Kurdistan Issues in Press Interviews Nawshirwan Mustafa

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Sign the petition for Iraq's three-region solution May 13, 2008 Kurdistan Issues in Press Interviews Nawshirwan Mustafa 

Kurdishaspect.com - Translated by Dr Kamal Mirawdeli

Interview with former PUK deputy leader Nawshirwan Mustafa: time young people moved to remove the Old Guard!

Translated by Dr Kamal Mirawdeli from Hawlati, Sulaymaniyah, twice-weekly independent newspaper, 30 April 08, p 5 

[Interview with former PUK deputy leader Nawshirwan Mustafa by Kamal Rauf: "The old guard are controlling the parties and government; young people must struggle to remove the old generation.”] 

People’s hopelessness

[Hawlati] : Today the incompetence of the political parties and corruption in Government has created a lot of hopelessness among the young people. To what extent will this state of despair affect our future?

[Nawshirwan Mustafa] : Of course, hopelessness is bad in any situation and time. A person must always believe in future and in the fact that the world is constantly changing. History’s trajectory does not stop. I think one of the biggest roles of the privately-funded newspapers is to strengthen the hope of the citizens in change and the improvement of their situation. They should not consolidate the feeling of hopelessness in them. 

[Hawlati]  What do you think privately-funded newspapers can do to reduce this state of hopelessness that has gripped the psyche of Kurdistan ’s citizens especially the young people? Don’t you think that the [Kurdistan Region] Government has the prior responsibility for creating this hopelessness of citizens? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  This is true. But the other part of the equation may be that the privately-funded newspapers have in the last few years been engaged only in criticising and exposing the dark aspects of power. In other words they have not shown any bright aspect of this power to people. At the same time, I believe that this hopelessness has not extended to citizens and as far as I know, even among the young people there is a lot of hope. Among the cadres of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and other parties there is hope and good expectation that there will be change for better in terms of social justice and the issue of corruption. I don’t know; I myself do not see such degree of hopelessness among the citizens. 

American influence on Kurdish political mentality 

[Hawlati]  There was a thinking before that the Americans would have an impact on the political mentality of Kurdish leadership especially after the downfall of the dictatorial regime of Saddam Husain There was hope that the Kurdish leadership will think more carefully and broadly of the conditions of Kurdish people. But now it seems that all issues have been confused. It looks as if KDP and PUK will monopolize power for ever. Don’t you think this is a factor that pushed our young people towards despair and losing faith in change? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  First we must not think that when America goes to any country, it does so to take democracy and human rights to that country. America has a global strategy. The place of Iraq in this global strategy is evident. America has come for its won interests, for fulfilling its won national aims and consolidating its interests. America ahs not come to this country to bring human rights and spread democracy. For this we must depend on ourselves and take advantage of the international environment that obtains. If we just depend on the US and ask them to do this or that for us they would not do it. The American support to these two parties [KDP and PUK] does have a role in keeping their power. But in the time of elections the majority of people voted for these two parties. They have not come to power through a military coup. I was one of the people who voted for them and encouraged others to vote for them. 

 [Hawlati]  To what extent that the political mentality of the Americans have affected the political mentality of Kurdish leadership? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  I think zero. 

America’s priority to safeguard their own interests in Iraq 

[Hawlati]  How do you see the future of the relationship between the US and Kurdistan ? Are you optimistic about it? Or do you predict significant changes? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  First as far as I can understand it, the Americans have come [to Iraq ] to stay, not to leave. In short-term and medium-term the Americans will stay in Iraq . But to what extent do they have a positive impact of Kurdish political mind, this is something we ourselves, can decide. It is an internal issue. On the issues of democracy and security, the US has strong relations with some countries in the region while these countries do not respect democracy and human rights and rather repress their own peoples. What is the priority for the Americans is to safeguard their own interests in Iraq . Hence the issue of ensuring security and stability in Iraq comes before the issue of democracy or combating corruption. Now, if we look, we se that the weight of Kurdistan is waning in the American balance of power especially after the Shiite have reorganised themselves and the Sunnis have created the Sah'was. The American interests in Iraq entail paying greater attention to the Shia and Sunnis than the Kurds. The role of Turkey in this equation is also important. It is Turkey that obliges the US to often disregard Kurdish national rights. 

