Minority MPs Hamstrung By Rivalry Among Kurdish Political Parties

By Nawzad Mahmoud – Rudaw – 12.6.2013 – North Iraq — Minority groups in the Kurdistan Region say that serious rivalry among Kurdish political parties in parliament has deprived their MPs of any influence.

“The government and opposition groups give us no chance,” Sherdil Tahsin, a Turkman MP in the Kurdish parliament, told Rudaw. Minority groups like the Turkmen, Assyrian and Chaldean Christians occupy eleven seats in Kurdistan’s 111-seat parliament. Tahsin said that parliamentarians from the minority groups have to walk a tightrope in order to get anything done for their respective communities.

“We have to be very careful when presenting a bill to parliament,” he says. “Sometimes we get support from the government, other times from the opposition.” Tahsin says that minority MPs try to serve their own people who live among the Kurds in the autonomous region without antagonizing the ruling or opposition parties. “We do not want to take sides in the struggle among these groups,” he says. As an example of how Kurdistan’s strong partisanship has played out against the minority communities, Tahsin says: “We asked the government to appoint a representative for the Turkmens of Kifri district in the Sulaimani Provincial Council. The government approved but the opposition did not.”

Chaldean MP Sozan Yusuf Khoshaba says that her group has presented to parliament four bills in the past four years, but without any luck.

“Some of our bills are not discussed and remain in the parliament,” she complains.

Khoshaba adds that parliamentary sessions often end without their bills mentioned. According to Khoshaba, MPs representing minority groups have proposed that parliament agree to redraw the Kurdish flag with an extra color, reflecting the region’s non-Kurdish communities. “We also asked for the recognition of the minority groups in the national anthem (Ay Raqeeb),” she says. “Our existence in this country must be acknowledged.”

“We have nothing against these two national symbols of the Kurds,” says Khoshaba, “but we are also citizens of Kurdistan and need to feel part of it.”Goran Azad, a member of parliament’s legal committee, says he has not received any proposal about the Kurdish flag from minority MPs. He confirmed that their bill about the national anthem was in parliament, but had not been discussed yet.”

Amir Goga, an Assyrian MP, says that he and his colleagues try to stay out of the everyday rows among Kurdistan’s political parties. Johnson Siyawash, Kurdistan’s minister of transportation and communications, does not think minority MPs are sidelined. However, he says that the political parties often put their own interests before those of the people.