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FRI, 5 MAR 2021 Kurdistan Region (GMT +3)
KDP FR ■  MON, 21 DEC 2020 15:12

‘Staking Our Claim’

President Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and President of the Kurdistan Region from 2005 to 2017 has written a book on the recent events leading to the Independence Referendum of 2017 and reactions to it in Iraq, the wider region and the world.

The author, who, in addition to his official positions, has been in the forefront of the Kurdish struggle for the past sixty years and has insight knowledge of the dynamics and complications of the Kurdish Issue. While his knowledge of the history and sufferings of the Kurdish Nation is also paramount.

As a background to the current state of affairs, President Barzani has provided a brief historical perspective on the Kurdish Issue, focusing mainly on the part of Kurdistan, known as Iraqi Kurdistan or Southern Kurdistan.

The aim behind writing the book, as President barzani stresses in the foreword of the book is to shed light on the sufferings of the Kurdish people in one part of Kurdistan where they have been exposed to tremendous coercion and agony in their 100 year old history with the Iraqi State.

The book, which has been written in Kurdish and translated into English, in addition to Arabic and other languages, consists of 106 pages of text, 134 pages of documents as an appendix, an index and a number of maps, in addition to three historical maps at the beginning of the book.

The three maps were drawn in 1794, 1834 and 1893 showing Kurdistan within the Ottoman and Safavids Domains. The documents which have been included in the appendix are used as a background to the main text. The maps clarify military plans implemented by the Peshmerga Forces during the war against ISIS.

The main body of the book is divided into a number of sections. Each section deals with a specific historical stage starting from the first portioning of Kurdistan and ending with the tragic events of October 16, 2017.

The Partition of Kurdistan: In this section, the author has made very brief mention of the fateful events of the four centuries prior to the establishment of the new Iraqi State including the partitioning of Kurdistan, the uprising by Sheikh Abdul-Salam II, the Sykes-Picot agreement and Sevres agreement.

The Establishment of the Iraqi State: President Barzani has presented a vivid account on the establishment of the Iraqi State by the United Kingdom and replacing the Sevres agreement with the Lausanne agreement. He thinks that the historical background is important to touch upon a simple truth that, unfortunately large parts of the Iraqi population, including their politicians, are unaware of; or despite their knowledge of it, they seem to forget or overlook its importance whenever the rights of the Kurds are concerned.

The Aylul (September) Revolution: The overthrow of Monarchy in 1958 in Iraq and promises by the new regime to create partnership between Arabs and Kurds proved to be “another false dawn” which left the Kurds disappointed. The Aylul Revolution of 1961 under the leadership of the late Mustafa Barzani was a response to the disappointment of the Kurds and denial of their rights. President Barzani states that the greatest achievement of the September Revolution was in 1970 when the Kurdish leadership signed the March 11 agreement with the Iraqi Government. Again, the Iraqi Government failed to implement the agreement and September Revolution came to an abrupt stop when Iraq signed the Algiers agreement with Iran.

Iraq’s plans to demolish Kurds: In this section, President Barzani refers to attempts by successive Iraqi regimes to Arabize parts of Kurdistan and wipe out the Kurdish population. The attempts to demolish the Kurds culminated in the genocide campaigns of the 1980s of the last century. The author concludes this section by asserting that, “the historic crimes by the former Iraqi regimes were acts of genocide that prove these attacks were committed with the intent to destroy the Kurdish population of Iraq which they never managed to fulfil.”

The Uprising: The Uprising of 1991 and the formation of the Parliament and Government in 1992 are dealt with in this section.

The collapse of the Iraqi Government and the Congress of the Iraqi opposition groups: The events between the liberation of Iraq in 2003 and the war against ISIS in 2014 is covered here. He takes the readers back to the days before the Liberation War when the Iraqi opposition groups met to discuss the future of the country. Negotiations and deliberations on writing the 2005 Constitution and disappointments followed when the government in Baghdad once again dishonoured its previous promises and violated the constitution. As the President says at the end of this section, “unfortunately, there was a campaign of lies and distortion of truth and an effort to create an atmosphere in which anyone who opposed the Kurds and their aspiration would gain popular approval, in addition to more votes in the elections.”

