achieve an agenda. Suicide bombings over the past decade have been carried out by both men and women and fit into the working definition of a terrorist attack, mainly because the perpetrators are regarded as “non-state members”.

What has become apparent during the rise of Islamic State is their complete disregard for democracy, different ethnic groups across Europe and the Middle East and Islam’s historical tolerance for other religions, particularly Christianity and Judaism.    Many young men and women across Europe and the Middle East are coerced and brainwashed into giving their lives away, which needs to be combated through education.  However, using a child is even more sinister and cowardly than usual, and reinforces the notion that terrorist organizations are willing to do whatever it takes to complete their goals.