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 Open letter regarding events of 17th February, 2011, Iraqi Kurdistan 

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Open letter regarding events of 17th February, 2011, Iraqi Kurdistan  19.2.2011  
By Dr Rizgar Amin, Dr Rebwar Fatah and Dr Shirwan Mufti - London 

February 19, 2011

To: the Kurdistani, Iraqi and international decision makers, human rights and civil organisations and public opinion.

As a group of independent and non-partisan individuals, we are obliged to provide our opinion on the events of 17th February, 2011 (the Event), where protesters were shot with heavy weapons from the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in the city of Sulaimaniyah.

The following issues are among those that need to be investigated and addressed by the relevant parties.

1. The events in Kurdistan were the accumulation of years of corruption and social injustice, and the Kurdistan Regional authorities ignoring the people’s voice. This Event shall be remembered as the day that the blood of Kurdish youths was shed as a result of the actions of one of the two main parties that control the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. The Event must be investigated and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. No crime should go unpunished.

2. The KDP leaders, after the Event, attempted to divert the attention away from themselves by accusing the opposition (Gorran i.e. the ‘Change’ party) and justifying the violence, in which over 50 were killed or wounded. There can be no justification in killing teenage boys, wherever it occurs. The KDP, as one of the main political groups of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), should have acted more responsibly and restrained itself. The KDP should apologise for this unnecessary use of force, rather than attempting to justify its disproportionate actions.

3. Unfortunately the most irresponsible statement came from the head of the KDP and current President of the KRG, Mr Massoud Barzani, who is currently outside the country. His written statement began with the fact that the KDP headquarters was attacked in Sulaimaniyah. Of course, this is an attempt to confuse the situation.

4. The peaceful protest began in Sulaimaniyah against corruption, abuse of power and social injustice of the KRG. In addition, the protesters wished to express their solidarity for the people of Tunisia and Egypt. However, during the protest, a group of youths passed by the headquarters of the KDP and started throwing stones. The youths, as the objective evidence shows, did not constitute any threat to the lives of those who were inside. The KDP members,
www.ekurd.netas can be seen from the objective evidence, started shooting at the youths from the top of the building, using heavy machine guns, which led to the bloodshed. Rejwan was a 12 year old boy who was killed by KDP during the Event. We must question whether a 12 year old teenage boy can constitute a threat to heavily armed, experienced party members inside a building.

5. Mr Barzani should have expressed his support for the protesters and should have promised reforms to eliminate corruption, abuse of power and social injustice, not condemning them or labelling them as the “enemies of the people of Kurdistan”. This is truly an unfortunate statement from the President of the region.

6. Furthermore, Mr Barzani’s statement failed to address the KDP’s attacks on the headquarters of the main opposition group, Gorran, in areas under the control of his party, Erbil and Duhok. The headquarters of Gorran were attacked in these areas and burned by, allegedly, the KDP. Does Mr Barzani also regard members of his party, who attacked the Gorran headquarters, as “the enemies of people of Kurdistan”?

7. The President of Kurdistan, Mr Massoud Barzani, has not yet made a verbal statement and, as it has been reported by the media outlets, he is abroad. He should have cut his trip short and returned to Kurdistan. This shows his lack of good governance of Kurdistan. In addition, Mr Barzani’s statement is biased towards the KDP, his own political party. He cannot be independent. The president of Kurdistan should be an impartial person who can become the symbol of unity and partnership for the people of Kurdistan. Mr Barzani, we believe, has failed his obligations as President.

8. If the occupants of the KDP headquarters believed that they were under serious attack from the protesters, we must question why they did not contact the police, interior ministry or security services? Why did they take the law into their own hands? Why does the KDP headquarters keep heavy machineguns inside, when this is the duty of the interior ministry? Why did the party militants decide to control the headquarters? All these questions must be answered.

9. While the President of Kurdistan and the head of the KDP, who is also the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, is not in Kurdistan, we hear that one of the KDP’s forces, known as Zrevani, has moved to control Sulaimaniyah. This raises a number of further questions. Firstly, who is currently in charge of the armed forces in the absence of the commander in chief? We know that the President of Kurdistan does not have a deputy; his own inner circle manages all the affairs of the party and government. Secondly, why has the PUK, led by Mr Jalal Talabani, been unable to maintain order in the city that it controls? Does this mean that the PUK looks upon the KDP to protect Sulaimaniyah? Of course, this has serious consequences on maintaining unity in Kurdistan, because the members of Barzani Clan can be perceived as an oppressor of the people of Sulaimaniyah.

10. The statements by the leaders of KDP – namely, Mr Massoud Barzani, Mr Fazdhil Mirani, the head of Sulaimaniyah branch of the KDP and others - clearly undermines the authority of the KRG and Kurdistan Parliament. It seems that the KRG has no authority and Kurdistan is run by KDP. If this is the case, then the KRG should be dissolved.

11. We suggest that the Kurdistan parliament should organise a meeting to discuss the dissolution of the presidential and ministerial councils, and put a plan for independent and impartial elections in 9-12 months time, because they have all failed in conducting their duties.

12. The Event must be investigated by an independent and impartial judiciary. As this is very difficult to find in Iraqi Kurdistan, we suggest that independent, international organisations should be involved in conducting this investigation. In this way, all parties involved can receive justice.

Dr Rizgar Amin, Dr Rebwar Fatah and Dr Shirwan Mufti

17th February, 2011

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