The ISIS War: The war against ISIS in August 2014 and its impact on Kurdistan is one of the main subjects covered in the book. He wonders why the militants shifted their advance towards Central Iraq to Kurdistan, “we will try to understand the reasons behind ISIS’ shift of strategy.” The exodus of more than 1.6 million IDPs and refugees to the Kurdistan Region, which made up nearly 25% of the Kurdistan Region’s population, and the lack of any credible contribution from Baghdad to assist them has been highlighted. He responds to why Shingal was taken by ISIS in August 2014 by saying that, “the Peshmerga were not fully armed when ISIS overran Shingal in August. The city was 70 km away from Kurdistan borders and the highways that linked Shingal to Kurdistan were partially controlled by Arab tribes that were actively involved with the extremist.” President Barzani recalls with joy mainly through one of the maps, the military operation to liberate Rabia with the participation of 5000 Peshmerga which led to the destruction of ISIS stronghold one after another.

Kurdish discontent with the new Iraq: President Barzani opens this section by stating, “the new Iraq after 2003 was shifting towards an authoritarian government in 2010 which violated the constitution and failed to properly partner with its different entities.” The rest of the section provides clarifications and justifications for his endeavours to make a case for creating an independent state. The Security Conference in Munich on February 2015 was one of the opportunities he utilised to raise the issue. “The conference was a good opportunity for me to raise Kurdish Independence to the world countries and demand basic rights for a nation,” President Barzani writes.

A trip to the United States: In 2105, President Barzani visited Washington and met with President Obama and Vice President Biden to discuss Kurdish Independence.

A trip to Baghdad: During his visit to Baghdad on September 29, 2016, he met with the then Prime Minister Abadi and most of the political leaders. Again, the main purpose of the visit was to have a peaceful dialogue on the Kurdish Independence. The outcome of the meeting was a decision to form a committee in Baghdad to meet with the Kurdish officials on whether Erbil and Baghdad should become neighbours in two separate countries or equal partners in the same country.

Kurdish Referendum countdown: This section is used to make brief remarks on the political, administrative and legal preparations to hold the referendum including addressing the Kurdistan Parliament on July 3, 2014, asking the Parliament to form the High Election and Referendum Committee, meeting with the political parties on June 7, 2017, to decide on the actual date of holding the referendum and forming various committees to oversee the process.

Pressured international response: As President Barzani says, “the role of the international involvement in the Kurdish Referendum was critical to promote sympathy towards the long- lasting Kurdish struggle.” He, therefore, intensified his efforts in the months prior to the vote to garner support. Despite these efforts many world leader remained sceptical about the referendum.

Sehela meeting: As the last-ditch diplomacy by the United States and United Nations to dissuade President Barzani from going ahead with the referendum, a meeting was arranged in Sehela on the border between Iraq and Syria. An unsigned letter by the US Secretary of State was delivered to President Barzani and studied by the High Referendum Council and concluded that the letter lacked enough assurance to the Kurdish people.

The Nation Votes: President Barzani recalls the voting on September 25, 2017, and writes, “The historic day of September 25 saw a wave of Kurdish voters marching peacefully across the streets towards the polling stations to freely vote for an Independent Kurdistan. The referendum was a huge success.

Iraqi government reaction: The harsh reaction by the Federal Government and Parliament is highlighted in this section. The punitive measures included blocking all the border crossing points and the closure of the Region’s airports while they demanded the abolition of the outcome of the referendum.

The events of October 16: In this section, President Barzani stresses that the government in Baghdad used the referendum to justify its attack on Kurdistan because long before the referendum the central government had a plan and intention to do so. The budget cut, threats by the Hashd al- Shaaabi, and the deployment of the Hashd groups in Tal-Afar and Nineveh plain all were indications of the government’s ill intentions.

President Barzani with bitterness revisits the accounts led to the withdrawal of the Peshmerga in Kirkuk and the surrounding areas as a result of a secret deal between the Hashd and some elements in the PUK leadership. “It was the most difficult and bitter time of my life,” he writes. He also emphasizes that the two battles fought by the Peshmerga at Prde on October 20 and at Sehela on October 26, against Hashd al-Shaabi and the Iraqi Army were decisive victories and put an end to the Iraqi attempts. 

Selected Articles
President Masoud Barzani's Message on the Thirtieth Anniversary of the Uprising

A statement by the Directorate General of Counter Terrorism in the Kurdistan Region

Ambassador Stephen Hickey has stressed on the importance of implementing the deal between Erbil and Baghdad aimed at normalizing the situation in Sinjar.