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 Iraqi Kurdistan tribal leaders criticize corruption and party dominance 

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Iraqi Kurdistan tribal leaders criticize corruption and party dominance  1.10.2011   

October 1, 2011

EXETER, UK, — U.S. diplomatic cables released by Wikileaks from 2006 show that the U.S. officials in Iraq have showed interest in influential Kurdish tribes of Iraqi Kurdistan and met with some of their leaders.

Some of the tribal leaders expressed disaffection with Kurdistan’s ruling parties.

According to Time Magazine there are around 150 tribes and clans in Kurdistan and many Kurds belong to one tribe or another.

Kurdish scholar Dr. Hussein Tahiri, Honorary Research      

A member of the Jaff tribe riding a horse during the Jaff folklore festival in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Associate, from Monash University in Australia writes in his book The Structure of Kurdish Society And the Struggle for a Kurdish State that the largest cohesive segments in Kurdish society were previously tribes. However after the mid-twentieth century, large segments of Kurdish society turned to political parties that replaced the role of tribes.

The Iraqi Provincial Action Officers in Iraq (IPAO’s) were especially interested in the Harki, Surchi, Zebari, and Baradosti tribes.

Believing these tribes make up a significant part of the Kurdish society, U.S. diplomats interviewed some tribal leaders to get their view on the US government and domestic affairs.

In addition, U.S. officials had met with leaders of the Jaff, one of the largest Kurdish tribes that boasts around half a million members and have important positions within the Kurdish society.

A classified cable by Scott Dean, Regional Coordinator in Kirkuk, dated 18 March 2006, notes that the Baradosti tribe consists of approximately 10,000 families throughout Iraq,www.ekurd.netIran, and Turkey. The same year, IPAO officers met with Sheikh Hussein Lolani, leader of the Baradosti tribe and an independent member of the Kurdistan National Assembly.

Saddam Hussein’s regime evacuated most of the Bradosti tribe from their Lolan border region to cities, namely Erbil. In his meeting with US officials Sheikh Hussein had said that his men could not resettle in their old villages for fear of persecution by the fighters of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

Sheikh Hussein also told US officials that rivalry between the KDP and PUK allowed corruption to flourish in Kurdistan. Sheikh Hussein informed US officials that KDP leaders could not afford to dismiss corrupt members fearing that the PUK would recruit them.

Another cable classified by the Scott Dean, Regional Coordinator in Kirkuk, and dated 31 March, 2006, deals with the Surchi tribe who originally come from the Erbil province.

Sheikh Mazhar Surchi, a tribal leader told IPAO’s that tribes were forced to cooperate with the KDP and PUK because the parties controlled all employment and education opportunities.

"If you are not a member of either the KDP or PUK, you cannot prosper in the KRG - the parties will insult or impose on you until you join. We do not need a master and stick over us, we want a brother," he told the U.S. diplomats.

Leaked cables show that Deputy Provincial Reconstruction (PRT) team leader Michael Oreste, had met with Sheikh Mahmud Asad Fattah Harki, from the Harki tribe who was critical of corruption and the rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Islamist parties in Kurdistan.

"Corruption, which is flourishing throughout Iraqi politics and civil society, has weakened the democratic process in Iraq." Sheikh Harki had told the PRT team leader.

In the cables, he describes corruption as a "the biggest virus from Basra (in southern Iraq) to the Kurdish region," which he attributed to nepotism and the lack of security.

Meanwhile a secret cable dated 30 July, 2007 sent from the Nineveh PRT describes the Harki tribe as notorious collaborators with the former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

By Wladimir van Wilgenburg

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