Kurds and Iraq 

[Hawlati]  Then do you think the Kurdish political weight will hold or will it decrease? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  As long as Iraq moves towards democracy and freedom, the Kurdish weight will increase rather than decrease. One of the reasons for the massive growth of corruption and narrowing of political freedoms in Kurdistan is the instability of Baghdad . If we make a comparison between Baghdad and Kurdistan and look at the working of Iraqi parliament and Kurdistan Parliament, we can decide which parliament is more active and with more democratic debate? Is there more transparency in Iraq or in Kurdistan ? In which part is there more freedom of expression and media, in the Centre or in Kurdistan ? Which has transparency in declaring and explaining the allocation and use of Budget and bringing into account those ministers that have been accused of corruption and abuse of power? In all these democracy and transparency is greater in Baghdad than in Kurdistan . The debates that take place in Iraqi Parliament are more lively, intense and democratic than our own Parliament. Therefore, I believe that if the situation in Baghdad moves towards stability this will have an effective impact on the political situation of Kurdistan .

Kirkuk and UN 

[Hawlati]  Do you think that the issue of Kirkuk and Article 140 would be settled in the way the Kurds wish? What do you think of assigning the role to the UN? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  Any [international] issue given to the UN to solve, would become difficult to solve and take a long time. Kirkuk is not different. If the solution is given to the UN, then it will take quite a long time, maybe years. And it is not clear that the outcome will be in the interests of the Kurds because the Kurds do not have any influence within the UN while Arab and Turkish lobbies are very strong. They are stronger than the friends Kurds might have in the UN organisation. 

Kurdistan Budget 

[Hawlati]  There is a lot of talk about Kurdistan Region’s Budget, how it is allocated and how it is spent. It is claimed that there is no transparency in any aspects of the Budget. There is a rumour that 23 per cent of the whole Budget is allocated to the Finance Ministry and it is much greater that the budgets allocated for Ministry of Education and Ministry of Health? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  From the beginning [of Kurdish parties’ rule in Kurdistan region in 1901] until now, there has been no transparency in the Budgets of Iraqi Kurdistan. This is one of the greatest criticisms made and this is one of the main reasons for accusing the political parties [KDP and PUK] and the [Kurdistan Region] Government of corruption. I think it is normal that political parties, organisations of civil society and media get financial support out of the Budget of the region. But I do not think that it is normal to keep this financial support in darkness for ever without anyone knowing how much is spent for whom. This money is public money. You are free to use and spend your won private funds the way you like and how you make yourself rich. But in [dealing with] public money you are not free to divide your own people into two different classes: one superrich and one poor. I think it is very unhealthy to use public money to strengthen the parties. It is a good thing to reveal how the budget is used in this way. It is bad to continue to keep this as a secret. What we see now is keeping this issue in darkness. 

KDP/PUK agreement 

[Hawlati]  Political observers believe that the Kurds suffered a great loss through the internal fighting [between KDP and PUK]. They think that the present strategic agreement between these two parties is damaging Kurdish people in a different way through narrowing the scope of political freedoms. What do you think of this agreement? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  Agreement between PUK and KDP is always in the interests of Kurdish people. When they have conflict, it will damage the Kurds. But it is possible that their ‘strategic agreement’ can be for monopolization of power and narrowing the scope of political freedoms. In the same way it can be used for the broadening the scope of democracy and freedoms and the improvement of the conditions of people’s lives and services, to prevent internal fighting and bloodshed between them. As a principle I think any agreement between them will benefit the Kurds but at the same time I believe that as long as there remains military rivalry between their peshmarga forces the prospect of developing this rivalry into an armed conflict will remain. 

[Hawlati]  Seeing it another way, don’t think that this agreement is because neither Party accepts defeat? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  Yes, this is true, too. 

[Hawlati]  This agreement can also be interpreted as a negative element for the citizens causing the resentment of the majority of people outside these two parties as they have lost energy for making any changes and achievements in different areas of life while these two parties still enjoy greatest wealth and economic power? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  Superficially, maybe this is the case. But you have not offered a new alternative that has been refused by people. In the time of the elections we  asked the citizens to vote for these two parties. If an alternative appeared and people did not vote for it this would show that people are hopeless but I do not know what proof there is that people are so hopeless. 

[Hawlati]  My proof is this massive migration of young people to foreign countries, people have lost enthusiasm for political action, there is a lot of disperse criticism by citizens of the political power that have not been channelled to make it effective? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  This is largely true. But the young people leave because the economic situation is not good. When they arrive [in their destination countries] some of then still engage in political activity. They do not sit idle. 

