Barzani, on the 33rd anniversary of his death PDF Print E-mail

By Dr. Abdul Hussein Shaaban*

We can say that the contemporary Kurdish movement came out from the "Jamdani" (head cover worn by Kurdish men) of Mulla Mustafa al-Barzani in the history of the contemporary Iraqi state.

If this statement was applied to the Kurdish national liberation movement in Iraq, then it is not far off from the rest of Kurdistan because of the prominent role of Barzani in leadership and the position it occupied in the general Kurdish nation. He was able, by his qualifications, location, wisdom and foresight, to achieve a lot for the Kurdish people and to raise their issue in various fields and forums, especially after the revolution of September 11, 1961 in Iraqi Kurdistan. This was despite the complex conditions and foreign interventions and international conflicts during the Cold War period, particularly in the absence of the Kurdish issue from the international arena since the twenties of last century. And after Lozan from 1923 until 1991 after the issuance of resolution no. 688 of the UN Security Council on April 5 related to respecting the human rights in Iraq and stopping the repression that the areas of the Kurdish region were subjected to and the rest of Iraq considering it a threat for international peace and security.


Many elements of power were found in Barzani's personality that are rarely found in one person. These elements are objective and subjective. He is a descendant of the famous Barzani family which follows the Naqshbandi way and has significant religious, financial, and moral powers. In addition the Naqshbandi are a fighting and courageous family which contributed to many movements and uprisings against the Ottoman ruling and after it when Iraq became subjected to the British influence and destroying Barzani's area 17 times and being subjected to sabotage and bombing several times in one century wasn't done for nothing.



Barzani grew up in harsh conditions. When he was three years old he was imprisoned with his mother in Mosul prison and his brother Abdul Salam was executed. The boy grew up in the conditions of resistance and facing challenges for self defense and to defend the rights of the Kurds, both through his participation in the revolution of Kurdistan Turkey 1917-1919 or the revolution of Sheikh Mahmood al-Hafid in Sulaimaniya in 1919, where he implemented the instructions of his elder brother Sheikh Ahmed Barzani.


In the thirties he participated in the preparation, implementation and leadership for the Barzan movement and in mid-1936 he was arrested in Mosul. He was transferred with Sheikh Ahmed Barzani and a large number of Barzani families to Baghdad and other Iraqi cities where they were forced to stay. This procedure was always followed by the successive governments against the Kurds, where they were displaced and deported to other areas under the pretext of security conditions.


During World War II (1943) when he arrived to the "Henw" village in Iran, in preparation to move to Barzan to lead the Barzan movement between 1943-1945, Barzani was experienced in military leadership and at the same time acquired political skills and his leadership qualifications contributed to the establishment of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in 1946. Barzani played his part in the Kurdish-Iranian Mahabad Republic with judge Mohammed who was executed in 1947, at which point Barzani was forced to to leave Kurdistan where he sought political asylum in the previous Soviet Union along with a number of his supporters. He lived in exile for 12 years.


After the July 14 revolution in 1958 he was able to return to Iraq on October 6, 1958 where he was eagerly hosted in the presence of the revolution government of the leader Abdul Karim Qasim. He was on his way back when he met with the Egyptian leader Jamal Abdul Nasser in Cairo to confirm the importance and necessity of Arab-Kurdish brotherhood. He also chose the port of Basra as a station to head to Baghdad and then to Kurdistan.


It is ironic to note that Barzani was sentenced to death in absentia in 1943 in both Iraq and Iran and the two governments allocated 50,000 dinars as a reward for those who arrested him or provided information about him. The Turkish government arrested earlier the Sheikh Ahmed Barzani and handed him over to the Iraqi government in 1933. This reflects the national dimension of his movement on the one hand and the role of geopolitics in ignoring the Kurdish people and their rights on the other hand. It also reflects security and government cooperation between the three governments, which made over the three quarters of a century or more in the policies of the three countries towards the Kurdish issue. In the nineties officials of Iraq, Iran and Syria used to meet periodically to discuss the Kurdish issue in Iraq linked to developments of the establishment of independent Kurdish country from the central government in Iraq.



