"“Do you think that 20 million Kurds will disappear when you remove that word from the budget?” BDP lawmaker Hasip Kaplan asked in a speech in parliament. “This is racism,” he charged."
In the Middle East, three political movements dominate most of the Kurdish political scene: Turkey’s Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and two Iraq-based organizations, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). All three of these parties have Kurdish “sister parties” among the fifteen or soKurdish political parties in Syria.
warning: it contains a lot of bitter news — for kurds that is…
"I will not hesitate to say that among the public universities, Dohuk University is by far the best, and among the private ones, the American University of Suleimani is the best."
Murders of an “unknown” kind in the ‘Other Iraq’
By Shenah Abdullah
December 9, 2013
You must have come across articles, books, blogs, advertisements, pictures and stories from the ‘other Iraq’ where oil is ever flowing, the cities and towns are safe and secure, the people friendly and welcoming and the economy booming like never before under the leadership of the Kurdistan Regional Government—headed by Kurdish officials for the first time in the history of the region.
Life in the other Iraq, majority of these sources tells us, is all flowery and dandy. If you care enough to ask the locals in any of the Kurdish cities and towns in Iraqi Kurdistan, majority of them will beg to disagree.
Indeed they will welcome you into their houses and care for all your needs and make you feel at home. While touring around, you will definitely come across construction sites along with newly built supermarkets, shopping malls, high apartment complexes and latest model cars.
You will also feel safe walking, driving or living in the Kurdistan Region—this of course depends on your relationship to the ruling authority. Well, you must be pondering now, what’s the problem then? The problem? You mean what are the problems?
Let me begin with the latest breaking-story from the ‘other Iraq’. Like the weeks and months and years before, we turned on our televisions and there was that bright redline at the bottom of the screen.
What could it be now? We are quite accustomed to these redlines by now. They usually inform us about something tragic—suicide bombings, road accidents, latest from the government and countless other negative stories. Lately, these other tragic stories are on the rise.
Three days ago the redline read: “Kawa Garmiyany has been shot in front of his house in Kalar and has died.” People are shot daily all over the globe you may say, what’s the big deal?
Kawa Garmiyany was the editor in chief of an ‘independent’ Kurdish magazine and a prominent journalist writing about corruption issues in the Garmiyan region—a region filled with stories of death and pain.
He has now become the fourth journalist to be murdered in the past five years after receiving death threats from the two ruling parties. Kawa was murdered in front of his house, in front of his mother by “three unknown gunmen”, all the news sources say.
The oppositional sources, relatives and people in his city say otherwise. They say they know who is responsible. They have pointed their fingers to a specific official from the green zone.
The Kurdistan region since its formation in 1991 has been divided into two regions; the green and the yellow—ruled by two parties. People in the two zones as a result of political divisions have suffered a deadly civil war, economic and social disparities and countless other injustices.
Therefore, people in this region have become victims of yet another corrupt and brutal system. For nearly two decades now, people have used peaceful means and tried to show their discontent and have voiced their anger and disappointment.
Different ‘independent’ media outlets have opened up to criticize this so called ‘democratic’ system. Since 2009, an active opposition party—blue, has come into the picture working with two other Islamic groups to break the strong hold of the two ruling parties.
For the past 22 years people in the Kurdistan Region have found many different ways to show their discontent against their own Kurdish leaders—their own old ‘revolutionaries’ who once fought for peace, justice and independence.
Unfortunately, people from all walks of life have been humiliated both symbolically and physically for speaking up against this ‘democracy’. The likes of Kawa, Sardasht, Soran, Rezhwan, Sherzad and many others (all young) have been shot dead in front of their loved ones. Their murderers are yet to be taken to court.
Majority of the locals in the towns or cities in K.R.G. will tell you how much they disapprove of their own leaders. They are Gandals (corrupt), they always say. They will tell you how the two ruling parties have taken all the regions fortune for themselves and left people under the mercy of the mountains.
Some would go as far as wishing for the days of Saddam Hussein—the man who used chemical weapon against them and carried out a campaign of ethnic cleansing in their region. What would drive people to wish for the return of a dictator like Saddam?
For any of us to understand this story, we need to go back to 1991 and begin to re-live the life people in this region have had up to today. Perhaps only then we can understand what people are talking about.
Kawa was only 32 years old. Like Kawa, a large number of us were born in the 1980s—we lived the first ten years of our lives under Saddam’s rule and the rest under ‘our own revolutionaries-turned-into-leaders’. We have been called the post Rapareen generation; a young generation who has lived and experienced inferno twice.
Kawa’s story is a little different from ours because he lived his life in a city affected by the ethnic cleansing campaigns—an area which is still poor and neglected and where corruption and nepotism is widespread.
He used his pen to publish stories about these corruption issues and was not afraid to voice his anger and discontent. There are videos and Facebook notes of him telling people about countless threats he received for publishing his stories. In two videos he tells everyone about his fear to be murdered. Three days ago, he was indeed murdered like three other journalists who also wrote about corruption issues.
These ‘unknown gunmen’ in cities and towns full of police and security guards have begun a terrifying murder campaign that has taken the lives of six people in the last four months.
