Amnesty International has published its reports on Human Rights and their violations throughout the world. The situation of the Kurds is also raised in the reports on Iran, Syria, Turkey and Iraq, with a special section devoted to Iraqi Kurdistan.
According to this organisation, Iraq continues to “marginalise its ethnic minorities, “particularly the Azeris, the Baluchis and the Kurds”, who attack the violations of their “economic, social and cultural rights as well as their civic and political rights”. The use of Kurdish, like the other minority languages, is forbidden in schools and in the administration, and those Iranians who are active in favour of their economic, social and cultural rights are frequently arrested, threatened and jailed.
Amnesty International also highlights the irregularity of the trials that have sentenced to death Kurds accused of membership of PJAK, the Iranian branch of the PKK. The international NGO particularly recalls the case of Farzad Kamangar, a Kurdish teacher who has always denied membership of PJAK who was severely tortured in detention. He faces a death sentence. From August to October 2008, over 50 prisoners went on hunger strike in protest against the execution of Kurds and to “demand respect of the civil rights of a certain number of Kurds in detention”.
In general, attempts to promote the Kurdish language and culture in Iran exposes activists to police persecution and iniquitous sentences. In detention since July 2007, Mohammad Sadiq Kubudvand, who founded and presides the Organisation for Human Rights in Kurdistan, was tried and sentenced to ten years imprisonment in May 2008 for acting ““against the security of the State by creating the Organisation for Human Rights in Kurdistan” and for “propaganda against the regime”. The latter sentence was quashed on appeal, but the ten-year sentence was confirmed. Mohammad Sadiq Kabundvand has been detained in a secret and denied any visits from his lawyer or family for a long time. He has also been denied any medical attention for a long time.
The State has not undertaken any actions to protect women from domestic violence, although a large number of cases of self-immolation are due to family oppression. On the other hand active feminists are also exposed to State repression, even though their actions are peaceful, like Parvin Ardalan who faces a heavy prison sentence.
The majority of the Kurds are Sunni Moslems or members of religious minorities like the Ahl-e-Haqq. They are thus exposed to persecution from the Shiite powers that be or to various forms of discrimination. Thus, Amnesty reveals: “The school directors must inform the local security services of the presence, in their schools, of any Baha’is or followers of other ´subversive sects’ such as the Ali-Ilahi or Ahl-e-Haqq”.
The report indicates that in Syria: “members of the Kurdish minority suffer from discrimination. Many have been made stateless and do not enjoy economic and social rights”. Mashaal al-Tammo was arrested on 15 August 2008 for political activity in a Kurdish movement and faces a death sentence for “an attempt to start a civil war or religious dissentions” and “conspiracy”.
In general, Kurdish identity is repressed, particularly the use of the language and culture. Decree N°49 of 10 September 2008 strongly restricts the right to housing accommodation and property owning in the border regions — which affects most of the areas inhabited by Kurds.
The report is particularly severe about Turkey and the fact that the majority of the breaches of human rights restrictions on freedom are related to the Kurdish question. The DTP is still in danger of being banned by the Constitutional Court whereas the AKP, the party in office, has just escaped this.
The armed conflict with the PKK has caused civilian casualties in through bomb attacks “often committed by isolated individuals or unidentified groups”. Outside Turkish Kurdistan itself, Kurds have been subjected to acts of aggression because of their origins: “some have been harassed or attacked and unknown people or unidentified groups have taken it out on their goods and property. In September, the county of Altinova, in Western Turkey, was the scene of aggressions of this kind for several days running”.
The anti-terrorist laws continue to repress any display of Kurdish culture in accordance with the whims of the prosecutors. Thus: “nine children all members of the municipal choir of Yenisehir, a Diyarbekir neighbourhood, were sued on the basis of Article 72 of the Anti-terrorist Act, for having sung an anthem in the Kurdish language, amongst other songs, during a cultural festival. They were acquitted at their first appearance in Court, but the warrant for the arrest of the choirmaster was upheld”. Several Newroz festivities were banned in towns in Kurdistan.
Young people have been subjected, as a general rule, to increasing violence and ill treatment by the police. In the cases of demonstrations, often banned without any valid reason and “broken up using excessive force, often without any attempt to try non-violent methods”, children and adolescents have been struck hard and jailed along with adults. Acts of violence by the police of the State generally go unpunished or very lightly reprimanded. Thus: “police were filmed while they were beating up E.C., a 15-year-old boy who they had summoned on the fringes of a demonstration, in Hakkari. A Prosecutor dismissed a complaint made about the violence. On the other hand the young boy was taken to court for having taken part in the demonstration”. Following the October demonstrations for the release of Abdullah Ocalan, “over a hundred minors were charged with offences that can carry sentences of up to twenty years imprisonment”. At Adana, the prefect threatened collective punishment to “the families of children who had demonstrated”.