Barzani was able to combine closely between their strong defense and his unlimited faith in the case of his people and his nation and the justice of their cause. His ability to understand the distinct relationship with the Arab people gave him a prominent place not only as a Kurdish leader but also as a prominent Iraqi personality that played an important role especially in the three decades that followed the revolution of July 14, 1958 in Iraqi politics, where it was impossible to be ignored or to be excluded from any solution to the governing crisis in Iraq.


Therefore, the governments, "revolutions", and military coups took his opinion because he represented the Kurdish street, regardless of agreement or disagreement about his policies or his approach by other politicians and in subsequent assessments.


Barzani died in exile away from Kurdistan and the land that he loved, but according to his will his remains were returned to his homeland (Barzan) where he grew up. Barzani died on March 1, 1979 in the USA and was buried in the Henw Iranian town of Henw (near the border). His remains were received in an atmosphere of grief and sadness on October 16, 1993, and his friends and the Kurdish people started visiting his grave in the Barzan area where popular marches are organized on the anniversary of his death every year.


The writer of the lines witnessed on March 1, 2000 during his visit to the Kurdistan region to lecture graduate students at the University of Salahaddin (politics and law faculty) the flow of large numbers of citizens to Barzan from the Kurdistan region. The visit of the grave has become a popular tradition to express the relation of the Kurdish citizens to Barzani. Perhaps the Kurds wanted to express their adherence to the path chosen by Barzani and about the justice of his case.



Exceptional flexibility and realism


Barzani was an exceptional leader in every sense of the word, he was able to combine the determination and the spirit of resistance on the one hand and between flexibility and willingness for solutions on the other. And in addition to the spirit of pride and national pride he respected other people and nations and was humble and polite. Although he was flustered and rebellious in the battlefield, he was peaceful, tolerant and gentle, especially against the innocent and defenseless.


In a question to the brother Mr. Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Region, to clarify and complete the picture, he said: "After the assassination attempt that targeted Barzani using bombed car that the security services, led by Nazim Kazar the director of public security at that time (1971) was accused of, we have the information and estimates to respond the same and the plan was successful and we informed Barzani and his face frowned and did not respond and when he prayed he said to us 'we do not respond to crimes with the same because this will affect the children, women and innocent people. I strongly warn you to ask you to stop thinking about these things'."


The arms were used in the Kurdish revolution for self defense and the revolution was not classified as "terrorism". Barzani considered these acts as cowardice and not resistance or self-defense. This made a character such as Kreisky, the Chancellor of Austria, describe the Kurdish revolution as "clean revolution" because it tried to move away as much as possible from the acts of sabotage or bombings, or acts of violence or assassinations of innocent citizens and its operations were limited to basic self-defense and attacks against military government bases in Kurdistan, especially the attacking ones.


The theme of Barzani was "Grant amnesty when you can" and on its basis he dealt with the "Johoush" and received some of them who left their positions and betrayed their people. He dealt with flexibility and responsibility towards them and showed understanding towards the pressures they were exposed to, not to mention the temptations and encouragement if they decided to break their association with the friendliness parties for the Kurdish people.


The Kurdish movement followed this aspect where after the revolution of March 1991 it controlled the provinces of Kurdistan and imprisoned large numbers of officers, soldiers and government officials and Baathists. But it dealt with them in a humanitarian way (although there are some exceptions) following the instructions of the "Kurdistan Front", especially Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Mam Jalal Talabani, secretary general of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, despite the bitterness that the Kurdish people suffered from especially when Halabja was under chemical bombing on March 16-17, 1988. Some 5,000 citizens were killed in addition to the Anfal operations that claimed the lives of tens of thousands of unarmed Kurdish citizens and the destruction of 4,500 villages during the Iraqi-Iranian war.



Lessons of the historical experience!


