By Chris Bowers, British Consul General in Erbil. This article was originally published by Rudaw, and is re-published with permission by Iraq Business News.
It has been an interesting few weeks in Kurdistan – though I think I could have safely written that each week that I have been here so far – as society and politicians have been discussing, in public and private, the boundaries of legitimate opposition in the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
This is a common thread in Kurdish politics but has come into sharper focus following the uprisings across the Middle East. That said, it is clear that Tunisia and Egypt are not like KRG in many ways. Iraqi Kurds for one thing enjoy more freedom. If this is the ‘Arab Spring’ then the Kurds have already had theirs – a Kurdish Newroz? – and moved on some time ago.
But it is striking the extent to which events across the Middle East have prompted Kurdish society to look at itself. That can only be a good thing. The consensus seems to be that further reforms in governance and public services in the KRG are needed. The most encouraging aspect for an outsider is that this is being done through dialogue and debate.
The United Kingdom stands ready to help the reform process. A good, current example: the UK’s chief fire officer, Sir Ken Knight, is currently in the KRG advising the Ministry of Interior and Civil Defence teams on how to reduce fire deaths.
Watching from afar, it seems to me that people in Tunisia and Egypt are demanding accountability, fairness and the rule of law.