ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Mam Jalal Talabani is being remembered as a great leader, one of those who spearheaded Kurdistan’s independence struggle, dedicating his life to the Kurdish question and, after the fall of Saddam Hussein, building a democratic, inclusive Iraq. He passed away on Tuesday, aged 83.
“We are profoundly saddened by the death of President Mam Jalal. On this sad day, I convey my condolences to the Talabani family, especially Ms Hero, Mr Qubad and Mr Bafel. I wholeheartedly share their grievances. The loss of a leader like Mam Jalal is a great loss to our nation and [his place] cannot be filled easily," President Masoud Barzani said in a televised address.
Talabani's PUK and Barzani's KDP engaged in a civil war in the mid-1990s. Their power-sharing agreement ending the war led to good relations that Barzani hailed as contributing to building the Kurdistan Region of today.
“We are proud to see that many of today’s achievements are due to the brotherhood and good relations whose foundation we built together. And now the best loyalty to soul of the distinguished brother Mam Jalal and the souls of all the martyrs of the liberation path of our nation is to further strengthen our unity and it is through this we can reach the sacred aim which our leaders and thousands of people were martyred,” Barzani said.
Extending his condolences, Barzani said, “I myself lost a friend, brother, and a strong supporter.”
As founder of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), he was dedicated to furthering the cause of Kurdistan’s self-determination. As the first Kurdish, indeed the first non-Arab, president of Iraq, Talabani played a leading role in drafting Iraq’s constitution.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi expressed his sadness at Talabani’s death, describing the Kurdish leader as a “faithful partner” in the new Iraq.
“In these sensitive times we’re more than ever in need of his moderation, wisdom and insistence on the unity of Iraq and Arab-Kurdish brotherhood in a united Iraq. We’ll always remember his description of the people of Iraq as a wreath of flowers of different varieties,” Abadi stated.
The United States is “deeply saddened” by Talabani’s passing.
“He was a true statesman and a leader for all Iraqis. President Talabani was elected after the fall of Saddam Hussein and we remember his sincere partnership with the United States during his term as president from 2005 to 2014,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a press briefing on Tuesday.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan extended his condolences to Talabani’s family, speaking by phone with Hero Ibrahim Ahmed and Qubad Talabani.
The UK's Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt said Talabani was "a respected statesman who served Iraq with distinction."
Frank Baker, UK ambassador to Iraq, described Talabani as a “huge political figure in Iraq’s history.”
“Jalal Talabani showed wisdom and compassion throughout his life. He will be greatly missed,” Baker said on Twitter.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Talabani’s passing “caused deep sorry and regret for me,” according to state-run IRNA news. He described the loss of the Kurdish leader as an “irreparable tragedy” for both Iran and Iraq.
Kurdish MP in the UK parliament, Nadhim Zahawi, tweeted his condolences: “RIP Mam Jalal Talabani. A political giant, father & loving husband. Condolences to his family. Hope Iraq will open airspace for his funeral,” he said in reference to the current ban on international flights into the Kurdistan Region imposed by Baghdad after the independence referendum.
Talabani is being fondly remembered by Kurds across all four parts of greater Kurdistan.
Head of Kurdistan Region foreign relations, Falah Mustafa, said on Twitter, “Kurdistan lost a great leader & a true statesman.”
Fellow PUK member, Kirkuk Governor Dr. Najmaldin Karim was Talabani’s personal physician.
“He was leader, intellectual, commander, and a brother to us,” Karim said of Talabani on his passing.
“The world, Iraq, the people of Kurdistan and Kirkuk today lost one of the most prominent leaders of the liberation [movement] … a most eminent advocate of human rights,” he added.
“We in the city of Kirkuk are more saddened than anyone else by the loss of President Mam Jalal because he loved our city and was defending the Turkmen, Kurds, Arabs, Chaldeans and Assyrians.”
Gorran, which split from the PUK, described Talabani has a “leader of the civil, Peshmerga and diplomatic endeavors of our nation.”
“During his lifetime of endeavors, Mam Jalal always strived to bring about coexistence, unity and endeavored to ensure victory for freedom-loving nations and strived to achieve the right of self-determination for the Kurdistan nation,” Omar Sayid Ali, Gorran leader said in a statement.
Head of the Kurdistan Islamic Union hailed Talabani as a “genius politician, journalist and a prominent writer.”
“The passing of President Mam Jalal, the great leader of our nation, saddened us. The loss of this quality and global man is a great grievance to all. It is the loss of a successful leader in all areas of endeavor, revolution, Peshmerga and country leadership,” said the KIU’s Salahaddin Bahadin.
“We hope we can turn this sad occasion into a force for internal reconciliations, getting Kurdistan’s house in order and more serious steps toward the ancient aims of our nation,” he added.
Leader of the Islamic Group (Komal), Ali Bapir, extended his condolenes on "the passing of the eminent and historic leader of the Kurdish nation, his Excellency Mam Jalal."
“He played an important role in the Kurdish nation’s liberation endeavors,” Bapir said, noting the "vacuum" left in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region following Talabani's departure from public life after his illness.
Masrour Barzani, head of Kurdistan’s security council, expressed his sadness at Talabani’s death, sending his condolences to his family, the PUK, and all Kurdistan citizens. “Mam Jalal was an influential character in Kurdistan’s and Iraq’s political sphere as well as the region. His passing will undoubtedly create a big vacuum,” he said.
Barham Salih, a former PUK leader who recently formed his own political entity for next month’s elections, said that Talabani’s death is a “political and social loss” that cannot be compensated for.
“His gap will never be filled easily,” said Salih. “We promise to make his sacred soul happy by working to enforce democratic principles and bringing about justice.”
Kurdish parties in Syria, Iran, and Turkey have also expressed their condolences.
The Syrian-Kurdish party PYD extended its condolences to the Kurdish people on Talabani’s passing.
Salih Muslim, former co-chair of the PYD, tweeted that Talabani is "one of the pillars of Kurdish politics" who gave his life for his people.
Iranian-Kurdish Komala described Talabani as “one of Kurdistan’s absolutely finest and greatest.”
The PKK hailed Talabani for his lifelong dedication to the “freedom and unity” of the Kurdish people.
The Arab Journalists Union also expressed its condolences to the Kurdish nation.
People are gathering at the PUK headquarters in Sulaimani, Tuesday evening.
Talabani passed away just eight days after the Kurdistan Region voted to separate from Iraq in a historic referendum on independence. Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani announced one week of national mourning.
Last updated at 10:15 pm