Mahmood Muhammed: coexistence and tolerance won support for Peshmerge
Even if we had the intention towards an independent state we should promote understanding with Iraq.
Turkey has not regretted the agreements with Kurdistan Region.
Regarding the situation in Kurdistan Region and Iraq and the moves of new government’s formation in Baghdad, The Kurdish Globe interviewed Mahmood Muhammed, member politburo and head of Cultural and Media in the Kurdistan Democratic Party, who intensely talks about the developments and events and also talks about ISIS, the outcomes of helping Peshmerge forces, Kurdistan, USA, Europe and the recent developments.
Q: Do you think the defeat of ISIS after its attacks on Kurdistan will bring new political circumstances while the area is full of disputes and crisis?
A: ISIS has hurt Kurdistan by its attacks, especially in Shingal, Zummar, Ninawa plain Gwer and Makhmour, but Peshmerge forces have shifted from the defensive strategy into offensive. The ISIS has been repulsed and Peshmerge forces are fighting heroically. And the world respectfully saw the heroism of Peshmerge forces. Some thought that some parts of Kurdistan will fall in the hands of terrorists, as they took advantage of spreading propagandas and using advanced weapons that Iraqi army left behind. Some of the Arabs in those areas have backed them; therefore, it was very surprising for the Kurds as they used to live alongside the Kurds for a long time. This has happened in Shingal against Yazidis, in Ninawa Plain against Christians, Shabaks and Kakayis.
The crimes committed by ISIS against freedom of expression, religions and especially women encouraged the world to think that this terrorist organization may spread in other places and should be confronted. Therefore, in the first step they supported Kurdistan Region as a place for coexistence of different ethnic and religious minorities as well as of different political opinions.
Q: The political situation has changed, after the new circumstances, how should Kurdistan deal with the new crisis and developments?
A: Several obstacles are being created in Kurdistan. On one hand, the former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has taken some measures to weaken the economy of Kurdistan and reducing the defensive capabilities of Kurdish Peshamrge forces. On the other hand, thousands of displaced people from Mosul, Shingal, Tikrit, Diyala, Anbar and Faluja have been taking shelter in Kurdistan causing hardship to the economic situation in Kurdistan. Despite Maliki’s policies against Kurdistan and its people, we have strongly supported Peshmerge and showed readiness to fight ISIS, as well as helping thousands of refugees. Hence this was a factor for a fundamental change in the way the world countries think about Kurdistan Region that despite all the pressures on the government and the people, the humanitarian efforts have not been hindered. Now, a new diplomatic phase has started as USA, Europe and Iran have agreed to help Kurdistan Region in fighting terrorism.
Q: After some disputes, the Iraqi government was formed. The participation of Kurds this time is under a lot of questions. How can the participation of the Kurds change the performance and role of the new government and what is the role the Kurds will play in the future?
A: Since the beginning of the modern Iraqi state, the Kurds have aspired independence. What happened to the Kurds in the last century was a product of international decisions. The interest of powerful countries at that time and supporting the newly established Iraqi state deprived the Kurds of their right to freedom. The Kurds fought for coexistence and liberty, but they fall for the international economic interests.
Kurd’s demands have changed overtime; from decentralized government to autonomy and then federalism. As after the fall of Baath regime in 2003, Kurds worked hard to make their demands met and preserve their legitimate rights in the Iraqi constitution. But the problems have not ended up there. The former prime minister did not abide by the constitution. He started punishing the economic and defensive capabilities of the Kurdistan Region. However, the recent developments have changed the circumstances in the opposite direction, as US and Europe have started their support to Kurdish Peshmerge forces. Simultaneously, to resolve the disputes between Kurdistan Region and federal government, the Kurdish negotiating committee held many meetings with the concerned parties regarding the government formation discussing all the shortcomings previous government had and actions taken against the Kurds. Apparently, after calculating all the interests and assessing the international standpoints over the situation in Iraq, the Kurds have made the decision to participate in the new government, but on conditions. The Kurds have given three months to know the credibility of the new government; otherwise we will consider other options.
Q: If Kurds didn’t take part in this government, as some say, what would be the reaction and role of the Kurds?
A: In this case, some of factors would come to exist. Our allies and friends who are helping us wouldn’t have approved of that. They need a legitimate government to send their supports to Kurdistan. So if Kurdistan didn’t take part, many problems would remain unsolved. And if we had the intention of an independent state, we would have promoted understanding with Iraq. We should gain international support for this purpose adding to the regional support. So taking part in the government is better than staying out.
Q: How do you perceive the situation in Kurdistan after these issues?
A: It’s a difficult phase. People of Kurdistan will pass through this stage with tolerance and endurance; this alongside with the policies of Kurdistan will provide a brighter future. We practically proved to the world that this spot is a place for coexistence, religions and tolerance. People here want development and tolerance.
Q: Do you think that in the light of these developments, the oil production will benefit Kurd- istan while Turkey has kept silent and didn’t help Kurdistan?
A: Oil policy and what has been done to nationalize the oil industry in Kurdistan is right. We’ll carry on this approach because Kurdistan is on the world energy map now. Turkey hasn’t regretted the agreements with Kurdistan Region in addition to a great deal of international and regional pressure. We believe that along with the changes of Iraqi government formation, issues such as oil and gas and Peshmerge laws will be solved.
Q: Will Kurdish unity in Baghdad face the pressures exerted by the federal government?
A: At this stage, Kurds are cautious and the political leadership in Kurdistan, particularly President Massoud Barzani, is aware of all the plans threatening the unity of the Kurds. Everything will be done to encounter our enemies and fight those who want to create instability in Kurdistan.
Q: Nuri al-Maliki and some known political figures that have been part of creating problems with Kurdistan Region government, have gotten high positions in the new government in Baghdad, what is your opinion about that?
A: The political figures in the previous government, who had a role in creating disputes and harming the situation in Iraq, might not be seen positively, but the President, Fuad Masum, can play a positive role. The Council of Minister, the Parliament and Shia’s National Coalition should consider taking measures against the actions of those political figures that led to this entire crisis and the suffering of innocent people. Those people did not have good relations with countries at Arabic, regional and international levels. It’s time for the US and Europe to observe all these negative circumstances caused by unqualified politicians who harmed the political atmosphere in Iraq. Otherwise, the history will repeat itself.