The Gorran (Change) Movement believes in the Kurdistan Region’s right to self-determination, but it must be achieved through activation of the parliament and without the political rhetoric that Shorsh Haji, Gorran spokesperson, sees the KDP and PUK engaging in. “Now is the time to get Kurdistan’s house in order,” he told Rudaw in an interview, so that the people of Kurdistan can have confidence in their government. He lays blame for failures of the Kurdistan Regional Government at the feet of the KDP.
Rudaw: You refused to meet with the joint committee formed by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the sensitive matter of the referendum. Was your decision not to meet rushed?
: Let’s start from the visit by the KDP-PUK’s joint committee to Ali Bapir [leader of Kurdistan’s Islamic League, Komal]. Mala Bakhtyar [senior PUK leader] said they were serious about the referendum this time. This itself casts doubt on current and previous such attempts. Holding a referendum and independence for Kurdistan have been founding principles of the Gorran party since its formation. This is a national cause which shouldn’t be discussed between two political parties. Rather, it should be debated and voted
We are against any referendum which is done as a matter of political rhetoric
in the parliament as the highest legal authority in the region.
You were an MP. Do you think holding a referendum requires passing a law? The KDP and the PUK want to hold the referendum without having such a law.
Holding a referendum by itself is not the only pillar for declaring an independent state. Rather, a referendum is merely intended to know whether or not people want to separate from Iraq.
We are against any referendum which is done as a matter of political rhetoric and is intended to achieve ranks and positions in Baghdad, just like the referendum they held in 2005. We’ve had a bad experience with the KDP and PUK. In the referendum held in 2005, 98 percent of the people of Kurdistan voted in favor of separation from Iraq. Yet, they used it to do deals with Baghdad, through which they got money and position. Otherwise, we on principle believe in the right of self-determination and independence for Kurdistan.
Why do you doubt the independence process and regard it as political rhetoric and not serious?
The process is political rhetoric. Now is the time to get Kurdistan’s house in order, unify the Kurdish discourse and make preparations for all possibilities and eventualities. It is a matter of doubt for two political parties to come together and decide on the fate of a nation. And the doubt is well placed for it is only two parties who are deciding this question without referring to the parliament.
Will you vote no if the referendum is held without passing a law on the matter and without the reactivation of the parliament, or will you see it as an organized referendum?
We support an independent state in which the dignity of humans is protected
Under no circumstances are we against holding a referendum and declaring independence for Kurdistan. However, our opinion on the timing of declaring a state is different from that of the KDP. Now, the PUK is following the KDP’s position, too.
Holding a referendum is a step toward declaring independence. Hence, we call upon the KDP and PUK to tell the people of Kurdistan that they will be taking practical steps to declare independence and build other foundations of an independent state following the outcome of the referendum. The KDP and PUK, especially the KDP, have already taken a wrong path for independence. They want to violate Kurdistan’s parliament as the highest legislative and monitoring authority. The KDP and PUK will be building a state similar to that of Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya. That is if they build one.
We support an independent state in which the dignity of humans is protected, natural resources are distributed fairly and people have confidence in the authority.
The KDP and PUK have started discussions Baghdad and they appear to be serious. Why do you have these doubts?
There are certain things which make us doubt the attempts made by the KDP and PUK. How could they possibly go to Baghdad and meet with the speaker of Baghdad’s parliament while they have paralyzed Kurdistan’s parliament and have been barring the speaker of the Kurdish parliament from traveling back to Erbil?
Foreign and neighboring countries’ delegations have met with you. What is their position on the question of referendum?
To date, Iran, Turkey, Baghdad, and influential countries such as the US, UK, and EU countries stress the integrity of Iraq in their
We believe hoisting the Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk will not result in the return of the city to the Kurdistan Region
meetings with us and in their official stance on the matter.
What is the position of the Gorran party on recent reactions to the raising of Kurdistan’s flag in Kirkuk?
Raising Kurdistan’s flag in Kirkuk is a natural and legal right of the people of the city. It is Kirkuk’s provincial council that decides what flag should be raised in the city. The Iraqi parliament’s remarks that it is unconstitutional are a different matter.
The KDP and PUK should have presented a model in Kirkuk over the past 14 years of their ruling in the city, making its different peoples want to be formally incorporated into the Kurdistan Region, rather than wish to remain part of Iraq or create an independent region. Failing to deliver services and destroying other ethnic groups’ faith in the Kurds made us doubt the KDP and PUK’s intentions to officially incorporate Kirkuk into the Kurdistan Region.
In addition, these two political parties didn’t consult us on the raising of Kurdistan’s flag in Kirkuk. That is why we think that this is part of internal party rivalries, using it as a pressure card against Baghdad to extort ranks and positions following the collapse of ISIS, or using it to make the US or EU countries to care about them after ISIS is gone. But we don’t have information on this.
We believe hoisting the Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk will not result in the return of the city to the Kurdistan Region. As the Change Movement, we believe, initially Kirkuk did not have to be put into Article 140 in 2005. Nowhere in the world has a successful nation placed its ancestors’ land in a few years’ tentative agreement. Despite this, the Kurdish leadership should have insisted on the implementation of Article 140 in its time.
The leader of the Change Movement was the deputy of Jalal Talabani and played a role in drafting the constitution. We do you dissociate yourself from Article 140?
I do not talk about Nawshirwan Mustafa. I am talking about the Change Movement which did not exist at the time. Therefore, he is not responsible for this Article.
The PUK politburo in Sulaimani convened and within less than 24 hours they met with the KDP politburo with Masoud Barzani attending. A decision on referendum was made. Was the meeting expected for you?
