MICHAEL RUBIN’S FAIL SHOT – NOT HIS FIRST ONE : The Kurdish case of corruption by surname

By Ruwayda Mustafah Rabar: Kurdistan Tribune – 11-2-2014 – Kurdish media outlets are often concerned with stories about the sons and daughters of high-ranking officials. The obsession feeds off the general demand for gossip in Kurdistan. We often assume, regardless of whether substantial evidence exists, that the children of Kurdish officials are corrupt simply because of the families they are born into. It is a type of generalisation that most of us are guilty of perpetuating without consideration of whom it might hurt and whose reputation we might be tarnishing. This is not to say corrupt Kurdish officials do not exist – there are plenty of them. Recently an article was published on The Kurdistan Tribune, written by Michael Rubin, on the necessity of Kurdish officials having a “code of conduct”.

Michael Rubin specified the case of one Kurdish official, who allegedly used his position within the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to further the career of his daughter. He alleges that Fuad Hussein, chief of staff to the President of Southern Kurdistan, had misused one of his trips to the United States of America as part of a delegation by coercing a think-tank into hiring his daughter as an intern in exchange for a large donation on behalf of the KRG. Rubin argues that “Universities offer Barzani chairs in exchange for million dollar donations but are expected to accept the children of Kurdish leaders”.

It is unclear which universities and think-tanks Rubin refers to because the only explicit reference to a Kurdish official being made is that of Fuad Hussein. I contacted his daughter Bina Hussein to comment on the allegation made against her father, and she was forthcoming in responding to the accusation that she received an internship at the Atlantic Council by virtue of her father’s position.

Bina Hussein graduated with a BA in Social Work and Law from Amsterdam University in the Netherlands, and is currently a second-year MA candidate in International Studies at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver. According to Rubin, the application deadline for an internship at the Atlantic Council had passed when she applied. In a brief interview Bina explained that “The deadline for the internship application had not passed. The organisation accepts applications until the position has been filled” and when she applied the position had not been filled. Subsequently she was interviewed by the Deputy Director of the Centre and she was offered a position because she was the best candidate for the unpaid internship.

In a written statement of endorsement the Atlantic Council’s Deputy Director of Communications, Taleen Ananian, confirmed that “Bina was selected from a competitive pool of intern candidates for her experience and skills. She was highly qualified and the application process was not yet complete when she was offered an unpaid internship with us”.

Bina supported the staff during the annual Atlantic Council Energy and Economic Summit that took place on November 2013 in Turkey, and the internship was for “school credit”, which would eventually allow her to start a career in the international relations sector. She has worked in several non-governmental organisations and expressed her dismay at the impact of poor journalism on Kurdish people, particularly the loosely-fitted accusations levied against the children of Kurdish officials without substantial evidence, simply because it is convenient to criticise and paint them all with the same brush.

Whether we perceive Bina Hussein to be a victim or not is not the point here. The problem seems to be the lack of accuracy provided by journalists and bloggers on issues that pertain to Kurdish people. When it comes to officials using their governmental positions to promote or boost the career of their families, the case must be made with evidence, and such officials should be shamed (and named) publicly. Instead, we are left with generalisations and accusations that are splattered around without consideration, which could potentially damage the reputation of a young person who has yet to begin his or her career.

It is neither fair nor right that we don’t hold journalists and bloggers accountable for what they write. The more we scrutinise journalists and hold them accountable for what they write, the better equipped they will become in investigating properly with limited bias. We should always “dig deeper” in cases where Kurdish officials have misused their position, and hold them accountable to the best of our abilities instead of accepting the generalisation that they are all corrupt without doing anything about it.

Ruwayda Mustafah Rabar is a postgraduate international politics student, and has a law degree from Kingston Law School