We are a criticizer group 

[Hawlati]  As a reformist wing, do you consider yourself an opposition or just a critical group? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  First we are not a wing as an organised entity. Second: we are not an opposition group. Opposition must be an alternative to the [ruling] parties in terms of programme and political action. We are neither a party, nor a wing. We do not have a political programme. We can say we are a criticizer group.  

[Hawlati]  If the situation continues as it is now, will you in future come forward as an Independent List or will you lead the movement that is existing in society now, or will you take part [stand?] in elections as an independent person? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  I will answer these questions when the time comes. 

Young people must struggle to force old guard out 

[Hawlati]  How do you see the future of Kurdistan ? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  I see the future of our country as bright. I want to provide a base for this optimism. In the last 15 years 50,000 students have completed university study. They have become doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, and experts in diverse fields. In this world, the richness of countries is measured by the quality of their human resources not by the number of barrels of oil they produce or how much gold they own. We have a great wealth which is our young people.

[Hawlati]  Do you think the [Kurdistan Region] Government has been able to make good use of this human wealth? For example, there is nepotism and bribery now within political parties, how can we bet on these human resources? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  Still it has not been possible to make use of this national wealth, i.e., the young people, and the reason for this is what it is called ‘the old guard”. The old guard are now controlling party life and government. From these 50,000 graduates I do not think 50 of then have entered parliament and cabinet but I am certain that not before long, there will be a change. 

[Hawlati]  Part of the critique of our young people is that Kurdish political leadership pay attention only to old people and do not try to develop the new generation to assume responsibility at the level of leadership? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  This is a struggle that the young people must undertake. There is no example in history that any class has willingly given up power. They must be brought down. Therefore our young people must compete and force the older generation to give way. 

Parliament’s incompetence 

[Hawlati]  There is a lot of talk about [Kurdistan Region] Parliament. People say the MPs are all party members, unable to assess the issues or they are not allowed [to play their roles]? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  I have recently published an article about Parliament. It is encouraging that this Parliament has moved: you are aware that there are no considerable competences in parliament. But still there were differing views about Journalism Act, about the issue of oil and gas, about civil law, about the issue of the budget and financial monitoring and accountability. Few people in Parliament have started to voice their opinions and move the Parliament in the direction of assessing the issues. But this is not at the level that it should be or as it is wished by the citizens. In short, I myself am not happy with what exists now. I had a hope that it would be much more active and effective. One of the impediments can be [the influence of] political parties. 

[Hawlati]  What can the citizens do to make this Parliament more active and effective? For example, you talked about the Journalism Act. It is possible that this would be pushed in a much worse direction. What can MPs do to make Parliament more active? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  I would like to say that as individuals all the MPs are good people, patriots, they love their country. In stead of the [privately-funded] newspapers always criticising them or publishing their photos while they are asleep, they could use two different approaches: First by talking to them, having discussions with them and encouraging them individually to be more effective. The second approach is in stead of just focusing on attacking them in the newspapers, give them reasonable suggestions and solutions too; or analyse and assess the draft laws that later they have to debate and decide upon so that they could be more informed and enlightened about them.; publish their news. All MPs cannot be measured with the same stick. Some are informed about the world. There are others who are not aware of anything. Some are active, some are not. Yes, Parliament is not active. It should have been more active than any other institution [in Kurdistan Region] because they cannot be dismissed and they cannot be punished for what they say. But all the members of parties' leaderships and the cabinet can be changed. MPs cannot be sacked until their term ends unless they choose to resign. They have immunities that they can use. At least to make a name for themselves they can be very pro-active and put their names forward for another round of elections. The journalists can help them in these by co-operating with them and encouraging them rather than just exposing their weaknesses. 

[Hawlati]  But don’t you think that the incompetence in Parliament is the result of the prevailing system in Kurdistan where the Parties interfere in everything, or is it that just they have no parliamentary skills? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  I think the main reason is the interference of political parties. 

Privately-funded newspapers and political power

[Hawlati]  Today there is a strong attack against privately-funded newspapers by the media of [the dominant] political parties [PUK and KDP]. What do you think of this? Do you think it is the result of the KDP and PUK approach to the privately-funded and independent newspapers? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  You believe in freedom of expression. This [phenomenon] is an aspect of freedom of expression that exists. One dimension of this could be self-protection. They are constantly criticised by privately-funded newspapers and they are responding to these criticisms. 

[Hawlati]  What can be done to make the private-sector newspapers more appealing to the citizens? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  They must be more accurate and honest when publishing news and information items. It is most important that they do not only see the dark side of things and present the frustrating aspects of what happens. Some of the good achievements and work need to be addressed in the newspapers so that the political power and leadership of the parties do not think that the private-sector newspapers exist solely to oppose them. Yes, they must criticise the Government and the bad actions of the political power. This is the main task of the journalists. Unfortunately we in this country have not been able to strengthen the Fourth Power although the other powers are weak too. But the Fourth Power is the weakest. To make it strong and effective, the news, the opinions and the writings and analyses must be based on the principles of truth and accuracy. 

PUK Party Conference 

[Hawlati]  There is a rumour that PUK conference would be postponed until talks are held with you and those who are critical of the Party and there would be no conference until this issue is sorted out? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  I have no information about this and no one has approached me on this issue. 

[Hawlati]  If they approach you for negotiation, would you be positive? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  I am outside this question. But there are a number of people in the political bureau with who they can negotiate. They can hold talks with them 

[Hawlati]  Do you think there is a possibility that you return to PUK? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  At present, not at all. 

The opposition role of the Four Parties 

[Hawlati]  The Four Parties have presented a memorandum to [Kurdistan Region] Government. What do you think about them? Can they be an opposition group or part of the government? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  I have expressed my opinion on this: there is no opposition. I said these four people could participate in government and support KDP and PUK on the important issues. But if they do not participate in government and play the role of opposition [KDP and PUK] can starve them to death. Their cadres will not be paid, their officials will not be appointed and they do not have financial ability to stand on their own feet. It is very sad that this is the case. I am very unhappy that this is the case. But I think they do a good thing if they will continue on pressing for the implementation of the demands they have presented in their memorandum.  

[Hawlati]  Do you think this is a beginning of a transformation in their relationship with KDP and PUK?

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  I don’t think so. I think the aim is to get more benefits from the Government. 

The past and the future 

[Hawlati]  It is often said that Nawshirwan Mustafa is only talking about the past and never has something to say about the future while he is in a position to bring about some change? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  Yes. I have talked about the past so that we take lessons from it to benefit the present. The series of articles I have written are a sort of political philosophy for government. When we call for the separation of party from the legislative and executive power, this means to take the parties out of the universities, peshmarga forces and security. This in itself is a political approach that is different from what exists now. This is something for future. When you separate the party from the state, then the state will become an institution in its own. But now the party ahs even replaced the state. It is the party that directs the legislative and executive power and the authority of the universities. This approach is not about the past. It is related to the present. The old issues I talked about are some issues such as negotiations between the Kurdistan Front and the Baath regime. Now this type of negotiation between Bath and Kurds is about to be repeated in Baghdad in approaching the issue of Kirkuk and other issues. I am not telling history for its own sake. When I call the parties to leave parliament, alone and separate party power from government, I am talking about the present. 

[Hawlati]  Some observers believe that the power of the central Government might increase in the region and they consider this as losing an important achievement of the Uprising and independence? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  No, this is not the case. The current conditions are becoming more consolidated by day and it would not be possible to have a central power in Baghdad in the form that existed before. This will not be accepted by Kurdish people and even by Kurdish political leadership. 

[Hawlati]  KDP and PUK are controlling the [smaller Kurdish parties] through the funds they are making available to them. Don’t you think that the Central Government can use the same method: to control political parties and Kurdistan through the budget it allocated to them? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  No, what they give us is not a favour. It is our [constitutional] share of the overall Budget of the Iraqi Government. 

[Hawlati]  What KDP and PUK are giving to other parties is not a favour but it has practically become so? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  Yes, now KDP and PUK give funds to other parties as a favour. But in Baghdad there is a state in which we are partners. We have participation in Presidency of the Republic, Government and Parliament. The Budget we are given is the income of Iraq . For some time Iraq survived on the oil of Kirkuk , now we receive benefits from the oil of Basra . There is no favour in this. 

[Hawlati]  But in your own writings you are not satisfied with the performance of the Kurdish officials in Baghdad . Don’t you think that Iraq can use their weakness to gain further control over Kurdistan Region? 

[Nawshirwan Mustafa]  No, I believe that now even if we ourselves invite them to return to Kurdistan Region, they will refuse!

[The headings are added by the translator.]

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