With strategic standing compromised by deepening crises, Kurdistan must look firmly forwards, not backwards

The political fallout in Kurdistan that has snowballed in recent weeks could not have come at a worse juncture for Kurdistan. The deep crises surrounding Kurdistan, including the bitter fight against Islamic State (IS), crippling fiscal constraints and a huge influx of refugee’s demands political unity. However, as the current government has struggled to make decisions such as the fate of the Kurdistan presidency and only added to the polarization in the region, unity has been hard to come by.

Kurdistan has long been divided by imperial forces, followed by successive regional forces and over the years the Kurds have been seemingly determined to stir their own divisions.

Tribal or partisan ties have been a key part of the socio-political landscape and regional affiliations across Kurdistan Region are clear to see. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) has a historical bastion in Duhok and Erbil governorates whilst the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Change Movement (Gorran) have a strong base in the Sulaimaniya governorate.

This polarization around tribal and political loyalties makes the notion of a broad-based government that can make common decisions to appease both sides of the divide even more difficult. More importantly, in each bastion of support, people on the street are easily swayed by their political parties due to emotional ties.

These ties are clear to see in the recent violent protests. In any healthy democracy, protests or strikes are a natural phenomenon and the people have reason to be disgruntled over consistently delayed salaries. However, torching and attacking party offices is not acceptable in any democratic country but at the same time neither is harming of any protestors with excessive force.

The KDP blamed Gorran for orchestrating the protests, leading to the ousting of five Gorran MPs from government, including Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Yusuf Mohammed.

With Western powers monitoring the situation closely, the onus is on all parties to apply the right measures. Blame games and finger pointing aside, there must be urgent and fair investigations to identify the perpetrators of the attacks and lay clear who is to blame.

No MP should be barred from travelling freely. With political parties becoming entrenched in their territory of support, then this is how divisions solidify with allegiances on the ground becoming entrenched.

Parliament is a reflection of the electorate and the will of the people and as such parliament must be empowered to make key decisions with no MP immune from full accountability.

With growing prominence and strategic standing, Kurdistan should be looking firmly forwards. It is finally in control of its destiny and away from the shackles of the past where it could even attain elusive independence.

However, the recent political fallout and violent demonstrations will tarnish the image of Kurdistan abroad. More than ever, political parties must diffuse tensions and work towards unity.

First Published: Kurdish Globe

Other Publication Sources: Various Misc

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