Kurdistan Region needs checks & balances & separation of powers

Statement of the Kurdistan Forum Association:

We, as members of Kurdistan Forum Association, which is a civil association of Kurds residing in Belgium with close contacts with other Kurdish civil associations abroad, are working to build a bridge between Iraqi Kurdistan and Europe, without being associated with any particular ideology or political affiliation. We follow the practices of the Iraqi government in general and of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in particular. Our overall aims are that Iraqi Kurdistan and the countries of the Middle-East be open to accepting the principles of international conventions, particularly in the spheres of human rights, press freedom, sex equality and tolerance.

In the meantime our association aims to support a democratic system of governance, the superiority of law and the separation of powers: in particular the separation of executive and judiciary in the Kurdistan region, without interference of political bodies in the affairs and decisions of courts. We as a civil society expect the Kurdistan Region to become a model of democracy in the area, a model which could be worthy of the sacrifices of hundreds of thousands of people in Kurdistan.


It is well known that, after the demise of Saddam Hussein regime, Kurdistan has enjoyed a relative autonomy in practice and in many respects such as oil production and exportation, the defence of the areas under the control of the KRG and the economy and it has acted like an independent state.

In Iraqi Kurdistan there are free media and opposition. Of course this is not due to the virtue of the (at least until the recent elections) two main dominant parties which have regularly tried to curtail our freedoms and annihilate it, imposing on Kurdistan family rule as it is practised in Arabic Sheikdoms. This semi-free atmosphere and the existence of a parliamentary system (although it is not free and is controlled) have come about as a result of a century-long resistance and the struggle of several generations of people for the sake of freedom and who now are curbing the establishment of a totalitarian absolutism. Now the ruling political parties have understood this reality: that if they ban all the freedoms of the people their destiny will be worse than that of the Arabic rulers.

The tranquillity and peace in Kurdistan and, as a result, the relative economic growth, is a result of the awareness and devotion of the people of Kurdistan, and the pressure of civil society organisations, which have not allowed civil war and turmoil. The support given to the refugees of the internal fighting of Arabic Iraq and the receiving of Kurdish refugees from Syria is a virtue of the people of Kurdistan, and not the well wishes and doings of this or that figure or this or that family – who are just the war lords and try to use the refugees as cards in political games.

Comparing Kurdistan with other areas of Iraq, the economic level and the standard of life is higher (as is declared by the ruling parties, although still there are no reliable statistics available), but at the same time we believe the present political system in Kurdistan is not contributing to the appearance of a new era and a ruling power that respects the basics of human rights, democracy, transparency, women rights and general freedoms.

Kurdistan after the demise of Saddam’s regime

Both ruling parties in Iraqi Kurdistan – after bloody infighting which lasted several years, in which time tens of thousands Kurds were victimized and the infrastructure of Kurdistan was ruined- after this bloody civil war signed a strategic cooperation agreement. The content of this agreement was nothing but a platform to divide the wealth of Kurdistan among them. Although the signing of this convention put an end to the internal fighting and bloodshed, in the meantime it paved the way for the establishment of governance in which remnants of the old regime’s conduct remain visible, albeit in a Kurdish mantle. The people of Kurdistan, and in particular those who are deeply moved by the dramatic state of affairs in Kurdistan are worried at the way the European Countries and European Parliament pay attention to the economis development and the boom of oil market in Kurdistan, and ignore those threats which the two ruling parties are working on daily.

For instance, the statement by Catherine Ashton – Baroness Ashton the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union – in June on a visit to Kurdistan Region simply points to the economic boom of the region and its oil, without giving any hint to the unjust and discriminatory conducts of the Kurdish authorities, the corruption and exploitation of public property. On the other hand the present economic system just relies on the oil economy, the exporting of which is not transparent. Up until now there are hundreds of evidenced examples proving that, apart for the leaders of these two parties, even the government and the parliament are not informed about the details. They do not know what the daily revenue is from oil production and how the agreements are being met between the ruling parties and their partners, and where the money is floating to.

The crisis of the election of the Region’s president

As you may know the reason for our protest on Brussels’ streets on 06.07 2013 was to publicise that, in the Kurdistan region, there is a constant effort to take over all power centres by a family and its head.

Of course we are aware that the majority of European countries have a monarchical system, and according to the constitutions of respective countries, the monarch is head of state. We do not have any ethical or ideological reservation about having a monarch if he is obeying the county’s constitution and acts accordingly, but apart from Kurdistan’s nature and the multi-party system, the existing ideologies also differ from the Gulf Countries. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) so far has not dared to put forward a monarchy-based constitution to the people and ask for its acceptance.

The problem is that the KDP works for the sake of a monarchical system, provided that the monarchy be above the law of the land and by its own will continue to lead the party and control all centres of power.

Let’s speak with arguments:

The Kurdistan Constitution says:

“The Presidency of the Kurdistan Region is a political, administrative, and legal institution that was promulgated by the Kurdistan National Assembly, the national parliament, in 2005 under Law 1, Article 1. The President of the Kurdistan Region has the highest executive authority in the Kurdistan Region. He or she is elected by secret ballot in a popular vote every four years and can stand for election for a second term”.


But on July 30th both ruling parties of the KRG extended Barzani’s term for another two years illegally.

It is true in Kurdistan there’s a parliament, but the two ruling parties impose their decisions on their members of parliament so as to work according to their wishes and make them to decide on illegal issues. Meantime, this parliament doesn’t have any power to question the authority of the president of Kurdistan. The president can dissolve the parliament and its laws (article 65). The president is also the chief of the armed forces and, whenever he wants, he has all the power to deploy them. The most dangerous issue in Kurdistan is that the judiciary in Kurdistan is not independent. The main reason for this is that all the judges of the Higher Court are appointed by the president. The president is the president of both the Kurdistan region and his KDP, which has problems with all its rivals.

In short, in Kurdistan there are no Checks and Balances and all powers are one, none are independent from the other.

That’s why we believe such a system will lead to a dictatorial system and will be dangerous for the future of the region.

Human rights it is very strange that the ones who violate human rights are the ruling parties who were asking the international community and international human rights organizations to condemn the atrocities of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

We have got many reports of international organizations to show as evidence that the KRG has violated human rights. These reports have not been written by opposition parties or critical journalists of the region but by most respectable international organizations that can be depended on as neutral sources. In these reports everything has been documented, unfortunately many of the cases are shocking.

Parliamentary elections, 21st September 2013

Elections have become the only path of change by the people of Kurdistan as their protests for democracy and more freedom and equality were cracked down by violence, but again the elections have never been clean. The two ruling parties have always orchestrated vote fraud.

This article published in Foreign Policy by our colleague Kamal Chomani provides an in-depth analysis of the elections in Kurdistan:

Recommendations & requests

Our organization asks you to investigate objectively the region’s politics and treat the region’s authority according to the facts, and use all your pressures to promote more democracy for the region. Meantime, working with the region’s democratic institutions may strengthen the region’s democracy,

We are requesting the EU institutions to have a more active role in the region’s politics and civil society. It will be very impressive if institutions within the European Union Parliament give more importance to KRG’s civil society organizations and NGOs. It will be very important if the EU parliament consider the KRG NGOs’ reports on freedom of speech and human rights.

We are also working on creating a Federation of Kurdish NGOs inside and outside Kurdistan, and are requesting support to help us to hold a conference for KRG NGOs here.

Kurdistan Forum Association: Naamsestraat 167, 3000 Leuven, mobile : 0032 (0) 497 89 42 32, kurdistanforum@hotmail.com