The White House of Erbil – a symbol of corruption


May 19, 2013  Kurdistan Tribune – Known as the White House of Erbil, this is the headquarters of the PUK (Patriotic Union of Kurdistan) and special residence of its leader, Jalal Talabani. It is also a symbol of corruption and despotism.

The White House was built for Talabani by the KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) to compensate him for the loss of another palatial Erbil residence during the 1990s civil war. Previously that place had provided a comfortable home and political HQ for Saddam’s henchman, Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, who went there during the summer months.

When the PUK seized it, they gave it – not to the people – but to Talabani. During the civil war, with Saddam’s help Masud Barzani’s KDP (Kurdistan Democratic Party) forced the PUK out of Erbil. They captured the house and eventually gave it – not to the people – but to Nechirvan Barzani, the current prime minister.

When the two parties reconciled and agreed to share power, the PUK complained and the KDP said: “We are not going to give it back to you, but we can build you another house of a similar size”. There aren’t enough schools for children in the region – often they can only attend classes for 2.5 – 3 hours a day due to the shortage. And yet around $200 million is spent on a palace for the PUK, with grounds big enough to hold a residential district or several schools. The White House could be turned into a research centre or even a university. This story illustrates the two-party corruption that pervades the south of Kurdistan.