The Socialist International is deeply saddened at the passing of Jalal Talabani, a key figure in Iraq’s modern history. A much respected comrade and friend, Jalal Talabani, former President of Iraq, founder and Secretary General of SI member the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, served in the ranks of our International as a Vice-President and, since the last SI Congress, as an Honorary President.
Since his youth, Talabani warmly influenced those around him, earning the fond nickname ‘Mam’ Jalal, meaning ‘Uncle’ Jalal among his Kurdish family and friends, which he has been widely known as ever since. Talabani fought for Kurdish rights and freedoms throughout his life and sought dialogue and engagement between different Kurdish groups. He not only led Kurdish resistance on the battlefields in northern Iraq in the 1960s, but also undertook diplomatic missions across the Middle East and Europe to strengthen the cause of the Kurdish people against discrimination and tyranny.
On 22 May 1975, after an autonomy agreement had failed, Jalal Talabani founded the PUK with a prominent group of Kurdish personalities. In the years to follow, the PUK never ceased in its efforts to reassert its visions and goals for the region. After the horrific massacre of Kurds in 1991 by the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein, Talabani became a leading voice denouncing the killings and demanding support and engagement from the international community, that ultimately led to the establishment of a no-fly zone over northern Iraq to protect the Kurdish people. The Kurdistan Regional Government was eventually established in 1992.
Jalal Talabani cooperated with the international military campaign to overthrow the regime of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and played a major role as a member of the Iraqi Governing Council in negotiating Iraq’s interim constitution, the Transitional Administrative Law. Elected President of the Republic of Iraq on 6 April 2005, he became the first non-Arab president of the country, and the first elected under the country’s new constitution. He undertook his second term on 22 April 2006, and remained President until 2014.
In 2012, Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke and his health declined. He sadly passed away on 3 October 2017.
Jalal Talabani was an active and highly regarded comrade within the Socialist International, where he took part in many of its meetings and activities over many years. He is sadly missed and will long be remembered for his unwavering lifetime commitment to his people, to their struggle, for their unity, and for his humanity which allowed him to bring people together in dialogue and peace.