One of those people murdered was an innocent female civilian who just happened to be walking in front of one of the headquarters of two opposing political parities during this last election campaign.
These murders have been compared to mafia killings—the gunmen escape all the time. The ‘unknown gunmen’ are never arrested and not one of them have been caught or taken to court. The same is true for the murderers of the young protesters who were gunned down in 2011 for voicing their anger against their own leaders—their families are still waiting for justice.
The ‘other Iraq’ is full of unhappy stories; stories of murder, injustice, inequalities, corruption, nepotism, lack of ‘democracy’ and censorship. Wherever you go people complain. Going around cities and towns in the K.R.G, you are more likely to hear 10 unhappy stories in a day to one or two happy stories.
There are plenty of good things happening too. People are able to speak in their own Kurdish language; people move around freely and enjoy a fair amount of freedom but the majority of them say that despite the good things they have, they expected more.
Their revolutionary heroes promised to be much better than their old enemies—they promised to provide them with peace and prosperity; with freedom and equality but instead they find the gaps growing tremendously between them and their leaders.
They find their leaders killing Kurdish youngsters who were conceived to live the Kurdish dream. These children were promised to be loved, protected and provided for in an autonomous Kurdish region full of oil headed by Kurdish officials for first time ever—but instead they find themselves struggling to make a living, to find a job, to share the benefits of oil revenues and to be able to speak and write freely.
Many of these young, middle aged and old Kurdish civilians have been humiliated, attacked and some of them have been killed. Many of their stories have been hidden as a result of voicing their dissatisfaction. Day after day we see mothers and fathers mourning the loss of their children whom they have raised in the hardest of times, under hardest of conditions in a region where your destiny is in the hands of multiple actors moving your strings in accordance to the regions currents.
One day they knock at his door and the mother opens the door. Three ‘unknown’ men ask for Kawa. The poor widow who raised Kawa during countless days of hardships and fear and many more years of uncertainty after his father died as a Peshmarga.
Kawa grew up to hope of a better life in the K.R.G—where he was promised during election campaign of a life unlike any other he could imagine. He spent 22 years of his life waiting for this better life but until the minute of his murder he was not able to live such a life.
He nevertheless found a wife nearly a year ago—she too is an orphan who lost her mother and father during the ethnic cleansing campaigns to Saddam’s rule. Kawa’s wife is nine months pregnant today and has less than two weeks to bring anther orphan into this world.
While the three men are waiting outside, Kawa is searching for a new name for his soon to be born baby. The mother comes and tells him about the men waiting outside. He goes near the door and they shoot him by the wall. They shoot him three times while the mother is watching.
The ‘unknown gunmen’ escape under the watchful eyes of police and guards who are less than 500 meters away from Kawa’s house. He passes away shortly at a near by hospital due to a gunshot to his head.
People gather again in all the cities and towns; they carry his picture, show his videos on television, ask the government to capture the killers, and they all say they will not give up until the murderers face justice.
His story becomes the conversation in almost all the house in the K.R.G and each one speaks of his loss. His story will be the center of attention for a week, perhaps two or maybe two more months but he will soon be pushed aside because another redline will pop up at the bottom of our screens. What/ who will it be about this time.
Meanwhile, this so called ‘democracy’ grows fatter and fatter and the outsiders pat its fat belly and promise to sing its praises in return for a bit of this and a bit of that and that much-needed share of oil and gas.
The people, well, where in the world do they care about people? Who has time for another murder? “He should’ve kept his mouth shut and tried to raise his child instead of writing about corruption and injustice,” they will try to blame the victim.
In the ‘other Iraq’ life continues and there are plenty of happy and good stories to talk but we can’t keep silent about our colleagues getting killed for practicing their freedom of expression in this ‘democratic’ region.
my two cents on what happened in amed on november 16, 2013… i meant to write on sivan perwer; erdogan, sivan’s “buddy,” upstaged the kurdish bard…
mandela’s defense. as kurds, we can not help but compare him to ocalan. there are kurds who say that had ocalan been arrested in south africa, he would have made a similar defense and a campaign of freedom for his release would have become a worldwide event… there are others who say ocalan should have taken the path of mazlum dogan or kemal pir and in so doing would have ignited a second round of resistance that would have culminated in the liberation of kurdistan and emancipation of kurds… my two cents: south africa in 1964 respected the rule of law more than turkey did in 1999… and while i don’t know if people died of torture in south african jails, i suspect some did, i do know of 420 people, mostly kurds, who were beaten to death in turkish jails between the years of 1980 and 1994…
two points stand out in this guardian editorial. one relates to ocalan and the other if white south africans deserved mandela… here they are:
Öcalan’s cult-like following does not fit the Mandela template. Öcalan is feared and worshipped; Mandela was respected and loved.
Black and brown South Africans were lucky in his leadership, while white South Africans, particularly Afrikaners, were more than lucky. Apart from the fact that they had the common sense to preserve his life, they did not really deserve him. Yet he forgave them even that.
Iraqi Kurds are selling oil and natural gas directly to Turkey, upsetting Baghdad and Washington, which fear a broader independence for Kurds in Iraq’s north.
an insightful analysis of kurdish situation in syria and the rest of the middle east…