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 To the Freedom Protestors in Sara Square  

 Opinion — Analysis    
  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


To the Freedom Protestors in Sara Square  7.4.2011  
By Michael Rubin

April 7, 2011

Every generation, Kurds have had to fight for freedom and liberty. Kurds, more than any other people, know they cannot take freedom for granted: Too many people—both outside Kurdistan and inside Kurdistan—seek to take it away. Neighbors like Iran, Syria, and Turkey seek to crush Kurdish aspirations because of racist hatred or because they fear how their populations will react to the success Iraqi Kurds will achieve. Alas, Kurdish aspirations too often are also betrayed from inside Kurdistan by Kurdish leaders and ministers who seek money and power, but forget about freedom, justice, and democracy.

True leaders answer to the people. Both Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Tunisian leader Zine El Abidine Ben Ali believed the people should answer to them. Both claimed to be democrats, but they rigged elections and used their personal security forces to intimidate voters. They bragged to diplomats that their regions were secure and, for too long, diplomats did not realize that the security about which the leaders spoke was only for their political followers and family. In Tunisia and Egypt, however, the people rose up. They had enough. So have you and, even if Massoud Barzani ignores your voice,

Michael Rubin
many in the United States and Europe hear it. American and European newspapers and websites have reported it. Your protests have not gone unnoticed.

The United States should be angry with your rulers. When American forces helped liberate Kurdistan in 2003, we did so for freedom, rule-of-law, and justice. We did not spend billions of dollars and sacrifice more than 4,000 Americans to enrich Massoud Barzani and Ashti Hawrami. We did not seek to replace a big Saddam with a little Saddam, a Qusay with a Masrour, or an Uday with a Mansour.

Rule-of-law and justice do not mean the Kurdistan Democratic Party can kidnap and murder journalists like Sardasht Osman, or fire into crowds indiscriminately to kill 14-year-olds. Those who ordered their murders should be held accountable to the law. They should face their day in court, and spend their lives in prison. Whether they are Barzani’s or Mirani’s should be irrelevant. They may have American Green Cards and even U.S. passports, but that does not mean they are immune: Only that Kurds can sue them in American courts for torture.

You are this generation’s freedom fighters, and your fight is important. That you embrace non-violence emphasizes the justice of your cause and the importance of your struggle. And that the Kurdistan Regional Government responds with violence emphasizes the bankruptcy of those who long ago sacrificed principle for dollars,
www.ekurd.netand their sons who rather party with prostitutes in Dubai and buy hotels and sports cars rather than ensure that Kurds have clean water and 24-hour electricity, and that jobs go to those with merit rather than political connections.

Victory will not be easy. Kurdish politicians will promise everything to make you go home, but action is more important than words. Some Kurdish politicians may believe themselves reformists, but they must judge whether they can achieve reform. Are they simply props? Do they have real power, or does Massoud Barzani control their cabinet and even their immediate staff? If well-meaning politicians allow themselves to be a reformist face to a rotten regime, they have become part of the problem. They should resign, reclaim their honor, and join the people in Sara Square.

Sulaimaniyah has always been the courageous city, and your struggle will spread. The people of Hawler [Erbil] and even Duhok long for the same freedoms which you demand. They will soon realize that they are the majority, and those on Sar-e Rash are isolated and scared.

My only regret is that I am currently working in Afghanistan. This is why I do not deliver this letter in person. But I follow closely what you are doing in Sara Square and I know with your courage and God’s blessing, my next visit will be to a free Kurdistan where justice reigns supreme.


Michael Rubin

Resident Scholar
American Enterprise Institute

Michael Rubin
is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. His major research area is the Middle East, with special focus on Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Kurdish society. He also writes frequently on transformative diplomacy and governance issues. At AEI, Mr. Rubin chaired the "Dissent and Reform in the Arab World" conference series. He was the lead drafter of the Bipartisan Policy Center's 2008 report on Iran. In addition to his work at AEI, several times each month, Mr. Rubin travels to military bases across the United States and Europe to instruct senior U.S. Army and Marine officers deploying to Iraq and Afghanistan on issues relating to regional state history and politics, Shiism, the theological basis of extremism, and strategy.

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  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


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