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Sweden: The last country Kurds expected to oppose their referendum

By Ako Mohammed 18/7/2017
Sweden: The last country Kurds expected to oppose their referendum
Kurdistan people’s independence referendum would above all be a test for world democracy. Democracy, in its simplest definition, is the expression of a people’s will and their ability to decide for themselves. So, if the world continues in its opposition to Kurdistan people’s peaceful vote, they will fail miserably in this test and greatly harm democracy across the globe. One country that has failed before everyone else is Sweden.

Read this short encounter between Rudaw’s UN correspondent Majeed Gly and the Swedish ambassador to the UN and you’ll see that the people and media of Sweden should respond to it before all else.

Rudaw: One of the main issues in the secretary general’s report is about the Kurds wanting break up from Iraq and holding a referendum in September. What’s your country’s position on this?

Olof Skoog: Well, we are going to discuss that today with the representatives and later with the secretary general. But I think this is the time for good offices. We don’t support referendum. But there are important local elections, etc. The country, to our mind, should stay together but that also requires an inclusive democracy. 

It is strange for Sweden, which is known to all as one of the most democratic countries in the world, to have the same view as the Islamic Republic of Iran. The same Islamic Republic that is considered the founder and supporter of 180 armed groups of the Hashd al-Shaabi who, according to the Sunnis of Iraq, have killed tens of thousands of Sunnis, uprooted them from their homes, jailed and tortured thousands of others.

Liu Jieyi, Chinese ambassador to the UN and current head of the UN Security Council says that there is good progress in Iraq and that it should be preserved.

But on the ground in Iraq you will see exactly the opposite of that. Only last week, Iraqi government forces and in front of television cameras prevented the people of Anbar from visiting the capital Baghdad. The people of Baghdad and Anbar are all Arabs, but the reality is that those of Anbar are Sunnis and Baghdad has been fully transformed to Shia and only 10 percent of it are now Sunnis. The line there is tighter than most international borders, to a point that when an Anbar civilian tried to get around it and reach Baghdad he was killed by the security forces.

Also last week, the Hashd al-Shaabi openly harassed the peaceful Christians of Hamdaniya. In Babil province, the Sunni population were compelled to leave by force of arms. The Kurds of Baghdad have come under serious threats and three of them gunned down. Goods and services have a hard time reaching Baghdad due to Hashd al-Shaabi forces who have set up checkpoints everywhere and exert tariffs on all truckers.

The president of the UN Security Council can tell the world how many thousands of corpses are trapped under the rubble in Mosul and how many civilians have been deliberately killed and how many civilian homes have been sold by government troops and armed paramilitaries.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Hashd al-Shaabi forces said only a month ago that it was them defending the government. Nouri al-Maliki who is vice president and leader of the largest Shia bloc in parliament says that Iraq’s next prime minister must come from the Hashd al-Shaabi or not appointed without their blessing. From 2003 up to this moment that has been the reality of Iraq, a country ruled by militiamen and not legitimate forces.

In Iraq the constitution is the least valuable text one could find. Amid all this, if we can somehow justify the words of the Chinese UN ambassador it is hard to understand the opposition of Sweden to a people’s expression of their will, particularly given the fact that it was Sweden that opened its arms to Kurds who fled persecution and massacre in the 1970s of the last century and it was the Swedish parliament that recognized the genocide against Kurds. The Kurds expected from Sweden support not opposition.

Iraq has not acted on the conditions of the British mandate and the principles of the League of Nations or the international law towards the Kurds. It has not honored in the slightest the 1970 agreement on autonomy nor any agreement signed after 2003 to grant the Kurds their rights. Iraq simply became a member of the international community in its current shape and therefore part of the blame lies with the international community.

Now, it is time for the world to correct that mistake, especially when the Peshmerga forces did—without any support from Iraq—but with backing from the world coalition manage to halt ISIS expansion, push them back and later defeat them. The Iraqi army was not able to retake the smallest area when the Peshmerga had already retaken Shingal and brought the radical group to its knees in most other areas.

In recent years it has become clear that the Middle East could be a major source of trouble for the world and a Kurdish state could be the best source of stability and a force for good in the region.

How and by what logic should a people be stopped from practicing their democratic right in the name of democracy? Iraq is a failed state and that very failure has led to the rise of terrorist groups that threaten the world. It will be the same in the future. How can the international community forcefully keep a people within a country that is drenched in the blood of sectarian violence and ethnic persecution? It is important that human rights lawyers, activists and fighters for liberty of all people stand up to their governments and defend the real meaning of democracy.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.

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