Open letter to President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Gordon Brown
- KurdishMedia.com - By Dr Kamal Mirawdeli
- 29/07/2009 00:00:00
His Excellency President Barack Obama
His Excellency Prime Minister Gordon Brown
Presidential elections in Iraqi Kurdistan region
I would like to bring to your kind attention some main points about my experience and views of the elections for parliament and presidency of Kurdistan region in my capacity as the main competing candidate for Kurdistan region presidency and to ask your Excellencies to intervene personally to ensure that the results achieved through fraud and forgery are annulled and elections are rerun in the governorates of Duhok and Arbil.
The US and Britain offered a lot of blood and spent billions of dollars to liberate Iraq from dictatorship and rebuild it as a democratic state. The cost for the Iraqi people has been greater. Tragedy of death and destruction was a daily reality for the Iraqi people. In spite of this Iraq has won the war against terrorism and managed to hold free elections and build a credible democratic system. Iraqi Kurdistan, having been liberated from Saddam's dictatorship since 1991, had more stability and was seen as a possible model for peaceful development for the rest of Iraq. The liberation of Iraq created unique possibilities to transform the region into a modern democratic prosperous self-governing region especially as huge financial resources became available and the military and political presence of US and Britain was seen by our people as a moral guarantee that a democratic system that upholds human rights would become a reality in Kurdistan too.
Unfortunately this expectation was not fulfilled. While Iraq was liberated from Saddam and his henchmen and the entire system of Ba'th dictatorship, in Kurdistan region the old tribal leadership based on Saddam's character and the Ba'thist totalitarian model of power stayed on in power. Far from having been democratised by the experience and influence of the Iraqi liberation and democratic restructuring, the Kurdish tribal leadership has used every opportunity, resource and especially its military and political participation in the process of the restructuring of Iraq and thus relationship with US and Britain, to re-entrench the most repressive structures and aspects of the Bath dictatorship in Kurdistan region. The tribal dynasties and their parties have abused their political role to build a feudal totalitarian regime controlling Kurdistan region's finances, militia, economy, market, media, institutions and every aspect of economic and social life of people. The results of this process have been catastrophic for our people. The idea and rights of citizenship have disappeared. People are treated as political slaves receiving salaries from their tribal masters. As the two dominant parties illegally control the revenues and economy of Kurdistan region, in the entire Kurdistan region there is no job market, no job agencies, and no government employment bureaus. The political party is directly or indirectly the only monopolising employment agency. The idea of contract of employment does not exist. People have to give up their free thinking, dignity and sense of security in return of being employed by political parties for little money. In the process of the current election for Kurdistan region's parliament and presidency hundreds of people, some with 20 or 30 years of employment, have been randomly sacked without having any access to justice or legal compensation. The tribal leadership treats people as their divine masters. People can have the right to life, having family, getting a job as long as they obey their political masters. In an interview with a local paper I have described this unique system as 'modern feudalism' where 'salary slavery' replaces the old land serfdom. The consequences of this system have been dangerous social and moral breakdown and an incredible sense of powerlessness by people.
You cannot find any young men in the market, apart from those associated with the elite tribal families, with even 100 dollars in their pockets. The idea of marriage and building family life has almost disappeared for most of the young men and women. The continuous murder and suicide of women and the alienation and escape of young people from this hell are two essential ingredients of the injustice of the new salary slavery system of the dominant totalitarian Kurdish parties.
I stood for the post of Kurdistan Region President in the present elections as soon as the opportunity came up. My purpose has been to give opportunity to my people to be able to vote for a new face and a new vision and approach to their rights, freedoms and future.
Apparently the election process has been free and possibly fair. But this has not been my experience. I had only five days to complete the formalities of my candidacy and 45 days to organise my election campaign. And equal opportunity to participate in the elections ended as soon as my candidacy was confirmed.
1) I have not had enough time to plan and finance my campaign as the law had been changed unexpectedly to suit the wishes of the incumbent president and without consultation with any one.
2) I was denied any financial aid by the government for my campaigning and thus have not been able to employ any monitors to represent me ( I needed 3500 monitors) and this has had verey serious negative consequences given the huge level of fraud in the elections and the lack of impartilaity by the electoral commission in Kurdistan region.
3. I was denied any access to TV channels to advertise my message and programme. At the beginning, before the start of my cadidacy, I had a 45 minute interview with KNN and at the end of the campaign after huge pubiuc pressure KNN had a 40 minute interview with me. Apart from this I was denied any access to TV channels which are all controlled by political parties. I was refused the use of TV channels for my campaign even when I offered to buy time from them. Although Nawroz TV is supposed to be the only government controlled TV station and was supposed to give eqaul advertising time to all the candidates, I was not given even five minutes to convey my message to my people. As TV publicity is the oxygin of any modern election campain this has been a huge injustice against me.
4. I mainly depended on my mobile phone which was my campaign offices, staff and resources. Within days I had hundreds of volunteers working for me and taking my message to every town and village of Kurdistan region especially in Sulaymaniyah governorate where there has been more space for freedoms and diversity especially after the emergence of the Change List and my return to Kurdistan. But in Arbil and Duhok areas there is a strict Ba'th-style totalitarian one party-system that rules people through fear, intimidation and bribes and thus people were too afraid to publicly be involved in my campaign.
5 I had to use direct face-to-face meetings with my people to conduct my campaigning. But the authorities in Kurdistan denied me the use of public halls to hold my meetings and I had to use public spaces and parks for this purpose.
6. The volunteers who directly worked with me were threatened and intimidated. 12 of them have been sacked without any recourse to justice or legal compensation. Many more who have directly supported me have been thretaned with revenge.
7. Kurdistan Democratic Party TV producers followed my campaign and videoed all my activities and public meetings without showing even one second of them. The purpose was solely intelligence and to identify and intimidate people and threaten them with revenge afterwards.
8. KDP media used a campaign of defamation and character assassination against me while I had no access to the media to defend myself or give explanations. Even before the confirmation of my candidacy, Hawler which is the official paper of the governorate of Arbil, funded by public money and circulates 25000 copies daily free of charge, published a defamatory article accusing me with treason and working for Turkey and Turkomans to destroy KRG. This paper continued this line of personal attacks against me throughout the campaign while using the front page and all other pages to advertise for the incumbent president and the so-called Independent Electoral Commission failed to take any action.
9. Every other day, the intelligence agencies of the two dominant parties unleashed campaigns of defamation and circulating lies and rumours through organised telephone calls to people in areas where I had had successful campaigning. This campaign was escalated to the level of circulating defamatory posters and CDs in the last two days before the voting day.
10. While I was contained within this disadvantageous circle of action, all the gigantic financial, militia and media resources of the two parties as well as all government institutions and resources were used day and night in the service of the campaigning of the incumbent president in contravention to the regulations of the independent electoral commission. In the last two weeks of the campaign even the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani was directly advertising for the incumbent president distributing money, promises and presents to encourage people to vote for him.
11. Threats and actions of random sacking were widely used. Hundreds of people have been sacked because of expressing a different view or supporting me, the Change List and other lists.
12. Bribes in the form of tens of thousands of dollars have been used to buy the votes of the tribal leaders and influential social characters to support Barzani and the Kurdistani List. In Koisinjaq district town alone it is known that 2 million dollars have been spent for this purpose. In spite of this I have won the town.
13. The above was the context of the elections. The process of the campaigning and elections was very good in Sulaymaniyah governorate and Garmiyan area and even in Koisinjaq up to the gates of Arbil. There were some serious frauds in Kalar and some other area. But these were marginal and did not seriously damage free and fair process of both campaigning and voting processes and their results. In my first press conference in Sulaymaniyah after the end of the voting I warmly thanked the independent electoral commission in Sulaymaniyah governorate and all the officials and monitors who worked hard, professionally and democratically to achieve this exemplary case of elections in Kurdistan region. The reason for the success of elections in Sulaymnaiya was that the political balance of power in Sulaymnaiya had shifted in favour of the opposition. The majority of the peshmarga and security forces has joined the Change List, Gorran, and has also voted for me in the special voting. Therefore the Kurdistani List was not in a position to use force or threat of force to affect the voting patterns and there is no indication that they had such an intention. Therefore while the elections in Sulaymaniya governorate and Garmiyan can be described as free and democratic (but not fair as far as I am concerned because of the context described above) unfortunately this condition changes as we move closer to the capital of the region Arbil where Barzani family and their KDP party has had full control since they captured Arbil with the direct military support of Saddam Hussein on 31 August 1996.