I can say that Barzani absorbed dynamically, and from his rich historical experience especially in recent years, the most important lessons of the Kurdish nationalist movement in its foreign relations, especially with regional and international powers. That appeared in what Kissinger the former Foreign Minister of the United States of America expressed about separating politics from morality, in particular by subjecting the interests of the Kurdish movement to the strategic interests of the US in the international relations and perhaps his was the base of the Turkish, Iranian and Israeli strategy in the region that tried to get benefit of the Kurdish issue in Iraq for their own interests.


Barzani revealed bitterly about this fact, and this is what can be concluded from his letters to the US administration, where no friendship with any enemy for the Arabs can be done with the Kurds, just as the Arabs cannot accept any enemy for the Kurds. Such an important and dangerous conclusion was one of the lessons of the setback in 1975 where the March 6 agreement was signed between the Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and former President Saddam Hussein (representative at that time).


Barzani has realized more deeply and especially after the Bayan Convention on March 11, 1970 with the Iraqi government the need and importance to put the Kurdish issue in the right place within the Iraqi issue. The national democratic solution and Arab-Kurdish brotherhood is the main step in solving the Kurdish problem in the context of the governing problem in Iraq as a whole.


Barzani understood the interrelationships between the national issue and the issue of democracy, where we cannot talk about the rights of the Kurdish people in Iraq or other parts of Kurdistan without talking about democracy, because its absence has reduced the possibility of resolving the Kurdish issue and the recognition of the rights of the Kurdish people peacefully. And he said that the military solution is more likely to happen but it could not reach a reasonable and fair solution for his case but just made things worse.


This is why the slogan of the leftist national and democratic movement, including the Kurdistan Democratic Party, was, for many years, "democracy for Iraq and self governance for Kurdistan". It is the most realistic term at that stage about the overlap between the democratic solution to resolve the governance crisis in Iraq and the peaceful solution for the Kurdish cause.


Perhaps the enormity of the absence of democracy was also reflected in depriving the Kurdish people from exercising their legitimate rights in the expression about forming a political entity, as well as depriving it from their right of expression, association and political participation that are of the basic rights approved by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights issued on December 10, 1948 in addition to the two international covenants. The first covenant on civil and political rights and the second covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, issued by the public assembly of the United Nations in 1966 and have been in force since 1976. The convenants recognize the right of self determination.


The enormity of the absence of democracy was also embodied in the absence of the implementation of the Iraqi state for its essential duties, especially the full rights of citizenship and non-discrimination. The successive governments continued monopolizing power which led to a strong inclination to ignore the rights under the rule of totalitarian tyranny. This led to the gradual social denial of the Kurdish people of their legitimate rights, and basically their right of self-determination.


Perhaps blocking the right of political participation in the management of political affairs and holding sovereign positions has been one of the problems of the Iraqi state since its formation. This increases with the isolation of the Kurdish people. Experience has shown that the Kurdish issue can be solved without endorsing a constitutional pluralist parliamentary system. With the first experiment since the establishment of the Iraqi state in 1921 and the issuance of the Basic Law in 1925, the imbalance in the composition of the Iraqi state increased as did the neglect of the Kurdish national existence. Annexing the region to foreign allies increased its dependence, especially after the establishment of the Baghdad Pact (Sentu Pact - Central Treaty Ally) in 1955.


Kurdish issue from judicial approach


Despite the development that happened after the revolution of July 14, 1958 by approving the partnership between Arabs and Kurds in the Iraqi nation (Article III), which is considered the first constitutional text that recognizes the rights of the Kurdish people, the tensed situation and asking the Kurdish people to continue and develop its rights and taking the country towards autocracy led to the increasingly tensed situation and bombing of the Barzan area in 1961. The September revolution broke out in 1961, led by Barzani.


The convention of June 29, 1966 between the Government of Dr. Abdul Rahman al-Bazzaz and the leadership of Barzani as a long-term truce and the peace that emerged from it remained accompanied with caution and an atmosphere of mistrust and uncertainty.


