Duhok speaks out

By Kamal Chomani: Kurdistan Tribune –  On June 13, while Premier Nechirvan Barzani was visiting Amedi, the people of Shiladze blocked the way and didn’t let him pass unless he sent a delegate to listen to their demands. Why was this small demonstration extremely important?

Because it was not people of Slemani, where demonstrations have become a part of their culture; the people were not independent activists, feminists or students either; they were people from Duhok province and, surprisingly, they were Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) members.

Again, why is it important if people of Duhok demonstrate and come onto the streets to ask for their rights?

Because of two reasons. Firstly, people from other cities of Kurdistan have sometimes criticized the people of Duhok province for their silence about the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG’s) corruption and the KDP’s undemocratic rule, but the critics have forgotten that Duhok’s situation is much different from Slemani’s. Secondly, the small demonstration showed that people of Duhok are not different compared to other cities.

But why was it important that KDP members took part in the demonstration?

Because the ruling parties should understand that, when people think their rights are violated, they have every right to come onto the streets and express their anger. And it is not only independents and opposition supporters who think their demands are not being met: KDP members too have many concerns, but they have not expressed them because they have been frightened to speak out against corruption and violations of their rights. Let alone that they have been forced to believe that, if the two ruling parties leave power, the others will make a mess of the KRG.

Duhokis have previously spoken out against the KRG’s political system and its corruption, but in the last few years they have become more and more active. Luckily, a new generation has emerged and they don’t accept less than they deserve. To mention only two of the new initiatives in Duhok; a group of Duhoki youths have just announced an independent NGO for promoting civil society and democracy. There’s also a very critical magazine, which is one of the most critical magazines of the KRG and its ruling parties now. Bashur (‘South’ in English) is issued by a group of independent youths. It has become the mouthpiece of oppressed people of Duhok province.

The ruling KDP and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) have created a dividing line between Soran and Badinan but we, the new generation of Kurdistan, have tried to abolish this line. The civil war’s impacts on Sorani and Badini binarism has not yet disappeared but, with the new changes in Kurdistan, people have tried to overcome it.

In the 2011 Teachers’ Union elections in Shiladze, the Islamic Union of Kurdistan (KIU) lost the elections to the coalition list of the KDP and PUK by less than 15 votes. This was a huge change since the town has been a stronghold of KDP for so long but, as it showed, the KDP is no longer the unchallenged favorite party of people in the province and, in particular, of the new generation.

People of Shiladze demonstrated because the KRG had promised to build a 100-bed hospital in their town, but it has been transferred to Amedi. Meantime, although Nechirvan Barzani had promised to visit them, he was about to pass by the town without listening to their demands.

Interestingly, the people, mostly KDP members, took to the streets – streets that had been specially cleaned to pretend that the municipality works hard – and they didn’t let Nechirvan Barzani pass by the town until he sent his delegate to listen to their demands.

This is very important if Nechirvan Barzani considers the following:

It is important because people are fed up with KRG promises that are never implemented.

Meanwhile, people can no longer tolerate the marginalizing of rural areas in terms of public services.

Duhokis are part of the voices of those who want a radical change in the KRG’s political system, and their voice can no longer be silenced.

I believe that, in the near future, Duhok will enjoy many more such demonstrations. The media should cover and focus more on such demonstrations but, unfortunately, our media is more or less Slemani and Hawler centered.

My last humble demand for all people is this: the KDP and PUK have created Sorani and Badini among us but we should not let them continue with their policies. We, especially the new generations, should all work on getting closer to each other. Our concerns are the same, our demands are the same, and we should all work together.