Who will be the last autocrat in the south of Kurdistan?

By Mufid Abdulla – 26-12-2012 – Kurdistan Tribune  – It is possible that the PUK will have to brace itself in the next few weeks for bad news, with the realisation that its leader cannot live forever.

Kurdistan needs a new breed of leadership. When Barzani senior passed away in 1979, the Kurdish nationalist movement placed its hopes in the new generation of leaders although events proved this optimism to be misplaced.

Kurdistan’s political leaders have become indistinguishable. None stand out from the crowd. That is why our society has stagnated, due to the stifling weight of autocracy.  When Jalal Talabani joined the civil administration in 1991, he forgot what the struggle was really about and gave power to a  bunch of Bonapartes with no understanding of how to manage the cities and villages of Kurdistan. Power and positions were amassed by the friends, cronies and relatives of Talabani.

When the uprising of 2011 took place, the PUK’s only response to the thousands in Saray Azadi was the use of force and the language of violence, with the beating, jailing and killing of activists. I wonder why, in today’s poll in Lvinpress, voters did not want Talabani’s wife to take over as the PUK General Secretary.

In spring 2011, when the opposition Gorran movement called for the dissolution of the government and parliament, it had momentum. Alas, Gorran has failed to deliver on this, due to its lack of a coherent strategy. The Gorran leadership is now subdued and their hopes have faded away. Recently Gorran leader Nawshirwan Mustafa told Today’s Zaman that independence for Kurdistan is the hope and aspiration of every Kurd; that same day Talabani told Hurriyet that anyone calling for an independent state is being irrational.

One of the most troubling aspects of the rising tensions between Baghdad and Erbil is the role of our leaders. The Barzani-Maliki conflict was close to war. Many thought the US administration would be forced to intervene. The mass of the people didn’t want war but Masud Barzani and his son – against the wishes of people – visited the Hamren area and talked to Kurdish forces there in an autocratic style. The next day, Maliki’s media said that Barzani’s visit was reminiscent of Saddam and his son Uday. This was not the zeal of nationalism, as they try to tell us: the true zeal of nationalism is loyalty to the people and to their land, money and natural resources. For how long can power be monopolised in the hands of the Barzani family? Ordinary people want to defeat Maliki’s Dawa Party through argument and dialogue, not tanks and bullets.

Abdul Rahman Ghassemelou, the leader of the Iranian Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDPI) was assassinated by Iranian government agents in Vienna in 1989.  Due partly to the legacy of his autocratic, Stalinist style of rule, his party then split into warring factions and now it has evaporated.

Barzani’s visit today to the PUK politburo in Suli reflects his realization that losing Talibani will be a strategic setback for himself and his regional allies. Barzani and Talabani together succeeded in imposing their fake constitution on the people, sabotaging the economy, derailing the unity of the people and deceiving the opposition.

They belong to yesterday’s struggle and not to today’s hopes of the people to build the nation’s infrastructure and prosperity.