The anti-terrorist laws also enable the sentencing of several people accused of membership of the PKK on the basis of doubtful or flimsy evidence. “Murat Istkirik was sentenced to seven years jail for “membership of a terrorist organisation” solely on the basis of his attending the funeral of a member of the PKK and of having been photographed making the “V” sign. In September Selahattin Okten was sentenced to life imprisonment for having taken part in armed operations on behalf of the PKK. The proof his guilt was based on unreliable testimony said to have been obtained by torture”.
Prison conditions in Turkey are still very bad, with ill treatment and solitary confinement of detainees. Thus Amnesty International recalls the report of the European Commission for the Prevention of Torture that recommended that Abdullah Ocalan, the PKK leader, “should undergo medical examination, that the material conditions of his detention should be improved and that the Turkish authorities should take measures to enable him to have more contact with the outside world”.
In Iraq, Amnesty International observed a significant drop in violence but points out that “all the parties involved have committed flagrant violations of human rights”. The international NGO also notes that: “as in previous years, Kurdistan was less affected by the conflict, nevertheless there is persistent news of human rights violations by security forces and of violence against women in this region”.
Amongst the 34 executions of people sentenced to death, 3 took place in Kurdistan. Two of those condemned had taken part in a bomb attack that had caused 48 deaths in Irbil in 2005. The Kurdish Courts have sentenced a total of 9 people to death, which raises the number of prisoners facing execution to 84, 33 in Irbil and 47 in Suleimaniah. The 2006 Anti-terrorist Law, which increases the number of crimes that can incur capital punishment, has been extended for a further 2 years by the Parliament.
On the question of refugees, the report records nearly 13,000 Christians who have had to flee from Mosul following attacks on their community. The report points out that “the majority have found refuge in nearby villages or in Dohuk, Irbil or Kirkuk, but about 400 have left for Syria. According to information collected, about a third of the displaced people had returned to Mosul by the end or the year”.
The Kurdistan Region of Iraq is the only one where organisation has noted “advances” on questions of Human Rights. Thus: “several hundreds of political prisoners, including several who had been detained for several years without being brought to trial, had been freed”. Amnesty also approved the repeal of the penalty of imprisonment for “defamation” in the course of the debate on the new press laws as well as the legal limitations imposed on polygamy.
The report criticises, in more detail, the “breaches f human rights” perpetrated by the region’s Security Service, the Asayish, that is virtually under no effective control and are said to resort to arbitrary arrests. It also notes that people have disappeared. Finally cases of torture and ill treatment are raised. Thus: “Melka Abbas Mohammad and his sixty-year-old mother, Akhtar Ahmad Mostafa, were kept in isolation for nineteen days following their arrest in March, for their suspected involvement in a bomb attack. Melka Abbas Mohammad is said to have been tortured during his detention in the Asayish Gishti prison (the General Security Directorate) in Suleimaniyah. They are said to have been hung by their arms while their legs were beaten with cable and to have been subjected to electric shocks. In November, this man and his mother were acquitted of all charges by a court that ordered their release; they were, nevertheless maintained in detention by the Asayish”.
Domestic violence has not disappeared, nor have “honour crimes”, and women have been burnt or killed by members of their family. A hostel was attacked by armed men to “punish” a woman member of their family, who had sought refuge there and who was seriously injured. Associations to defend women have had some of their members threatened by family members of women they were protecting. Amnesty mainly criticises the Kurdish Police of a certain laxity in identifying and arresting several murderers involved in “honour crimes”.
The report on the Asayish aroused official protests from the head of the security services in Irbil, who pointed out that several points were “out of date” on several points because of reforms already carried out. Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s officer for North Africa and the Middle East, discussed this report and the state of human rights in Iraqi Kurdistan as well as the protests from the Asayish during a televised interview on the KNN channel, just after meeting Prime Minister, Neçirvan Barzani, about the report.
Re-iterating certain of his criticisms, he nevertheless declared he was optimistic about the Kurdish Governments political determination to progress in observing human rights, recalling his meeting with the Prime Minister: “I must say that it was a quite unusual sort of meeting with a Prime Minister. Because he said quite clearly that he accepted this report and realised that it was critical of certain aspects. He said he had read and examined the recommendations and had sent them to the Asayish and the police, telling them to read and take due note of them. Such a political line is important and I wholeheartedly approve it. Obviously time will show what effect this has. However, I came out very encouraged and felt a determination to get things moving and show an example”.
Asked why there was a section of the overall report on Iraq specially devoted to the Kurdistan Region, Malcolm Smart replied: “The principal objective of our report was to say that you have succeeded to doing many good things in the Kurdistan Region, but that that were still some points, regarding Security, that needed to be corrected. The main concern is that the Asayish are not sufficiently answerable. This must changed in the future. We also wanted more concrete measures to be carried out to resolve the issues of violence against women and human rights. This is most important for you, who live in the Kurdistan Region. It is also valuable that this send a message to the rest of Iraq, showing that a better way is possible”.
