ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Former Iraqi president and leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Jalal Talabani has passed away in hospital in Berlin, Germany, aged 83.
While remaining nominally head of the PUK, Talabani withdrew from public life after suffering a stroke in December 2012. He was in Germany seeking health care and had reportedly slipped into a coma earlier in the day. According to the PUK, his condition rapidly deteriorated on Tuesday.
Known affectionately by Kurds as Mam Jalal, meaning uncle, Jalal Hisamadin Talabani was born on November 12, 1933 in the village of Kalkan near Mount Kosrat.
He graduated with a law degree from Baghdad University in 1959.
Political from an early age, he joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in 1947, at age 14. Throughout his life he has been a journalist, Peshmerga, and politician. The PUK said he was “often seen as a unifying elder statesman who could soothe tempers among Iraq’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.”
Talabani played a major role in Kurdistan’s September 1961 uprising, the Aylul Revolution, serving on the Kirkuk and Sulaimani fronts.
In 1975, he left the KDP and established the PUK under the motto: peace, democracy, human rights and self-determination.
As head of the PUK, he continued to play a leading role in the Kurdish struggle, attempting negotiations with Saddam Hussein and establishing the Kurdistan Front with Idris Barzani.
After the collapse of the Baathist regime in 2003, Talabani became a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and was instrumental in drafting the Iraqi constitution.
In April 2005, he was elected president of Iraq by the transitional national assembly, becoming the first non-Arab president of Iraq. He won a second term as president the following year and again in 2010. By agreement of all parties in Baghdad, the position of president of Iraq is allocated to a Kurd.
He suffered a stroke on December 17, 2012 in Baghdad and spent a year and a half in Germany receiving medical treatment. He returned to Sulaimani on July 19, 2014.
Fuad Masum was elected president of Iraq on July 24, 2014, succeeding Talabani.
At a rally in Sulaimani, heartland of the PUK, before Kurdistan’s independence referendum, Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani said the mission to achieve the nation’s long-held quest for independence would have been easier if Talabani was in better health.
“My dear brother President Mam Jalal, I will never forget your brotherhood,” said Barzani.
Talabani was married to Hero Ibrahim Ahmed. The couple has two sons: Qubad and Bafel. Qubad Talabani is deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Region.