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 Democracy, the Kurdish Style.

Nov. 17, 05 

By William Warda 


During his visit to the US, Masoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, and the Supreme Leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, was warmly welcomed at the Oval Office by President Bush on Oct. 25th . In a banquet next day Barzani greeted his Kurdish and Assyrian guests by speaking of "The brotherly love between the Kurds and Assyrian residents of Kurdistan and "their role in promoting democracy and progress." Recent events however prove that Kurdish leaders' newly found infatuation with democracy is because they can use it to oppress others without being seen as dictators.

During the Oct. 15th constitutional referendum Kurdish officials used fear and intimidation in the Plain of Nineveh to prevent those who would have voted against it from exercising their voting rights. This substantiates the Sunni charges of fraudulent vote totals in the province showing that only 55 percent voted against the constitution far less than required 2/3 majority expected..

Advisers to the US military reported that the 'Kurdish Democratic Party ' (KDP) transported non-resident Kurdish voters in convoy of buses into the Assyrian towns north of Mosul such as; Qaragosh, Bartilla, Algosh, Telesqof, Telkaif accompanied by a large Kurdish militia which intimidated the election officials at the polling stations to provid them with ballots to vote. The local population resented the unlimited power given to the Kurds in the proposed constitution and planned to vote overwhelmingly against it, but was intimidated into staying home. The constitution in these towns passed by a large majority.

Before the referendum, rumors were spread by the Kurds in the Nineveh province that those who vote against the Constitution will no longer be provided food ration Cards which are controlled and distributed by the Kurdish officials. "Many farmers and their families reported they voted "yes" because they were told it will ensure the renewal of their Ration Cards.

Reasons for voting against the constitution by the Assyrians included the unlimited power given to the Kurds, the separation of Chaldeans from Assyrians as two different ethnic people to divide the community and undermine its rights, fear of future Kurd's oppression evident by how they have terrorized the local population, and the role of Islam in legislating the laws leading to the imposition of Sharia.

All pleas to redress such concerns were ignored. On August 24th there were demonstrations in Bartilla, Baghdeda, Qaragosh and Telesqop against the separation of the Chaldeans and Assyrians. Two days later, the KDP struck back by killing at random the 37 year old Nabil Akram Ammona, a resident of Bartilla, as he was filling his car with gasoline. When Mr. Mattai Zora rushed to assist him, he was killed also.

Kurds have let it be known that they intend to bring under their absolute rule not only he city of Kirkuk also the Assyrian towns north of Nineveh where the number of Kurds living in the region is very small. During an interview in last August with the Washington Post reporter a local KDP official admitted to such intention.

The same article revealed "Kurdish militia have beaten up anyone who refuses to go along with their plans, individuals have been arrested and sent to jails in Kurdistan for activities such as "writing against the Kurds on the internet". There is a suspicion that several Assyrians were murdered by the KDP during the last year to terrorize the community.

On October 29th Michael Seron an Assyrian engineer who was the assistant manager of Iraq's North Oil company was shot and killed by unknown gunmen. Some of his friends stated that days before his death he had been visited at work by the KDP agents and was told he should either join the the KDP or resign from his position, he had refused. Forcing Assyrian leaders into the "Kurdistan Political Party" is intended by the Kurds to deprive the community from an independent leadership and use the Assyrian members of the KDP as tools to serve the Kurdish interest instead of their people, in many ways similar to how Saddam Hosain Baath party carried out its Arabization policy.

Kurds desire to claim these towns as part of Kurdistan evokes fears that they plan to ethnic cleanse the region and populate it with the Kurds. These are historic towns which have been inhabited primarily by the Assyrians since ancient times and are the last few remaining small cities predominantly populated by them.

Given the historic predatory treatment of the Assyrians by the Kurds and their militarism such concerns should not be dismissed lightly. During world war one Kurds in cooperation with Turkey massacred half a million Assyrians. The survivors were driven from their homes in Southwest Turkey, the mountains north of Mosul, and Urmia, in northwest Iran. The Kurdish rebellions between 1960's to 1990 resulted in bombing of the Assyrian villages north of Duhuk by the Iraqi forces who did not distinguish between the former and the latter. More than 220 Assyrian villages were destroyed at that time and their inhabitants were partly killed and the rest were driven out. During the Kurdish rebellions beginning in 1984 in SouthEast Turkey Assyrians were terrorized by both sides and forced to flee to Syria and Europe.

It is Ironic that President Jalal Talabani, who is a Kurd, described "those who voted for the Iraq draft constitution as 'partisans of democracy, freedom, and human rights' and those who voted no as 'partisans of terrorism, al-Qaida organization, and Arab chauvinism." Such sentiments bring to mind Saddam Hosain's demand that 100 percent of Iraqi's should vote yes on referendum every seven years to reelect him as president. The use of the Kurdistan Democratic Party to terrorize the none Kurds into submission is similar to the Saddam Hosain's use of Baath Party to Arabize the none Arabs including the Kurds. In other words Kurds who decried being persecuted by Saddam have no problem doing the same to the none Kurds.

This is not the first time that Kurds have prevented the Assyrians in the Plain of Nineveh from exercising their voting rights. During the Iraqi elections of Temporary Assembly in January 2005, Kurds blocked the delivery of the Ballot boxes to the Assyrian villages in the region. By some estimate 30,000 Assyrian voters were not allowed to vote.

When the Ballot boxes did not arrive Spontaneous demonstration were organized by several hundred people in Qaragosh who chanted "We want to democratically select our own representatives". Louis Markus Ayoob the deputy mayer of the city and a representative of the Electoral Committee at the town contacted the Election committee in Mosul and made arrangements for the extension of the voting hours at the town and the delivery of the Ballot boxes by the Americans at a specific time and place. However Markus was unable to get to the helicopters because he was intercepted by the Kurdish soldiers and taken to the KDP headquarters where he was beaten brutally and held prisoner until midnight. Ballot boxes were never delivered to other Assyrian towns in the Plain of Nineveh either. An investigation by the Election Committee revealed improprieties but did not redress the injustice.

Democracy becomes nothing more than a mockery when those who are trusted with implementing it have no respect for the rights of the others, Kurdish leaders like other dictators pretend devotion to the principals of democracy while they are oppressing the helpless minorities to profit from their misery.

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