The winds of change that have swept across the Middle East have been nothing short of remarkable and a breeze of fresh air in the decades of poisonous policies, repression and social stagnation that has suffocated the people.
It is easy to forget that only 20 years ago, Kurdistan was subject to the same barbaric rule and wide scale suffocation under the oppressive Baathist regime. Great credit must go to the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan people for their bravery, determination and the largely bloodless manner in which they have arisen and orchestrated their phenomenal social revolutions.
In the midst of the great hysteria that has been created by alarming developments in Suleimaniya where week-long demonstrations have resulted in 3 dead and over 100 wounded, the situation in Kurdistan has been blown out of context.
The idea that the current Kurdistan regime should be assessed in the same breadth as the Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan dictators who have ruled with an iron-fist for literally decades is wide of the mark.
This fact is not designed to hide, diminish or obscure the reality that Kurdistan is in need of significant reform, or to conceal the corruption, nepotism or centralisation of the economy and the media that has plagued the development of Kurdistan.
There is a fundamental basis for the propagation of evolution in the Kurdistan Region but any notion promoting revolutionary uprising lacks perspective. There is no denying that Kurdistan needs change a clear plan for reform and the politicians need the right tonic for accountability, pressure to deliver and transparency in their work.
Kurdistan is need of a more liberal economy, independent judicial system, more independent media, more accountability and less bureaucracy.
However, the notion that Kurdistan is undemocratic and that the people live under an authoritarian cloud is simply mustered by people wishing to greatly diminish Kurdish advancement and a strike a blow at their strategic goals.
While the Gorran Movement has clearly been a welcome development in the Kurdish democratic experience, providing the first real opposition in parliament, great responsibility falls on them as well as the ruling parties.
If Gorran can instigate the reform and addressing of the deficiencies that have been highlighted earlier in this article, then this will be nothing short of a positive contribution and a milestone for the Region. But Gorran, who has an undoubted support base, must also take full accountability that their strong statements calling for the dissolving of the government and questioning the impartiality of the security forces amongst others are simply unproductive.
Gorran accepted the outcome of the elections in 2009, so if the elections were so badly plagued and do not reflect the will of the majority, why then wait until now to renounce the elections? Furthermore, the elections were orchestrated under heavy monitoring and international observation and were in the main deemed fair and representative elections by the various bodies.
Unlike other countries in the region, the people had a number of parties to choose from and a number of candidates to select in the presidential race.
Any show of people on the streets, be it in the tens, hundreds or thousands, must be taken seriously and by no means is the protests in Suleimaniya to be taken lightly. Peaceful protests are an important way for people to be heard and the government must take stock of their demands. Furthermore, the actions that resulted in the deaths of three protestors must be investigated to the full extent of the law.
The ability of the people to peacefully protest and express their public discontent is one of the cornerstones of democracy. However, under any law especially in the UK and the US, demonstrations must not infringe the rights and liberties of others, induce vandalism or propagate violence.
The small group of demonstrators who turned on the KDP building in Suleimaniya were after only thing – mass controversy and publicity. Exactly who orchestrated this deviation from the mainly peaceful protests is open to debate, but clearly the intention was to manipulate these events to portray the government as barbaric and merciless towards any opponents of its rule. A regional hand in these affairs can not be ruled out – this form of instability and tension can play in the hands of many an adversary of the Kurdish region.
In light of a lack of evidence, claims and counter claims have been all too frequent. The events have clearly polarised opinion from anti-Gorran or anti-government. After the riots and attack on the KDP offices, the fires were inevitably stoked further with the burning of the Gorran buildings in the KDP controlled areas.
Security forces should have done all they can to protect the KDP building in Suleimaniya, whilst with the knowledge that Gorran offices would have become an evident target in the KDP controlled areas, those offices should also have been guarded.
The onus is now on the government to fully investigate all these events and show clearly to the people that as the ruling authority that they will not take any such matters lightly.
But clearly, the events in Suleimaniya are not reflective of the will of the greater sections of the Kurdish people. There were no demonstrations or uprising in the provinces of Duhok or Erbil.
Ironically, the KDP has little sway over the Suleimaniya powerbase which has long been administered by the PUK. Even then, the current administrative and political foundations in Suleimaniya have been contributed to by the Gorran movement. After all, they were directly or indirectly a technical and administrative part of the current setup for so long. Through attacks on KDP office and subsequent reprisal attacks on Gorran offices, the aim by some elements was to turn the events into a national furore.
Unlike the recent events in North Africa, where the majority regardless of class or social background rose up, the events of the past week do not represent a national uprising.
Both the KDP and PUK still muster strong support and in the event of any future election they are likely to attain the majority of votes once again. At the present time, Gorran’s support is regional and not entrenched nationally. If Gorran rises as a political force due to a genuine and increasing support base, then this can only be embraced.
Above all the unfortunate events, it must not be forgotten that be it Gorran, PUK or KDP, that every party is empowered to serve the Kurds and Kurdistan. No party should work towards their own interests, but only for the interest of their people.
The current controversies, burning of political offices and endemic media attacks only serve the opponents of the Kurdistan Region.
No events in Kurdistan must detract from the importance of unity in Baghdad. Any discussions on internal shortfalls of the Kurdistan region in the Baghdad parliament will hardly be met with positive ears by Arab parties.
Without a doubt disunity has long been a Kurdish downfall. All the political parties must come together to enhance Kurdish goals and resolve current disputes with the Baghdad government including Kirkuk and oil sharing.
Many a Kurdish politician has taken the status of Kurdistan for granted. Kurdistan is still fresh in its existence and its foundations have yet to even dry.
The meeting of all the political parties with view to reaching consensus and common grounding is a positive development. Escalating tension and resentment is to the detriment of every side.
Kurdistan needs more moderates, balanced media and more of those who seek reconciliation. In addition to the highly regrettable deaths, the attack and burning of the NRT TV station after their coverage of events was most unfortunate.
Rogue elements who decided to take matters in their own hand to “punish” NRT, only paint a bad picture for the whole administration.
Those who claim that nothing has been achieved in Kurdistan for the past 20 years or so are short-sighted. Only 20 years ago, Kurdish lives were tainted with misfortune, suffering and destruction. Kurdistan was the long-time warzone of Iraq. It had no infrastructure and a basic economy, let alone any political representation or international recognition.
Progress in Kurdistan in the short time since liberation has been nothing short of remarkable. The ruling parties (including members that now constitute Gorran) have played a strong had in the gains and current status-quo. However, by no means should this represent an excuse to stagnate, to ignore the need for reform or not to evolve in the many channels required.
Any party that rests on their laurels and takes their power base for granted leads to degenerative politics, this is why the role of Gorran as a real opposition force is so important – it should ferment the right pressure and productive hand to ensure the governments improves and raises the bar in standards, for the benefit of the people and the Region.
Any opposition group is there to seek power, if Gorran want to win the next election then the onus is on them to entice the people with a clear manifesto and plans for reform. But the playing field is politics and affective campaigning, not means of sensationalism and mass controversy. Gorran must prove that they will not succumb to the same corruption and bureaucracy if they come to power.
In summary, no events should mask the fact that Kurdistan is need of great reform and evolvement, but the path towards this is through democratic channels and on the basis of propelling the interest of Kurds and Kurdistan, no one else.
Whether you are KDP, PUK or Gorran, your only remit is to serve the very people who have elected you. It is time for all these major parties to come around the table and prove to their citizens that they will do all they can for the benefit of Kurdistan, democracy and unity.