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Niqash - politics - Kurdish Presidential Candidates


Kurdish Presidential Candidates

On July 25 the Kurdish Region will also elect a new regional President. Five candidates have entered the race:

Massoud Barzani: The Favourite

Massoud Barzani is the son of the historic leader of the Kurdish liberation movement, Mullah Mustafa Barzani.

Barzani was born on August 16, 1946 in the Iranian city of Mahabad in Iranian Kurdistan. His father was one of the founders of Mahabad Republic – a short-lived Kurdish state. With the collapse of the republic in late 1946, Barzani's father fled to the Soviet Union and Massoud and the rest of the family went to Iraq.

In 1946 Barzani’s father was made head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to lead the Kurdish revolution. He returned to Iraq in 1958 and began militarily resisting Baghdad’s rule and demanding greater Kurdish autonomy. Massoud, who was in secondary school at the time, was forced to flee to the Kurdish mountains to join his father in the revolution.

Following the 1975 Algiers agreement between Iraq and Iran, the Kurdish movement lost Iranian support and collapsed. The Barzani family left for Iran. When Mustafa Barzani died in 1979 Massoud succeed him as leader of the KDP and, together with his brother Idris, began rebuilding the party and launched a new guerrilla struggle through the Iran-Iraq War years.

After the Kuwait war in 1991 and the uprising against Saddam Hussein Massoud returned to Iraqi Kurdistan. With American support an autonomous Kurdish zone was established in 1992 under the leadership of the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) led by Jalal Talabani. During the 1990s KDP-PUK clashes erupted frequently and in August 1996 Massoud sought the support of Saddam Hussein in defeating PUK forces in Erbil.

However, the two sides came together after the U.S. invasion of Iraq was launched in 2003, working closely together and competing in local elections on a joint list. Massoud became a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and was the president of the council in April 2004. In June 2005 he was elected President of the Kurdish Region by Iraqi Kurdistan’s Parliament.

Claims of corruption and nepotism are frequently levelled against the Barzani family, members of which are found in many leading KDP positions. Since 1991 the Barzanis have established extensive business ties in the region, amassing a fortune said to be as large as US $2 billion.

Massoud is now considered the strongest candidate for President. He has been nominated by the Kurdish bloc, the KDP-PUK coalition, and if elected he promises to continue regional reconstruction, combat unemployment and fight for the establishment of a federal Iraqi system and the annexation of Kirkuk and other disputed territories to the Kurdish Region.

Halo Ibrahim Ahmed

Halo Ibrahim Ahmed is the son of the former well-known politician and leading KDP member Ibrahim Ahmed. During the 1960s Halo’s father clashed with KDP head, Mullah Mustafa Barzani, and left the party.

Halo was born in 1951 in Kirkuk city and in 1958 his family left for Baghdad. During the September 1961 Kurdish revolution, his family fled to the mountains and then to Iran. In 1966 they returned to Iraq.

Halo began studying physics at the University of Baghdad in 1969, before abandoning his studies for political activism. Following the defeat of the Kurdish revolution in 1975 Halo sought political asylum in Britain where he obtained a masters degree in communication sciences. In 1991 he obtained a PhD in computer science from the Royal Technical Institute in Sweden.

Halo returned to Kurdistan after the 1991 uprising with the assistance of Jalal Talabani. He founded the Shelter Institute for the Reconstruction of Kurdistan and in 2004 the Student Solidarity Organization.

In 2008 Halo became one of the founders of the ‘Unity’ reformist stream among PUK party members, clashed with Talabani – who is his brother in law - and was dismissed from the party.

In November 2008 Halo founded the Progress Party and nominated himself as its presidential candidate. Halo caused an uproar in 2008 after threatening to kill a journalist who insulted his father in an article.

If he becomes President Halo says he will pay special attention to youth, revive the regional economy, develop the educational system and consolidate human rights and democracy.

The region’s President "must be a president in every sense of the word… He should be independent, give priority to the nation’s interests regardless of any partisan interests," Halo told Niqash.

Dr. Kamal Mirawidly: A Scholar

Kamal Mirawidly is a 58 year-old writer and scholar. Born in 1951 in Marka village in Sulaymaniyah province, Mirawidly studied English at Baghdad University and then became a teacher. In 1974 Mirawidly worked for the September Revolution media and in 1978 he was elected president of the Sulaymaniyah Kurdistan Writers Union. In 1981 Mirawidly was arrested by Saddam Hussein. After his release he went to Britain where he obtained masters and doctorate degrees.

In 1988 Mirawidly co-founded the Kurdish Cultural Centre in London and was elected president of the centre. Since this date Mirawidly has been working as a scholar, writer, and translator for the BBC. He is also the director of the Development Institution, a UK organization working for minorities.

Mirawidly has never joined any political party and is presenting himself as an independent candidate, focused on supporting democracy in the Kurdish region. He says that if he is elected he will reduce presidential powers, abrogate the current constitution, revive the agricultural sector, give more attention to women, youth and marginalized people, improve the Region’s education standards, develop governmental and parliamentary institutions and lay the foundations for social justice.

Mirawidly says he fears the elections will not be fair and complains about the lack of financial equality between the competing candidates.

Ahmed Mohammed Rasul (Safin Sheikh Mohammed): A Merchant who Loves Politics

Ahmed Mohammed Rasul is a businessman. He was born in 1968 in Balkayti and in 1980 joined the PUK. He remained a party member until 1995 when he resigned to form a new party. He told Niqash that the reason for his resignation was the “continued conflicts in the party and the illegitimate war between the two major parties.”

Rasul told Niqash that if elected he will seek to improve human and political rights in the region and he will initiate a reconstruction of the region’s governmental institutions. Rasul supports a socialist-democratic programme and the formation of an integrity commission.

Rasul has called on the candidates competing against Barzani to unite behind one candidate so as not to “scatter votes and to have the opportunity to compete with him.”

Hussein Garmiyani

Hussein Garmiyani was born in 1965 in Qadir Karam, between Sulaymaniyah and Kirkuk. He completed his secondary education at Sulaymaniyah Agricultural School and joined the PUK in 1980, before leaving it in 2005. Garmiyani now works in agriculture in Sulaymaniyah.

Garmiyani told Niqash that he lost 15 members of his family during the Anfal campaign.

Garmiyani has nominated himself as an independent candidate, saying that he is a normal person, closer to the people than the other candidates. As for his political program, he says that he wants people to be equal before the law, wants to improve basic services, combat unemployment, increase salaries, give more attention to youth issues and develop the agricultural sector.

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