By Kamal Chomani for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
Trying to jump-start discussions with Iraq’s central government, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil recently announced it will respect the Iraqi Federal Court’s ecision that the KRG independence referendum was unconstitutional. But Baghdad has amplified its demands for opening a dialogue, which makes negotiations unlikely to happen anytime soon.
The Kurdish independence referendum, which voters overwhelmingly approved in September, greatly escalated problems between Baghdad and the KRG. However, both sides have called for negotiations to resolve the issues based on the Iraqi Constitution.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said Baghdad is continuing to work toward putting into effect some articles of the constitution that have never been implemented and would benefit the Kurds, while at the same time returning federal sovereignty to all areas of Iraq.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson touched on the subject this week during a speech at the Atlantic Council-Korea Foundation Forum in Washington DC, saying the United States will help officials implement the Iraqi Constitution completely.
“We have said we’ll stand with the Kurds to support them in the full implementation of the Iraqi Constitution … which, when it is fully implemented, will address a number of grievances that the Kurdish people have had for some time and we hope will lead to that unified Iraq,” Tillerson said at the Dec. 12 meeting.
An Iraqi parliamentary source told Al-Monitor, on condition of anonymity, Baghdad’s five recent conditions for opening negotiations.
By Fazel Hawramy for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
The Kurdistan region of Iraq is fast descending into chaos, with protests continuing for the third day in some parts of Sulaimaniyah province and security forces using live ammunition to disperse them. Meanwhile, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has threatened to intervene militarily.
Thousands of angry protesters including students, teachers and government employees across the province called for the resignation of the entire Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the main two ruling parties for not being able to run the semi-autonomous region effectively.
“Some of the protesters fought the security forces,” a local journalist from the town of Raniya told Al-Monitor Dec. 19 on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. “Six people were killed, but the protesters are in charge of the city tonight.”
The KRG has been unable to pay the salaries of its civil servants for over two months following the ill-fated referendum for independence in September that brought on crippling punitive measures from Baghdad, Iran and Turkey.
In Sulaimaniyah city, for the second day, the police, the peshmerga and the security force known as Asayish internal police battled protesters with tear gas and water cannons in the main bazaar. Around a dozen people were wounded, and Al-Monitor observed a man being punched in the face by a member of the Asayish.
In a worrying development Dec. 19 that could have serious consequences for the region’s stability, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls Sulaimaniyah province, appeared to call on vigilantes to maintain order and “support the democratic and patriotic path of their party” against “troublemakers.” The party shared a warning with the press. “It is not acceptable for some … media outlets to provoke protesters to cause trouble in the name of freedom of press. … These channels and their backers … are responsible for the blood of those who become victims.”
By John Lee.
Germany has said that its continuing aid to Iraq depends on peaceful efforts to solve the conflict between Baghdad and Erbil.
Reuters quotes German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel (pictured) as saying on Monday:
“Our support is for Iraq as a unified state … We want to continue that, but the precondition is that Iraq solves its internal conflicts peacefully and democratically, and that we find a way out of the tense situation we are in now.”
He was speaking to reporters following a meeting with KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani in Berlin.
Germany has given more than 1 billion euros in aid to Iraq since 2014.
By Saad Salloum for Al Monitor. Any opinions here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.
After decades of suppression, Baha’is celebrate publicly in Baghdad
On Nov. 30, Baha’is celebrated the bicentennial of the birth of Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i faith, in a ceremony in Baghdad attended by representatives from the Iraqi parliament, the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, civil society as well as media activists.
This is considered the most prominent ceremony where Baha’is officially announced themselves for the first time in 47 years, as the Baathist Revolutionary Command Council issued Decree No. 105 in 1970 to ban Baha’i activities. As a consequence, Baha’i administrative institutions in Iraq were dissolved and any activity where Baha’is declared their religious identity was punishable by imprisonment.
Kawakeb Hussein, who was arrested under the 1970 decree, spoke to Al-Monitor about the decree’s negative impact on the Baha’i identity. She said, “The law attempted to obliterate the Baha’i religious identity, strip us of our beliefs and dissolve our identity into that of the Muslim majority. However, the Baha’is’ celebration 47 years after the official ban proves that eradicating Baha’i belief from Iraq is almost impossible, as it was from Baghdad — which the Baha’i prophet named the City of God — that this worldwide religion was announced.”
A speaker at the ceremony from the Central Baha’i Forum mentioned that Baghdad is a sacred city for Baha’is as well as how important it is to hold ceremonies in Baghdad as a solidarity action against the difficult circumstances Iraq is going through.
In this context, Aseel Salam, a Baha’i activist, told Al-Monitor, “The organizing of this ceremony in Baghdad connotes several messages, among which is the importance of Baghdad as a sacred city for Baha’is, as it is the capital city where Baha’u’llah launched his call in 1863. His house, where Baha’is from all over the world travel to perform pilgrimage, is in Baghdad as well. Moreover, Baghdad holds a special place in Baha’i history, as Baha’u’llah was exiled there from Tehran before he was exiled again in Istanbul and Edirne [in Turkey] prior to his last exile in Acre [in Syria, now Israel].”