Falah Mustafa Bakir – Kurds have risen against the odds but Bagh­dad re­mains the con­straint that holds back Kur­dis­tan

The Kurdish Globe - - NEWS - By Bash­dar Pusho Is­maeel

The Kur­dis­tan of 2013 is no doubt a far cry from the dark days of the past. The Kur­dish po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic achieve­ments since 1991, par­tic­u­larly since the over­throw of Sad­dam, have cul­mi­nated in some­what of a Kur­dish na­tional re­nais­sance across the Mid­dle East.

Kur­dis­tan Re­gional Gov­ern­ment (KRG) Head of the Depart­ment of For­eign Re­la­tions, Falah Mustafa Bakir, spoke proudly on the trans­for­ma­tion of Kur­dish for­tunes. What have made the achieve­ments all the sweeter for Bakir are the nu­mer­ous con­straints en­coun­tered, par­tic­u­larly in the dif­fi­cult days of self-rule prior to 2003 and the fact that Kur­dis­tan is in the midst of chaotic sec­tar­ian strife across much of Iraq, and of course not for­get­ting the rag­ing sec­tar­ian fires across the Mid­dle East.

“Been in a re­gion in volatile part of the world, sur­rounded by prob­lems has not been an easy march. But thanks to our com­mit­ment to democ­racy, to rule of law and to a pros­per­ous fu­ture for our peo­ple the lead­er­ship has been able to present Kur­dis­tan in a very good way.”

Kur­dis­tan is be­com­ing an im­por­tant player in the Mid­dle East and a force to be reck­oned with.

Bakir em­pha­sised the po­lit­i­cal ma­tu­rity demon­strated by the last Kur­dis­tan re­gional elec­tions that un­der­scored demo­cratic pro­gres­sion, “last elec­tions were like a fes­tive event. It high­lighted the de­gree of ma­tu­rity amongst the peo­ple that only through the bal­lot box that they can make change.”

Kur­dis­tan’s eco­nomic drive has been per­haps most im­pres­sive of all. The level of con­struc­tion, new busi­nesses and in­creas­ing for­eign trade has been un­prece­dented. Once upon a time, Kur­dis­tan was the most ne­glected and dev­as­tated area of Iraq. New oil deals with ma­jor for­eign com­pa­nies have been at the fore­front of the eco­nomic suc­cess.

Ac­cord­ing to Bakir, “eco­nom­i­cally, we have been able to tell the out­side world that Kur­dis­tan is an emerg­ing mar­ket. This is an area where the gov­ern­ment up­holds the rule of law, it is open, trans­par­ent and where for­eign­ers are wel­comed. Kur­dis­tan is a on­estop win­dow for in­vest­ment. “

For Bakir, the con­cept of for­eign part­ner­ships is vi­tal and as such th­ese part­ners are es­sen­tial in the Kur­dis­tan drive, “our pol­icy of open­ness and to out­reach to the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity, to go and build re­la­tions, on an eco­nomic, so­cial and cul­tural ba­sis, have all al­lowed new part­ners to come on­board. Alone we can­not do it.”

Al­though, for­eign part­ners have been the fuel, Bakir lauded Kur­dish pri­vate in­vestors as the spark by which for­eign in­vestors could be at­tracted. It showed that the “Kurds had con­fi­dence in their own re­gion.”

A con­fer­ence was re­cently ar­ranged in Lon­don by UKTI and Bri­tish Con­sul Gen­eral in Er­bil, not only to en­cour­age UK busi­ness to in­vest in Kur­dis­tan but also to en­tice in­vestors and busi­ness men in Kur­dis­tan to come to UK.

Yet for all th­ese achieve­ments in Kur­dis­tan, it be­comes in­creas­ingly ev­i­dent that Bagh­dad is a rope by which the Kur­dish de­vel­op­ment is still con­strained.

“Our ex­pec­ta­tion with the fall of Sad­dam was high, of a new Iraq demo­cratic and plu­ral­is­tic Iraq based on a part­ner­ship but un­for­tu­nately, it seems that we were mis­taken, that re­gard­less of who is in power, the men­tal­ity hasn’t changed.”

Bakir noted that some of­fi­cials in Bagh­dad “still act as though they are do­ing Kurds a favour.”

Bakir lamented the pass­ing of the elec­tion law in Iraq, in spite of Kur­dish reser­va­tions, as “not to our lik­ing and un­fair.” He stated that Kurds ac­cepted the new elec­tion law so as not to be blamed for block­ing the pas­sage of the law and thus de­lay­ing elec­tions as some had hoped.

For Bakir, it was a case of 10 lost years in Iraq and a re­oc­cur­ring theme talk­ing about the same prob­lems with no po­lit­i­cal will or in­tent to for­mu­late so­lu­tions.

So in this light and with past atroc­i­ties and mis­for­tunes re­sid­ing un­der Iraqi rule, surely Kur­dis­tan can­not just con­tinue in the cur­rent vain. With their mil­i­tary and eco­nomic strength and be­com­ing in­creas­ingly af­fected by re­gional spill overs and con­stant is­sues with Bagh­dad, what next for Kur­dis­tan and when do they say enough is enough?

Bakir warned against the “guest men­tal­ity” em­ployed by some Iraqi cir­cles to­wards the Kurds and deemed the na­tional elec­tions in 2014 and the re­sult­ing for­ma­tion of a coali­tion gov­ern­ment as a last chance for Bagh­dad, but at the same time un­der­scored the im­por­tance of non-vi­o­lent means.

“We have given enough sac­ri­fices; we do not want any more blood to be shed and will aim to sort out dif­fer­ences peace­fully. Times have changed and much more can be achieved through di­a­logue. This is an era of the Kurds and time for the Kurds to en­joy their rights.”

De­vel­op­ments in Syr­ian and Tur­key with re­spect to the Kurds have meant that bor­ders be­tween the four parts of Kur­dis­tan are slowly but surely erod­ing. The Kur­dish is­sue is grad­u­ally shift­ing from the lo­calised mi­nor­ity rights is­sue of the past to one where all parts can build af­fec­tive bridges.

Bakir praised the demo­cratic open­ing in Tur­key, “the peace process is a very promis­ing process. It should be sup­ported and com­mended. There are small but vi­tal steps in the right di­rec­tion. We al­ways ad­vo­cate peace­ful di­a­logue. But peace takes time and prob­lems over decades can­not be re­solved in a year or two.”

In Syria, the long-time im­pov­er­ished and re­pressed Kurds are fi­nally ris­ing up with new­found promi­nence, op­por­tu­ni­ties and even au­ton­omy.

“Syr­ian Kurds have an op­por­tu­nity to prove them­selves and pro­pose a model. We want a united state­ment of vi­sion to present to the out­side world. So that peo­ple know who they are and what they stand for.” Bakir urged the PYD to reach an un­der­stand­ing with other groups so that they have a com­mon un­der­stand­ing and em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of in­clu­sive gov­er­nance based on the will of the peo­ple.

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