Iraqi Kurdistan tribal leaders criticize
corruption and party dominance
October 1, 2011
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
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
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
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
"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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