A New Democracy Grows in the Middle East

The following article was written by Anahit Khatchikian and Roni Alasor, and published by Ararat News — it is reproduced here with their permission. The opinions expressed are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

On economic level Federal Kurdistan Region (Iraq) has been compared by Western media to the Dubai. The political observers qualify it as close to the Western type democracy in the Middle East. From social and cultural prospective it is described as multi-ethnical society where different ethnical and religious groups coexist in peace. What is behind these praising labels, which Kurdistan Region acquired so quickly after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime? Will the young Kurdish democracy succeed to respond to the challenge and justify these high expectations at a time when the wind of change and political instability blows in the countries in the Middle East and North Africa?

We’ve just visited Federal Kurdistan Region 8 years after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. While the rest of Iraq is still under the sign of instability, suicide bombs and terrorist attacks, Kurdistan Region enjoys relative safety and stability. The special trained Kurdish security forces and check points still exist, but they give to the citizens feeling of protection and calmness. We shared this feeling of security and it gave us good opportunity to observe the recent developments in the Region.

The tragic history of Kurds during Saddam

The history of Iraqi Kurdistan before 1991 is the history of destruction and displacement. Few decades ago one could hardly believe that in Kurdistan Region a city with high towers will emerge under the ruins and the trash; that a western type democracy would be born after centuries of massacres, deportations, chemical attacks (Anfal Campaign of the Baath regime against Kurds in 1986-1989, including ground offensives, aerial bombing, systematic destruction of settlements, mass deportation, firing squads, and chemical warfare, Halabja poison gaz attack -1988). Kurds in Federal Region of Kurdistan had been fighting for their rights nearly during the whole XX century. Several generations of grandfathers, fathers and sons have spent their life as Peshmerga (Freedom Fighters) in the mountains and nearly every family lost a family member in this long lasting hard fight.

Today 4.7 million Kurds enjoy autonomy in this “quasi-state” of about 40,643 square kilometres (about the same size as Netherlands or Denmark). They have directly elected Parliament based in the capital Erbil and composed of 111 Members. 10 % of them are representative of the ethnical and religious minorities and about 40 % are women. The Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) composed of 19 ministers not only governs the internal affairs in the Region, but also maintain foreign relations with different countries all over the world. In the KRG Foreign Relations Department about 50 young and educated diplomats and administrators speaking several languages (among them already more than 10 % are women) open up the new way of Kurdistan Region to the world. Currently, there are 11 KRG representations abroad, including to the USA and to the EU, as well as about 20 foreign consulates in Kurdistan Region. Recently, Kurdistan region opened its representation in France, while Bulgaria is the next EU member, which will open consulate in Erbil.

The Kurds have their own army composed of 100 000 Peshmerga and many thousand Special Forces, including anti-terror units. There are two intelligent services based in Erbil (Parastin) and Suleymania (Zanyar), which work closely and count mainly on the cooperation of the ordinary people to prevent any kind of external or internal threat.

Kurds keep strong positions in Bagdad

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