News

Kurdish People See Federal Government as Compromise for Independence

Iraqi leaders have begun debating a new constitution that will determine the shape of the government after elections in December.  Strong debate is expected on the issue of forming a federal state that would shift power from the central government in Baghdad to regional governments, including Iraq's Kurdish region.  VOA's Patricia Nunan recently visited Kurdish regions of Iraq.

The market in the city of Suleimaniyah is adorned with Kurdish flags.  In one spot, a series of flags is suspended from the ceiling of a passageway, making the bold red, white and green stripes emblazoned with a 21-point yellow star the most striking feature around.
 
Elsewhere in the city, government buildings are adorned by both the Kurdish flag and Iraq's predominantly red, white and black national flag.  
 
The flags demonstrate the mixed attitudes Kurds have toward their relationship with the rest of Iraq and the shape they hope the new government will take.

Rights groups say, during the Saddam Hussein regime, about 200,000 Kurds were killed in chemical weapons attacks and years of fighting intended to prevent the Kurds from becoming too powerful.
 
But Kurds spent 12 years governing themselves after the United States imposed a no-fly zone over the region after the 1991 Gulf War.  Since the fall of the Hussein government in 2003, the region has been spared much of the insurgent-related violence plaguing other parts of Iraq.

One woman says, during the Saddam Hussein regime, the Kurdish region never enjoyed peace, it just received pain.  She thinks, now is the perfect time for the Kurdish region to become an independent country.

An informal referendum held in tandem with the January 30 elections throughout the Kurdish region revealed that more than 98 percent of Kurds want independence from Iraq.  But many, including Kurdish leaders, are resigned to the fact that may be too much too soon, and international politics have conspired to make independence not feasible.

Kurdish leaders are instead pushing for a federal government, a reversal of the system that saw highly centralized powers in Baghdad during the Saddam Hussein regime.  But that regional system has given rise to fears of the so-called "Balkanization," or fracturing, of Iraq.  

Deputy Prime Minister Rowsch Shaways, a Kurd, argues that sharing powers will be key to preserving Iraq's unity, and it is a formula that has worked elsewhere.

"There are examples which show that the federal solution is a very successful one in countries, which are similar to Iraq, which consist of different ethnic and religious groups,” Mr. Shaways noted.  “Why not in Iraq?  … And, we see that such problems were solved very, very successfully in countries like Belgium, like, say, Germany, like Switzerland, like Canada and other countries of the world.  Like the [United] Arab Emirates, for example, is also a kind of a federation."

An April survey by the U.S. organization, the International Republican Institute, reveals that more than 50 percent of Iraqis identify themselves most closely with their country first.  About 30 percent chose their ethnic group or tribe and 19 percent identify religion.
 
Those apparent faultlines are also partly why federalism causes fears about the disintegration of Iraq. 

This man in the Suleimaniyah market says Kurds like federalism because they do not have any other choice.  If Kurds had a chance to have their own country, they would take it, because they have already paid for it in blood.

But International Republican Institute Country Director Patrick Egan says there is support in Iraq for a decentralization of powers.

"When you talk to people about federalism generally, what you will get is a reaction to the word, and the connotations it has taken on in Iraq recently, that its sort of a euphemism for separation,” said Mr. Egan.  “Well, then when you talk about more subtle questions like, where would be the most appropriate level of government to address issues like electricity, or sewers, or water supplies, then people identify that it should be a local or regional level government, and not the central government."

The parliamentary committee drafting the new constitution is trying to include more Sunni representatives in the debate.
 
Iraq's Sunni community, roughly 20 percent of the population, was politically powerful in the Hussein government.  But because many Sunnis boycotted the January 30 election, there are few in the National Assembly.
 
Ammar Wajeeh, a spokesman for the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni party represented on the constitutional committee, says a federal system may work, but just for the time being.

"We are afraid that they [the Kurds] want to separate from Iraq,” he said.  “We shall, will do our best to prevent this to happen [from happening].   But, for the time being, you know that the situation is a bit complicated, and they had a bad experience with the previous government.  They tried to marginalize [the Kurds] and to oppress them, yes.  For the time being, it may be a solution for them, but should not be permanent."

In the Suleimaniyah market, while many Kurds still speak of full independence, many also seem cautiously ready to accept the compromise that federalism represents to them.

This man says, if brotherhood develops between Arabs and Kurds, then federalism will be a good idea.  If not, then it will not be.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs