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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.