Socialist International in Northern Iraq examines Kurdish Question

28-30 May 2006

The Socialist International’s Working Group on the Kurdish Question held its most recent meeting in the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq on 29 May 2006, hosted by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, a member of the SI.

Following preliminary discussions with the leadership of the PUK at Qalachualan on Sunday 28 May, the Working Group convened in Dukan, outside Suleymania, on Monday 29, with the participation of delegates from the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, of Iraq, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and Komala from Iran, the Democratic Society Party, DTP, from Turkey, and representatives from SI parties in France, Greece, Italy, Norway and Sweden. Conny Fredriksson, Chair of the Working Group, chaired the proceedings, which were addressed at the opening by the leader of the PUK and President of the Republic of Iraq, H.E. Jalal Talabani, and Luis Ayala, Secretary General of the Socialist International. (List of Participants).

The Group’s discussions focused first on the situation in Iraq following the formation of a new Kurdistan regional government and a government of national unity in Baghdad. The PUK and KDP representatives described the evolving situation in their region. There were many challenges still to be faced, however, the democratic experience continued to bring positive developments in their economic, cultural and political life. One of the problems resulting from Saddam Hussein’s policies were the consequences of the forceful removal of people from Kirkuk and the placement there of people from other regions of the country. In this regard, the implementation of Article 140 of the current Iraqi Constitution, relating to the normalisation of Kirkuk, was regarded as crucial. The Working Group commended the political parties for their cooperation and united action in forming the new regional government, as it called for continued support for their work to strengthen democracy and advance economic progress.

The situation of the Kurdish people in other countries in the region was also addressed by the members of the Working Group. Conditions for the political representation of Kurds and their enjoyment of other rights remained limited and inhibiting. Cooperation among different political groups was perceived as a positive step in furthering their rights. It was highlighted that the only way to protect and foster the rights of the Kurdish people remained in the political arena and in advancing and deepening democracy without resorting to any form of violence. The work of the Democratic Society Party in advancing Kurdish issues in Turkey was recognised. The continuing hardship suffered by the Kurdish population in Iran was deplored by the Working Group, which also noted the increased levels of cooperation that were being established between different Iranian Kurdish groups. After the closure of the meeting, a special gathering took place with hundreds of PUK activists, who were addressed by the Secretary General of the Socialist International on a wide range of international issues and the work of the SI.

On Tuesday 30 May, the SI representatives visited the city of Kirkuk. Meetings were held with the head of the PUK in Kirkuk, Jalal Jawher, and with the Governor, Abdul Rahman Mustafa, who briefed them on the background to the present situation affecting the city, the provisions for its future included in the current Constitution of Iraq and the serious problems of the displaced people - both Arabs and Kurds - and of the refugees housed in the city’s Shorija stadium, who were also visited by the SI delegation. A large meeting was held with the entire Kirkuk Provincial Council headed by PUK member Razgar Ali, where a lively debate was held on the situation affecting Kirkuk and its bearing on Iraq as a whole.

Before the departure from Iraq, in a final press conference, the SI Secretary General recorded the appreciation of the Socialist International for the work of the PUK and its leader, President Jalal Talabani, in strengthening democracy and human rights for the Kurdish people in Iraq and for the significant personal contribution of President Talabani in leading Iraq towards a full sovereign democracy, maintaining national unity and developing a national consensus on meeting the challenges ahead for the country.