The convention of March 11, 1970 meanwhile was the most important and most comprehensive and recognized the rights of the Kurdish people. It is considered the best and deepest legal text obtained by the Kurdish people in its modern history since the establishment of civil rule in Iraq in 1921. The March 11 convention was at that time the excellent text for the countries of the region that suffer from the Kurdish problem, especially Turkey, Iran and Syria.


The March 11 statement put the right foundation for a reasonable peaceful political solution for the Kurdish issue and it was possibly developed and deepened on the basis of common understanding and interest away from military and violent solutions that achieved nothing except defeat and failure constantly. The Self-Governance Act of 1974 was formulated on its basis. The law is considered a significant development in the eye of the region's governments to the Kurdish issue despite the shortcomings and gaps that the law and government practices followed.


The indication of this development in the Kurdish issue legally and politically lay in the legislation of a new interim constitution for the country on July 16, 1970 that continued until the occupation of Iraq on April 9, 2003 and included important constitutional drafting although the lesson is not in texts but in practice. This is what was taken into consideration in the light of new texts for the law of State Administration for the interim period 2004, or the permanent constitution in 2005 and the previous experience had a major role in laying the foundations to give up violent and military methods to resolve the Kurdish issue. It is one of the lessons of the present and future.


Perhaps this was considered as a basis beginning from the constitutional rule which texts were developed in line with the needs and demands of the Kurdish people and its rights that were developed by the parliament of Kurdistan in 1992 by issuing the federal union law.


The researcher notes that the presence of a text that considers the Iraqi people as two main Arab and Kurdish nationalities, as stated in Article five, is an important issue in the constitutional development for the Kurdish issue where the mentioned issue included two texts which have significant importance that appeared for the first time in Iraqi legislation, where it stated on the Kurdish nationalism and Kurdish people. Article VII of the Interim Constitution for the year 1970 (paragraph B) assured that the Kurdish language is an official language along with the Arabic in the Kurdish region, in accordance with the statement of March 11 which considered Kurdish as the education language in these areas, and decided to observe the principle of efficiency and the proportion of population in holding important positions such as ministries and the army the vice president must be Kurdish.


Unfortunately things went off on the other direction where fighting began and took away all the possibilities of understanding and peaceful resolution because of the exclusivity approach on one hand and the overlaps and external pressures on the other hand for regional and international powers, especially Iran. After the Algiers Convention in 1975 the government used organized violence where it carried out collective punishment and forced displacement in an attempt to change the population structure and national presence.


Another lesson that Barzani inspired from his own experience, especially after the Convention of March 6, 1975 is that any solution no matter how positive it was and meets, to certain limits, the demands and rights of the Kurdish people, will remain incomplete and vulnerable for exclusion in the absence of constitutional and democratic institutions, because it is possible to be reversed and aborted, especially without supervision and accountability.


Any solution must be supported with the popular will in a way that it can express itself in order to be a firm and consistent solution and not only a temporary solution. This will not be achieved except in a peaceful and normal atmosphere and it will not be a strategic solution or a political deal with this political group or that party because this will allow its denial as happened with the previous experiences. Perhaps such a strategic solution requires recognition of the right to self- determination in order not to consider this right as a grant or gift, but rather as recognition of a painful situation which absence caused suffering for Kurdish people.


Ambiguous understanding of federalism


If the Kurdish parliament (National Council for Iraqi Kurdistan) chose federalism on October 1992, the issue was a result and a recognition of the fact of the Kurdistan region in the development of Iraq's interim or permanent constitution despite the known interventions and interactions that remained still so far. This was regardless of the changing of parties for their attitudes and positions towards federalism where those who were against it since a while are now supporting it, while those who supported it before are now expressing reservations about it. The change of the positions is related to the closeness to the authority and governance. I have no doubt, through my reading for the international federal system applied in about 25 countries and followed by about 40 percent of the world, what is stated in the Iraqi constitution raises practical disputes that will stay in place and be a source of rivalry and differences. My estimation is that the voluntary unity of the Iraqi state cannot be kept without strengthening the Arab relationship and Kurdish brotherhood in its legal form, and on the basis of common humanitarian and mutual understanding.


