ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – 2018 got off to a rough start in the Kurdistan Region, but is leaving on a much more positive note and Kurdish leaders are optimistic about the new year – economically and politically. Looking beyond their own borders, however, they are concerned about the fate of their kindred in Syria.
Nechirvan Barzani, prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) wished for the New Year to bring with it "goodness and prosperity" for the people of Kurdistan.
"The people of Kurdistan in 2018 explained an important reality, which was that they did not turn their back on the genuine parties in the two elections of Iraq and the Kurdistan Region and reaffirmed that the nation and the government in the Kurdistan Region are on the same strong front, foiling the plots of the enemies,” he said in a New Year message.
At the start of the year, the Kurdistan Region was under a flight ban and diplomatic embargo imposed by Baghdad in response to the independence referendum. It ends the year on much better footing with the central government, actively working with the Iraqi leadership.
The Kurdistan Region is also slowly recovering from the economic crisis that financially crippled it since 2014. Nechirvan Barzani said the next year's economic outlook is promising.
Qubad Talabani said he hoped the new year will mark "the end of past sufferings and the start of a new prosperous and peaceful phase."
As deputy prime minister of the outgoing KRG, he said he is “optimistic” the government will go out on a “good result, capable enough of meeting the expectations of Kurdistanis and making the public interests of the people of Kurdistan our priority."
Masoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and former Kurdistan Region president, sent his appreciation to the Peshmerga and “all the people of Kurdistan who through their sacrifices and resilience in the face of threats, terror, and embargoes, made their rightful and peaceful voices heard across the world and prevailed over the plots of foes."
He urged unity for the protection of "achievements" in order to reach other goals that "our people have been struggling for in the past decades.”
Masoud Barzani expressed concern about threats being faced by Kurds in Rojava, northern Syria where the Kurdish forces are exposed to an attack by Turkey after the US President Donald Trump announced he was calling American troops home.
"I want to seize the opportunity to express my concerns over the fate of the Kurdish nation in Syria. I hope eventualities and dynamics occurring there will not lead to harm or the displacement or bring more plights to them," Masoud Barzani said.
"Indeed, denial or violence will deepen the crises," he warned.
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Kosrat Rasul echoed Masoud Barzani’s sentiment in his own New Year message.
"The uncertain situation threatening West Kurdistan [Rojava] due to the withdrawal of US troops has sparked instability and we hope all the relevant sides responsibly and sensibly deal with this matter," Rasul said.
Rasul, who is rarely heard from publicly, also spoke about relations with Baghdad and urged unity among Kurdish lawmakers in the Iraqi capital to "secure the rights of the people of Kurdistan."
Back at home where a new cabinet has not been formed three months after the election, Rasul said that the KRG must focus on "transparency in spending and revenues, the rule of law, uprooting corruption, and forming a serving government."
Masrour Barzani, chancellor of the Kurdistan Region Security Council and KDP-nominee for the post of KRG prime minister, said the nation is heading towards a "bright future" and ready for "more achievements,” having shown resilience as they went through hardships.
He also said the process of forming the next government should be sped up “as a sign of respect for the voters.”
The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) warned that 2019 will see an escalation in conflict, blaming Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan “who enjoys massacring Kurds,” ANF reported.
As long as Erdogan continues with his “propaganda,” it will be “impossible to stop the war in Kurdistan, Turkey, or the region in general, or develop peace and fraternity,” the PKK stated.
It added it will introduce a “professional guerrilla” style with the “latest technology in warfare” in the new year.
The struggle to achieve the rights of Kurds continues in Iran, said Mustafa Mauludi, secretary-general of the Kurdistan Democratic Party-Iran (KDP-I) in a New Year message.
In Iranian Kurdistan, or Rojhelat, they are “witnessing profound changes, which can be positive or perilous for the Kurdish nation,” he said, adding, “I hope that with unity and solidarity we advance the Kurdish issue in Iran.”
In Turkey, where municipal elections will be held in March, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said they are entering the year with determination, courage, and hope.
Many of HDP’s members and leaders are behind bars.
Updated at 7:24 pm