The Future of Iraq’s Kurdish Reform Movement Is Uncertain

Gorran, the major Iraqi Kurdish opposition party, has failed to become an alternative to the Islamic parties of Kurdistan. It has rather sided with them and is now facing difficulties to implement its liberal election agenda and prove that it is a genuine opposition.

Just recently before the re-election of Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, Gorran failed to persuade the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG) to follow its move to breakaway from the united parliamentary bloc of the Kurdish parties in Baghdad on alleged grounds that the ruling parties were corrupt, anti-reform and restricting freedoms and turning authoritarian within Kurdistan.

But now is Gorran negotiating to return and has announced that its lawmakers had voted for its leader’s biggest rival, Jalal Talabani, to retain his presidency.

A German political analyst and expert in the Kurdish cause and the Middle East said Gorran, because of its different ideology, would fail if it wanted to sway supporters of the Islamic parties.

Asked whether Gorran would be able to dilute the influence of Islamism in Kurdistan, Guido Steinberg , who was an aide to the former chancellor of Germany, replied: “No. Because [Gorran] is a movement that wants to further liberalize and democratise Kurdistan.”

“On the other hand, what you see in Kurdistan is that the Islamic movements have an influence on the society. Their influence on the society is much more than their legislative power.”

Gorran, as a secular movement, is led by Nawshirwan Mustafa, who was one of the founders of Komelei Renjderan, a Marxist-Leninist party in 1970s. Mustafa has now recast himself as a more liberal and nationalist person in Kurdistan.

In the July’s elections last year, the height and first emergence of the movement, the Islamic parties lost many votes in comparison to the number of seats they had had in the previous parliament.

“We faced a small failure,” said Muhammad Ahmed, a political bureau member of the KIU. “But since then we have increasingly been going up.”

“In Iraq’s [March] elections, we gained 100 thousand votes more.”

Gorran has thus far failed to become an alternative to the Islamic parties of Kurdistan. After the July elections, regardless to its ideological differences, Gorran allied with the Islamists forming a united unofficial parliamentary bloc and have had one unitary approach on almost every issue against the two ruling parties of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

Islamic parties in Kurdistan are political parties with no armed wings.

“Most of the Gorran’s supporters came from the PUK… Now, if Gorran and the PUK unite, the division would become clear,” said Ahmed, of the KIU.

And now as we approach to the provincial elections, expected to be held early next year, a question is raised over the future of Gorran whether it can gain enough votes to be able to implement its liberal platform that calls for an open, liberal and secular society without having to keep siding with Islamic parties, who want a society ruled by Islam and the Shari’a law.

Umed Ahmed, a 30-year old labor living in Seidawe neighborhood of Erbil, says Gorran would not be able to attract supporters of the Islamic parties since “their support is based on faith rather than random.”

Two other persons, a man and a woman, of Erbil agreed that supporters of the Islamic parties are difficult to be swayed by secular parties.

Rawezh Ismaeel, 22-year old living in Khanzad neighborhood, “It’s not an Islamic party. Gorran is very far from Islam.”

However, Robert Jalal, 26, living in Khanzad, believed that Gorran was representing the problems and concerns of the people and the Islamic parties did not reflect the Kurdish society.

“Islamic parties are extremists. Whether it is Gorran or whoever. They cannot defend [the rights] of the Kurdistan people in the parliament.”

“The one to be listened to is Gorran,” said Jalal.

Mohammed Tofiq Rahim, a senior leader of Gorran, refused to discuss the issue of the possibilities of Gorran to undermine Islamism and breakaway from Islamic parties in any near future.

But he said “We will do well. In every election we will succeed.”

Namo Abdulla


November 28, 2010


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