Federalism in my point of view as an Arab is an assurance about the affiliation of the Kurd to the Iraqi state. It is a categorical denial for separation and division, but at the same time it is an attempt to re-strengthen the Arab-Kurdish relationships and identify the responsibility between the central (federal) government and the Kurdish region (Kurdistan), in a way that provides for the Kurd future guarantees and power that comply with the complexities of the Kurdish problem taking advantage of the former autonomy experience that reached to a blocked end and the effects of long-term era of persecution.


I have already touched the reality of the Kurdish position through my several meetings and friendship with the elite of intellectual and cultural Kurdish leaders. The historic Kurdish leaders and the second generation assure with realism and foresight and deep understanding for the geo-political situation and international relations, on the importance of bringing a constitutional pluralistic federal regime to the democratic united Iraq, but such an issue will be subjected without doubt to the internal political developments along with the regional and international situation and the degree of success of the Iraqi state in building citizenship based on equality in which the components agree according to real national partnership that distribute powers and wealth.


If such an opportunity become available it must be reconstructed on correct basis and solve the problems that hinder it through dialogue and mutual human understanding both in terms of Article 140 or the issue of Kirkuk or other issues that should be resolved on the basis of respect for human rights and the will of the population, and without any compulsion taking into consideration the common struggle of the Arabs and the Kurds and other Iraqi factions and their fair and legitimate rights.


I believe that the Kurds are interested more than others to implement the projects of democratic change that must take into account the recognition of their rights and in the forefront the right of self-determination and respect their choices with relationship with their Arab brothers whether it was federalism or other.


Such a solution will eliminate the fears and justifications of "separation" or "division" or "fragmentation" or "Balkana", "Lebanonization" or Afghanization", especially by declaring the common desire to reunify the Iraqi state in a new legal way and get the confidence of citizens. Also on the basis of their free will and in accordance with the right to self-determination, leading to reducing the tendencies of superiority and national chauvinism on the one hand as well as the isolationism and narrow tendencies on the other. There is no doubt that such a solution will strengthen the unity of the Iraqi state within the framework of a federation based on Arabs and Kurds and not federalism based on sectarianism that will raise new problems against Iraqi unity.



Arab-Kurdish dialogue


The recognition of the right to self-determination is approving a painful situation that the Kurdish people suffered from after witnessing genocide, displacement and attempts to deprive them from identity and attempts to cancel citizenship and change the composition of the population and the demographic character.


I believe that the recognition of the right of self-determination while we are talking about the biography of Barzani, that I dedicate my life to, is not a gift or grant from any one or group (rulers or opposition), as I pointed out to that in the research that I presented at the Arab-Kurdish dialogue seminar in Cairo in 1998, and was presented earlier in the conference that I had the honor to organize in London in 1992 about the Arab-Kurdish dialogue forum in the context of the Arab Organization for Human Rights that I presided. It is an expression about the contemporary civilized thinking especially that today's world began approving for nations and nationalities, including the small nations and nationalities and even the tribes emerging from the forest about their right to determine their fate and their flag was raised in international and diplomatic forums including the United Nations. This is approved by the laws and international rules and principles of the Declaration of Human Rights and International Justice Rules.



With Barzani in Qalalah!


I stop now 33 years after the death of Barzani and I met the great Kurdish leader in his headquarter in Qalalah 42 years ago. I visited him heading a delegation to congratulate him about the March 11 convention in 1970, complaining at the same time about the government excesses that included leftist, liberal, and national currents and personalities. He condemned terrorism and promised of doing what he could to stop it, expressing in his own way about the Arab-Kurdish brotherhood. He pointed out that the Kurdish part cannot recover as long as the Arab part is unstable.


Barzani did not ignore the rules of diplomacy and political protocol when he sent a message condemning terrorism after weeks of the March 11 convention which was like wildfire, as they say, but he was very sensitive towards it thus prompting him to criticize the government publicly warning of the consequences of following this road.