The KDP-PUK meeting was not surprising for us and it was expected from the PUK. Since May 2016, we have signed an accord with the
We do not bear the responsibility of the failure of this failed government
PUK, but a vast majority of the PUK’s politburo became a deterrent before the implementation of the context of the agreement. However, the majority of the PUK cadres and supporters and some members of the politburo and leadership council are with implementing the deal. But, the politburo’ majority hampered this move.
Then why are you happy with this agreement while the majority of the PUK politburo has stood against it?
All the Iraqi and Kurdish parties hailed the agreement, except the KDP. We thought this agreement would solve some of the many problems. But, the majority of the PUK politburo, those wield power within the party, do not implement it.
During the ceremony to sign the agreement, Nawshirwan Mustafa said the importance is its implementation. Does Gorran have any plan to review it?
Though we have our own evaluation and program for the agreement, we expected the [PUK] politburo members to respect their signatures, but they did not.
By words, the PUK leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to implementing the accord as the majority of the points in it are in favor of the people of Kurdistan. Again, the majority of the PUK politburo does not intend to work by the agreement. Very clearly, there are two directions within the PUK. One is against the agreement and wants to reach an accord with the KDP at the expense of our agreement. The other direction, however, fully supports the implementation of the agreement.
Did the KDP succeed in creating a rift around this agreement by refusing to welcome the joint Gorran-PUK delegation?
The KDP’s hegemony on some of the PUK politburo members has amounted to leaving our agreement with the PUK unimplemented. We will speak in the future on this question.
Did you fail to bring about changes in the power balance by this agreement with the PUK?
We do not compromise on our programs. For every event we have got our politics and programs. We do not bear the responsibility of the failure of this failed government as we remained within it for just a year and three months. As the Prime Minister admits, our ministers were successful and nobody has complained about them. Our ministers had tried to carry out Gorran’s reform plans. And in order to make the oil revenues transparent, the law of the oil revenues account was passed by the parliament. We made as many reforms as we could, but the authorities, notably, number one, the KDP, deterred our steps in the direction towards reform within the government.
If the government has failed, why do you not withdraw completely?
The reason why we do not withdraw is that the posts we have received are not a gift given to us, but our election merits and our votes.
Masoud Barzani and his party did not keep their promise
We decide when to withdraw.
Has your official existence within the government but non-existence in reality complicated the situation within the government, leading to reshuffling?
We have not held anyone’s hands. Let the PUK and KDP reshuffle the government and re-distribute the parliament posts. But they do not do so since this move will result in ruining the Kurdish home and unleashing violence.
Could elections be decisive with regards to the situation? Do you also have disagreements on elections?
We insist that elections have to take place on time so as to change this failed government.
Does Gorran have any concerns about the election law?
The election law is a national question and it should be approved through agreement and under the ceiling of the parliament. We support an electoral district system because the division of the areas’ representations will serve the democratic system. And it should also be a half-closed list so that the people can vote for the right person of their preference.
Have you demanded a decrease of the 11 seats that are reserved for non-Kurdish minority communities?
No, we support them keeping their seats as it is now. But, we prefer re-organizing the Turkmen, Chaldean, and Assyrian representatives so that their communities can have their true representatives. They should have their own voting records, instead of a [Peshmerga] Zeravani battalion going to vote for their candidates.
Gorran is accused of suggesting an election threshold so as to prevent small scale parties from securing a seat in the parliament. Do you want to repeat the 1992 election experience?
We want the parties who are the true representatives of the people to enter the parliament. So we have suggested a two percent or three percent legal threshold before the parties.
If the presidency law is not amended, will you have a candidate for the Kurdistan Region president post?
We support the reactivation of the parliament, the amendment of the election law and the law of the Kurdistan Region presidency, and the system to become parliamentary and electing the Kurdistan Region president through the parliament. Even if this does not work and an election is carried out in accordance with the old law, we will of course have a candidate for the presidency of the Kurdistan Region.
How are relations between Gorran and the KDP recently?
Our relation with the KDP is normal. We hailed Mr. Masoud Barzani’s message and welcomed the KDP delegation. We called for a
After ISIS, a new hierarchy will unleash in Iraq
mechanism to change the region’s three leading positions, the parliament, government, and presidency and we shared our comments to them frankly. But, the delegation never returned. Masoud Barzani and his party did not keep their promise. As usual, they met with us to waste time and blindfold us.
Nouri al-Maliki has occasionally and indirectly talked about Gorran and other parties in the future election, saying they will form the majority government. Do you have such a plan or attempt?
We have balanced relations with many of the Iraqi parties. We do not back one party against the other. We cooperate and ally with all parties in Baghdad that will safeguard the interests of the Kurdish nation. Gorran did not make Maliki the prime minister of Iraq. It was the KDP which did so for two rounds.
How do you evaluate Haider al-Abadi’s government cabinet?
Abadi needs Kurds, Masoud Barzani, and the Peshmerga to fight against ISIS. After ISIS, a new hierarchy will unleash in Iraq and at that time will have something to say.
Has Iran or Turkey ever officially sent any invitation to Gorran?
Turkey and Iran have officially invited us to visit Ankara and Tehran to open representative offices. But, we commit to our principles which state that a political party does not have to have relations with states but only the Kurdistan Regional Government should have representative offices and relations in this way – institutionalized and on a national level. However, the KDP and PUK work as they did during the mountain era and the Kurdistani front. They both, on their party level, have offices in Iran and Turkey.