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June 10, 2009 An interview with Nawshirwan Mustafa

Kurdishaspect.com - Translated by Simko Azad

Interviewer - Ahmed Zaweti 

AL-JAZEERA:  You as a group in the PUK leadership have announced a programme of "Change" in Iraqi Kurdistan, what is this programme? 

NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  Currently we are a group working outside of the PUK, not within it. The programme of the "Change List" in summary is  the separation of government  from the political parties. We will try to create a parliament which is not controlled by the political buro's of the political parties, we will strengthen an independent, non-corrupt and just judiciary, we will set borders for the interference of political parties in the economy and in the universities and we will support a more transparent budget for the Kurdistan regional government, we also want greater social justice. 

AL-JAZEERA:  Why did you not have these demands before? why now? 

NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  The Kurdistan experiment [in self governance] is now 18 years old. In the first elections, in 1992, our chief aim was to fill the vacuum created by the withdrawal of the central government. In those elections we had to recreate governmental institutions and fill the constitutional, political and security void in Kurdistan. 

The 2005 elections were at a different stage, at that time the Kurdistan region was stable from a political, security and even economic point of view. At that time the chief aim was rewriting the Iraqi constitution, that is why it was important to have a united Kurdish line to ensure Kurdish participation in Iraqi governing bodies. We were successful  in that stage. 

Now the chief aim has to be internal reform;  political reform, social reform, cultural reform and economic reform. 

AL-JAZEERA:  Some political observers say that your stance will lead to a division in the Kurdish position in Baghdad in the future. 

NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  We do not believe that Kurdish unity is having a single Kurdish list we believe hat Kurdish unity is having one Kurdish line. It is possible for us to have a common line with all the political parties in Kurdistan and yet at the same time, compete for chairs in the parliament of Kurdistan. 

AL-JAZEERA:  In relation to your participation in the Parliamentary elections with an independent list, what are your preparations, what is your election programme. NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:   Like I discussed initially, our programme is made up of a few key points. The main one is the separation of the government from the political parties.  A parliament free of political party control. An effective executive and an independent judiciary with no party political influence in the universities,  a market  free of political party control. These are our aims. 

AL-JAZEERA:  You have been discussing these issues for a number of months, what effect has it had on the Kurdish streets? Is this a new message? 

NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  It has had an extremely good effect. People are very receptive, because we have passed the stage of danger in Kurdistan, the political, security and economic situation is now stable, there are good relations between the KRG and the central government based on the constitution, dialogue and mutual understanding. That is why the time has come for us to give more importance to providing services to the Kurdish citizens, for example; providing electricity, drinking water and building schools, hospitals and reducing the difference between the  highest salary available to government employees and the smallest salary.  AL-JAZEERA:  How have you prepared for the post election situation?  If you are asked will you participate in the government or remain as a opposition bloc.  NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA: Its to soon to answer that question, let us wait for the election results.  AL-JAZEERA:  Regarding alliances before and after the elections, apart from the PUK and KDP have any sides asked you for an alliance to participate in your programme? 

NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  No one has asked for an alliance, however at the same time we are trying to co-ordinate with all the other lists, co-ordination on election observers, broadcasting and politics, co-ordination not an alliance. An Alliance or co-ordination after the elections is dependent on the election results.  AL-JAZEERA:  You as the Movement for change or the Reformist trend in Kurdish politics, how do you see relations between Baghdad and Kurdistan,  will they be via the KRG or will you have your own relations, do you currently have relations with Baghdad or the Iraqi political parties? 

NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:   We are not a political party to have bilateral or trilateral relationships, the KRG parliament is the key to the solution of all political difficulties. We will attempt to create a constitutional department to hold all Kurdish representatives in Baghdad to account. Currently there is no mechanism to hold Kurdish officials in Baghdad accountable.  We [the Kurds] are not in opposition we are partners in the government of Iraq. We are partners in the decision making process, in the ministries and in parliament. That is why dialogue is the key to solving all the outstanding issues with Baghdad.  AL-JAZEERA:   Do  you, or your list have relations with America , as the worlds superpower. Do you have any relations or have the Americans contacted you to create relations? 

NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  Political and diplomatic relations are the responsibility of the federal Iraqi government as is foreign policy.  Maintaining relations with America is one of the chief duties of the Iraqi government.  On the other hand the Kurdish movement has had relations with the American administration for more than 20 years particularly after the creations of the safe havens [After the first gulf war] since that time till the modern day there have been relations between the Kurdish leadership and the Americans.  The Americans have an interest in the region, they have an interest in creating relationships with the people of the region. They have an interest in seeing stability in the region, an interest in preventing terrorism in the region.  The relations are at that level and I don?t believe that there are any relations outside of the central Iraqi government.  AL-JAZEERA:  Iran now has a important role in Iraq. It has open relations with the KRG, both ruling Kurdish parties and other Iraqi forces in the southern and central regions.  As Sulaimaniyah is a region bordering Iran, has Iran not attempted to make contact with you, do you have any relations with Iran? 

NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  Iran is an important country and is a great power in the region. Iraq has more than  1000km of common border with Iran, not only a common border but religious, national, cultural  and  economic ties exist between the two countries.  That is why it is important to have strong relations between Iraq and Iran and the KRG. 

Kurdistan-Iraq has more than 600km of border with Iran, that is why it is essential that we have good relations with Iran, and to have relations based on mutual interest?s . Relations between Iran and the central government and with the KRG are good, There are Iranian consulates in both Hawler and Sulaimaniyah as well as economic centres and Iranian companies operating in Kurdistan. 

AL-JAZEERA:  But as a political entity, do you have relations with Iran. 

NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  No 

AL-JAZEERA:  As an influential Kurdish politician, how do you see Kurdish relations with Turkey on one hand and with Iran on another. 

NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:   That is a very problematic issue. As the Kurdish people are divided over a number of countries, such as Iraq, Iran and Turkey.  There are national relationships across the borders between the Kurds.  At the same time there are problems between the KRG and the neighbouring states especially Turkey over the concentration of armed forces on the borders.  Also the difficulty of the border terrain means that the KRG cannot control all the border regions. The Kurdish problem in Turkey, is Turkey?s problem not Iraq?s. The Kurdish problem in Turkey cannot be solved through the use of armed force on behalf of the Iraqi Kurds. The problem can only be solved politically and it can only be solved within Turkey not through Iraq. 

AL-JAZEERA:  You have discussed the Kurdish problem in turkey and Iran,, The Kurdish issue in Iraq has been solved via federalism, there are other solutions to the Kurdish issue, will federalism solve the Kurdish problem? or do you have a different project for solving the Kurdish issue in Iraq. 

NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  At this stage, federalism is a very good solution, the Kurds remaining in Iraq is a strength and not a weakness. That is why I support federalism and when the federal Constitution was being written in Baghdad I participated in writing it.  AL-JAZEERA:  Kurdish politicians continuously discuss remaining within Iraq. Some Arab politicians believe that this will change in the future and that this is just a tactical stand.  NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  I believe that we will remain in Iraq for the near future, but I cannot foretell the future. 20 years ago Europe was a different shape from what it is now and in 20 years it will be different again, the middle east is the same, I cannot tell what will happen in the next 20 years. 

AL-JAZEERA:  On the Kurdish street there is a worry that your relations with the PUK will go to a "cold war" and that past secrets will be revealed.  NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  I support closing the pages of the past, as you know there was a civil war in Kurdistan, after this all sides came to peace.  I am with keeping the peace and not turning over the pages of the past. We do not want to go into the twists and turns of history which will not help serve the future. However if we return to the past, we have no fear of discussion. 

On the other hand I hope that the situation will not weaken Kurdistan politically or non-politically. On our part, we have no armed forces, the security situation and protecting the elections is the sole responsibility of the KRG and they can use the law to prevent any detrimental effects occurring. 

AL-JAZEERA:  Are you worried that the current situation will go from a media debate to armed confrontation between you and the Kurdish political parties. 

NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  We are a political movement we have no armed forces. Our defence is the courts and the law. If we are prevented from using the courts in Sulaimaniyah, we will go to the Federal courts or the international courts. We will not resort to violence. 

AL-JAZEERA:  The local Kurdish media is highlighting pressures on your cadres and supporters, have you not taken a stand against these pressures through the courts? 

NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  We see these actions as against human rights and the rights of the citizens, a government?s role should be to find jobs and salaries for citizens [not to cut them], we will defend our citizens through the courts. AL-JAZEERA:  Our last question, what are your relations with Jalal Talabani like? you were the first and second people in the  PUK 

 NAWSHIRWAN MUSTAFA:  On a personal basis our relations are normal. 

AL-JAZEERA:  Mr Nawshirwan Mustafa, leader of the Change list, Thank you for this opportunity. 

Originally Broadcast 20:00, 7.8.2009 on Aljazeera International Television. 

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