News

Experts Discuss Federalist System's Chance of Success in Iraq

Multimedia

Audio

One of the unanswered questions about Iraq's future is: can a federal system of government, one in which power is divided between a central government and regional or provincial ones, work in Iraq? VOA's Margaret Besheer talks to Iraqi and international figures in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil, where a conference took place this week to discuss Iraqi federalism.

In 2005 Iraq adopted a new constitution which enshrines the concept of federalism. But as sectarian differences threaten to divide the country, can federalism really keep it united?

Absolutely, says Egyptian human rights activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim, one of the participants at a week-long conference on federalism in Iraq's Kurdistan region.

"Federalism is not utopia, it is not a panacea," said Ibrahim. "Federalism is not perfect, it has its problems, but it is better than fighting each other and then one group subjugating the others."

Iraq is home to Shiites, Sunni Arabs, Kurds and many smaller groups, such as Assyrian Christians and ethnic Turkmen. Arabic is the official language, but Kurdish is also widely spoken, especially in the northern Kurdistan autonomous region.

Iraqi Kurdistan is flourishing politically and economically and is often held up as Iraq's biggest success story. Conference organizer Bakhtiar Amin says the rest of the country can learn from the Kurdish experiment with federalism.

"How they [the Kurds] faced different challenges and difficulties; how they overcame some of these, and to learn also from the experiences of other federal systems around the world," said Amin.

Experts from four continents attended the conference and shared their views.

Paul Dewar, a member of Canada's parliament from Ottawa, notes that his country shares similarities with Iraq in that it also has two languages, two main religions, and significant oil resources which must be shared among several provinces.

"Canada actually has a relevant model; it is not a matter of one size fits all, and federalism is different in different political contexts, but it seems to me that Canada is one that makes infinite sense to look at," said Dewar.

Canada has a central parliament and 10 provincial legislative assemblies with a relatively high degree of autonomy. The Canadian constitution was written to take into account the colonial distinction between French- and English-speaking regions and their cultures.

Iraqi parliamentarian Mahmoud Othman cautions that many Iraqis still do not understand the concept of federalism. He also wonders if it might be too soon to try to get them to embrace it.

"Somebody who gets up in the morning he has no gas, no electricity, no safety, no food, unemployed, do you think he will listen to you when you talk about federalism or our constitution? It is nonsense. They have been working in the wrong way in this country," said Othman.

He says the government must first guarantee a minimum of security and basic services to the people before talking to them about federalism.

The conference, sponsored by two international human rights groups and with support from the Italian and Kurdish governments, brought together many Iraqi political figures from the Shiite and Kurdish communities, but Sunni Arabs were notably absent.

Several were invited, but only two attended as the others stayed in Baghdad to deal with the political crisis relating to the removal of the Sunni Arab speaker of parliament.

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.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs