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 Iraq: Economic Injustice in Place of Integrity

 Analysis — Opinion
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Iraq: Economic Injustice in Place of Integrity  17.7.2008 
By Rauf Naqishbendi

July 17, 2008

A democratic system dominated by a powerful special interest group will lose the true meaning of its founding principles. Such a disparity provides the privileged and well-connected with tremendous advantages while undermining the interests of the greater general public. Economic justice in a democratic society is intertwined and inseparable from social democracy. Economic affairs, to a great extent, are designed by high authorities through enactment of legislation including tax regulations, commerce, and budget allotments to social programs. The revenue and proceeds acquired by government belong to the nation as a whole. But when this fair entitlement loses its balance, economic injustice will prevail with its poisonous maladies that inundate the well-being of society. This disease has been plaguing Iraq ´s social and economic structure for a long time and has been amplified since the commencement of the American occupation.

A sizable middle class is one of the refinements of the great societies.   

Rauf Naqishbendi
The transformation from the lower class, or impoverishment, to the middle class is a degree by which poverty is dwindled. The greater the transformation, the more citizens are able to share in economic prosperity. This is a process of fighting against poverty by providing equal economic opportunities to all citizens. It should be realized that expanding poverty is a means of destabilization and disturbances. Poverty is a mother of revolution. Therefore, one of the crucial tasks of any leadership is the impetus to lift its people from poverty with all means at its disposal; otherwise, the widespread poverty could cause social unrest among people trying to shake off the yoke of those in high offices.

In the Kurdistan region of Iraq , where two leaders, Massoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, have monopolized power for decades, very little attention has been given to any aspect of the aforesaid economic facts. Attention has been paid to a privileged few while the mass population has been ignored. Take, for example, Mr. Talabani´s shedding light on his achievements, broadcasting around the world his creation of three thousand millionaires in the city of Sulaimaniyah , while there were formerly only three of them during Saddam´s time.

Great societies are not glorified with the rise of a few wealthy individuals, but rather how a society compassionately takes its needy into the comfort of its bosom. Barzani´s and Talabani´s success should not be measured by how much they have done for their family members and cronies, but what they have done for those who are at the rock bottom of the financial hierarchy of their communities, and how well they have worked for the nation as a whole.

The thousands of peshmarga, who proudly and selflessly bestowed their lives on the battlefield for the freedom of the nation, gave their lives and left their families behind without breadwinners. Who deserves more charity or reward, the fat cronies surrounding the Kurdish leader or the martyr peshmarga families? While peshmarga families are destitute, Barzani and Talabani families are carrying on with their extravagant lifestyles. In Erbil and Sulaimaniyah, every inch of valuable real estate has been granted to the well-connected and privileged cronies, while those who were devastated during the war with Saddam have received nothing.

Another example concerns the unfortunate Kurdish families who were victims of Saddam´s genocide, as he attempted to modify the demographic makeup of the vast oil field region in Kurdistan . These people´s rights were eviscerated, they were forcefully dislodged from their birthplace and replaced with Arab settlers, their properties and businesses were extorted, and they were dislocated to Arabian desert , a living hell they inhabited for decades. Most of these people died from homelessness, poverty, and disease. Upon ousting Saddam, those who survived returned to their birthplace to reclaim their confiscated properties. To their surprise they found Saddam´s legacy well and alive, thanks to Barzani and Talabani. In Kirkuk they were placed in open areas and subjected to harassment by Islamic extremists and Saddam´s remnants with no roof over their heads, without any necessary living accommodations, their children left to suffer from disease and malnutrition.

Mr. Barzani, with billions of dollars in annual proceeds from oil transit that he collected for almost a decade in Ibrahem Khalil, could have purchased back all these people´s businesses and properties. It is ironic how Mr. Barzani talks about Kurdish rights in the wake of these injustices, which he could have remedied, but to which, instead, he remained indifferent. Eventually, the sacrifices of these people strengthened the case for the Kurdish cause, but Barzani and his clan are the only beneficiaries as they live aristocratically, leaving these poor people to be consumed and welted in their miserable circumstances.

Speaking of justice, the story of Kawa Muhamamd Amin reported in Hawlati, last week, is nothing less than a tragedy – disheartening, to say the least. Kawa is a young man from my native town Halabja, which was bombed in 1988 with chemical and biological agents, by Saddam Hussein. Kawa is now 27 and has undergone 18 medical procedures. His entire family has been devastated. After enduring everything, Kawa has been left homeless and sick in Sulaimaniyah. Little more than a vagrant, he seeks work as a day laborer to survive. Last month he was beaten and jailed – a consequence of what has become a war against the homeless. The homeless need to be provided with homes, not placed in jail. This is an example of the devastation suffered by the Kurds, their lack of a remedy to improve their circumstances, and the morally corrupted Kurdish leaders who have turned their backs on the misery of their fellow men. Where is the Kurdish leaders´ sense of humanity in the face of such national tragedy? Where is their principal and conscience toward the needs of those who are devastated?

As stated earlier, Mr. Talabani cited the creation of three thousand millionaires in Sulaimaniyah. In fact, since the beginning of the US occupation, a record number of millionaires have been created, and almost all these moneyed people are cronies and families of Iraq ´s leadership, including Barzani and Talabani.

However, one must realize that the remaining residents aren´t doing that well, or Mr. Talabani would have loudly announced that to the world, as well. In the same city a single-family house costs $1,100 to rent, a teacher´s salary is less than $5,000 annually, and construction workers make even less. Meanwhile, the cost of food and energy is tantamount to that of the United States . When calculating these figures, one concludes that the vast majority of the people are living below the poverty level. This is what Talabani does not mention.

Economic prosperity and social progress are not measured by a few moneyed people, as Talabani and Barzani perceive, but rather by the well-being of the greater general public. Economic stability is a God-given right. No sensible man, in his own free will, would ever choose to be poor if he could help it. This is the essence of humanity, and its realm is not limited to one´s clan, as Barzani sees it. The Kurdish population in Iraq is measured in millions, not three thousand millionaires, as Talabani cited. This is a matter of justice and morality, and there has to be a profound change to right the wrongs of the past and present. To this end leadership must restore the rights of the greater general public, which has been disenfranchised by a few wicked elites and their cronies.

Rauf Naqishbendi is a contributing columnist for Kurdish Websites, American Chronicle and has written Op/Ed pages for the Los Angeles Times. He has just completed his memoirs entitled "The Garden Of The Poets" which reads as a novel depicting his experience and the subsequent 1988 bombing of his hometown with chemical and biological weapons by Saddam Hussein. It is the story of his people's suffering. Rauf Naqishbendi is a software engineer in San Francisco Bay Area.

The contents of this article reflect the author's personal opinions, and we accept no responsibility for the views or opinions expressed in the articles either direct or indirect.

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