The initiative of Barzani to send a letter of solidarity had a main impact on the internal and external level and Mr. Saleh al-Yousfi (editor in chief of the Fraternity (Taakhi) newspaper) was asked to write a message and in the presence of Mr. Ali Abdullah and Mr. Ali al-Sinjari and Dr. Mahmoud Othman and Professor Francois Hariri.


The letter was the first warning sign and clear sign against the repressive practices, as the convention of March 11 was not possible to be applied in light of political deterioration and reluctance in democratic reforms, which is a safety valve to implement the demands of the Kurdish people.


Barzani promised in his letter of doing what he could to stop the abuses and terrorism concluding it by the statement of the holy Quran "Allah does not burden any soul beyond its power".


In order for his instructions to be followed, he tried to make a special relation with the professor Sami Abdul Rahman (minister of state at the time) to follow up the issue through the Fraternity newspaper through Section V of the party in Baghdad. The officials received from me information about the campaign carried out by government authorities against a number of leftists and nationalists, in addition to some Palestinian organizations at that time and in extreme strict and sensitive situations.



Iraqi love with Kurdish identity


Barzani had the Iraqi identity of Kurdish affiliation, he had strong features. He had the ability to capture the essential things, despite the many attractions and the international and regional pressures. He had all the needs of leadership: courage, the ability to resolve issues, decision-making, initiative, flexibility and realism. And above all sincerity and loyalty to the Kurdish people and their case. All this was in a frame of hardness and high sensitivity to injustice and tyranny.


Here I recall the poem of the great poet Al- Jawahiri, which he presented in 1964 at the conference of the Association of Kurdish Students in Munich:


"My heart is given to Kurdistan as well as my mouth and destitute is graciously given in it."


The poem also said:


"Pass by the holy mountain and its people and you know who they are,


On behalf of the Chosen Prophet about a nation that is divided in his life after disputes,


Cold features avoided by the eagles and enemies"



Experiment to study!


And as an Arabic friend, researcher and specialist I say in conclusion that the historic experience of Barzani must be studied within the circumstances of the phase in which he lived and sessions and workshops must be held based on critical spirit to shed light on the his political, military and social opinions and international relations, and private experiences. The period that was not estimated so far was his experience of the Republic of Mahabad setback between 1946 an 1947 and the execution of Judge Mohammed. Also the Iranian-American complicity when he exercised the role of leadership, guidance and direct supervision between 1961 and 1975 and beyond.


This task needs staff and specialists to collect this heritage and deliver to the current generation and future generations to get benefit from and get inspired from the lessons for the interests of the Kurdish people and Kurdish nation, which would contribute to strengthening its struggle for its rights and mainly its right in self-determination and establishing its own entity that meets its aspirations and regulates its relations with its neighbors and the friendly peoples on the basis of partnership, equity, equality, participation and interests in a way that promotes peaceful and democratic development and human rights in Kurdistan as a whole and in all parts of the country.


From this point, the dialogue between the nations of the region, especially the Arab, Turkish, Persian and Kurdish nations, is very necessary to achieve regional security as without equal and peaceful relations based on common interests the region cannot enjoy peace and security and development. This will not come to fruition without close relations between the people of these nations and their right to self-determination.


If the Arab nation has more than a state and entity and has the right to be united and the Turkish nation has a state and the Persian nation has a state, then the Kurdish nation is the only deprived from its own state and as an Arab I feel pride and at the same I appreciate the right of the Kurdish nation to unite, because it remained distributed among the countries of the region: Turkey, Iran, Syria, and lacks its own entity But it was subjected under different names and justification for persecution, repression and historic denial of rights.


Without real democracy in the countries of the region the issue of Kurdish nationalism cannot be resolved and will not be recognized in addition to its right of self-determination without a democratic transition for the countries of the region. Dialogue, peace and common forgiveness will be the best ways to implement this issue.


Shaaban is an academic researcher and thinker


Mulla Mustafa al-Barzani (March 14, 1903-March 1, 1979) was a Kurdish nationalist leader, and one of the most prominent political figures in modern Kurdish politics.


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