14. Posters and photographs belonging to me and other opposition parties were immediately removed in Arbil and Duhok. You could only see building size posters of the incumbent president. There was no way to organise a meeting and talk to people. People were too afraid even to talk to me directly. I held a press conference at Al-Safir hotel in Arbil and asked two of the known brave journalists to introduce me. They found it too risky to do this. Even the children of my closest relatives in Arbil could not help in the distribution of leaflets in the market. Their fathers had been threatened with sacking if they would do so. The most effective strategic weapon used by KDP and PUK in the elections was the threat and action of depriving children of bread because of political choices made by their parents. This was very effective. Many fathers told me they could bear fasting themselves but they could not bear seeing their children hungry. This is how Kurdish authorities treat Kurdish citizens after 16 years of their rule and claim of democracy. Duhok is worse than Arbil. It is a one-party mini-state exclusive to Barzani dynasty. People were too afraid to openly receive our literature or to express their opinion. Many KDP members are organised as Parastin (KDP security agency) and are assigned responsibility of spying on their neighbours, friends and ordinary citizens or to attack Barzani opponents as a mob if there was a reason to do so. In spite of or rather because of this people were very eager to vote for change and a new democratic life in Kurdistan region.
15. Large scale fraud and forgeries have been reported in Arbil. The voting process in Arbil was normal and in order until around 3 pm. Until then I had been competing well with the incumbent president and in some voting stations my votes were higher. At that time feeling that the incumbent president was going to lose the KDP authorities in Arbil started to implement a plan they had organised before:
They had prepared thousands of militia and KDP members in groups of 20 to 50 people.
The Interior Ministry had prepared permits/badges for dozens of KDP buses
After 4 O'clock each group of these people were moved to between 7 to 10 stations to vote for the incumbent president. Some people have voted up to 20 times.
To facilitate this, KDP authorities had appointed KDP-affiliated teachers as voting station managers. They were supported by Asayish elements. They have intimidated monitors belonging to the Change List and the Reform and Services List and in many stations marginalised or removed them.. For example in the area of Ala, KDP official Muayyid Ali has organised a group of 60 young people belonging to the party. He has moved them to seven voting stations to vote for the incumbent president. One of the young persons has been my relative. He has taken this opportunity to illegally vote seven times for me in that day. In Zanko area 15 buses full of KDP members were taken to seven polling stations and voted in all of them.
The Independent Electoral Commission in Arbil collaborated with KDP to implement this plan. Instead of stopping this attack on democracy and shutting down the stations where violations were taking place, they extended the voting time by one hour without consultation with representatives of other lists or candidates in order to allow KDP authorities to implement their coup against the democratic process in Kurdistan. In addition to this it is estimated that over 150,000 forms called 111 forms have ben distributed to KDP members and peshmargas allowing them to vote in presidential and parliamentary elections. It is estimated that up to 380,000 illegal votes were registered between 4 and 7 O'clock on the Election Day.
Violations of electoral regulations have also been wide-spread. Most of these aimed at reducing the votes of the presidential candidate Kamal Mirawdeli and increasing the votes of the incumbent president. For example, in the polling staion of Perzin in Masif area, station number 22008 which was managed by Mahiya Qadir Maruf who is a tecaher and KDP member, according to one of the monitors, Kamal Mirawdeli got 420 votes and Masud Barzani 530 votes. Then 300 votes of Kamal Mirawdeli were spoiled by the station manager by ticking the boxes of other candidates and then the forms were crossed with a red pen. In the same station 400 of 111 forms were given to KDP's Zeravani militia who were in civilian clothes and their votes were accepted.
I trust and hope that these stark violations woud be taken into consideration and the results of the elections in the Arbil and Duhok governorates will be fully investigated and annulled to ensure that our people would not lose this opportunity to bring about democratic changes in Kurdistan Region.
Kurdistan Region Presidential Candidate
27 July 2009
- KurdishMedia.com - By Dr Kamal Mirawdeli
- 29/07/2009 00:00:00