As the date of the Presidential and Parliamentary elections for the Iraqi Kurdistan Region have been set for 25 July, six candidates for the Presidency have come forward this month, announced the independent Iraqi Electoral High Commission on 25 May, the final date for filing candidacies. They include the outgoing President, Massud Barzani, Halo Ibrahim Ahmed, Jalal Talabani’s brother-in-law, dr. Kamal Mirawdeli, a writer and academic living in London, Hussein Gamiyani, a businessman, Ahmed Mohammed Rasul and Ahmed Kurda.
Helo Ibrahim Ahmad, who lives in Sweden and Great Britain, had resigned from the PUK last year to form his own party, Al-Taqadom (Progress).
Nearly two and a half million electors will be able to vote by direct suffrage both for the Presidency and to re-elect the Irbil Parliament, which at the moment I dominated by the KDP-PUK joint list, which won 80 of the 111 seats in the 2005 elections.
Regarding the parliamentary elections, two important lists are contenting breaking the two-party tradition that has dominated Iraqi Kurdistan since the 1992 elections. There is the Kurdistani list, that includes Massud Barzani’s KDP and Jalal Talabani’s PUK, and the List for Change, led by Nawshirwan Mustafa, former senior leader of the PUK who broke away from it recently. “We want to change the political system”, explained the latter, whose campaign is principally hinged on attacks on corruption and on improving the quality of life in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Another contending list is that called “Service and Reform”, a coalition of four Islamic parties led by Ali Bapir. The Islamic parties are often presented as a threat to Kurdish political life should the electors’ discontent with the KDP and PUK lead them to switch their votes to the religious movements. However, none of these religious parties has succeeded in making an impact since 1992. They have even been unable to reach sufficient common agreement to allow them to form a list that includes them all. Thus Irfan Ahmed Kake, of the Islamic Movement, has attacked the refusal of the other religious parties, the Kurdistan Islamic Union and the Kurdistan Islamic Group, to respond to his call to unite for the elections. The newspaper Awene also states that all these little parties hoped to join the Kurdistani list but that neither the KDP nor the PUK had accepted to include them. Moreover, the secular parties suspect the Kurdistan Islamic Union of being supported by the AKP, the party running the Turkish government, and by the Turkish Islamic Movement, led by Fetuhllah Gulen.
As in 2005, the Kurdistani list aims at maintaining the status quo in the power sharing between the KDP and the PUK, both in the government and in Parliament as was confirmed by Sa’di Ahmed Pira, a member of the PUK Political Committee, on the Rudaw internet site. He also recalled that since the present President of Kurdistan was Massud Barzani, head of the KDP, the post of Prime Minister (at present held by Neçirvan Barzani) should, by rights, be held by a member of the PUK. He did not mention any names, but it is probable that Dr. Barham Salih, at present Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, would replace Neçirvan Barzani at the head of the government.
Some people fear that this challenge to the existing two-party power sharing might revive the spectre of civil war if the KDP and PUK felt their ascendency threatened. However President Jalal Talabani tried to be reassuring by hoping that “the elections will take place in a civilised manner in conformity with Kurdistan traditions”. On 9 May the Iraqi President visited Suleimaniah, Halabja and Shahrazur for a meeting with leaders of his party. In what seemed like the beginning of the election campaign, Jalal Talabani also insisted on a policy of assisting the most disadvantaged social classes while stressing that living conditions had greatly improved, citing as evidence the figures given by the Minister of Planning, He also pointed out that Suleimaniah held first place in Iraq as far development data was concerned. Amongst his election promises was a programme for the reconstruction of Kurdish villages and drilling of wells, with a special budget allocated to this end, as well as the opening of cultural centres for women and young people.
Mustafa Nawshirwan, formerly the PUK’s N° 2, is standing as candidate for change, as indicated by the name he has given to his list. “The old politicians and traditional parties do not care about bringing change to Kurdistan. They want to keep things as they are. We want to change the political system”. His programme also stresses improving the quality of life as well as the struggle against corruption.
Indeed, other voices in civil society, especially among the young, hope for changes in the political leadership. Officially, the leaders of the PUK Political Committee say they are confident and are convinced that the electors will remain loyal to the two main Kurdish parties. “The people of Kurdistan are very sensible and will never endanger their future by voting for new lists. The people trust their leaders and the parties that have already carried out many reforms in the last few years”, insisted Sa’di Ahmad Pira, a member of the PUK leadership.
However, Mustafa Nawshirwan is fairly popular and value for his outspokenness. Some people consider that his list could win a number of seats in Parliament, which would result in new political alliances and the end of a frozen status quo inherited from the civil war. He could also benefit from the internal dissentions of the PUK and the confusion of its traditional electorate, which probably would not go so far as to vote for the KDP but might find, in the List for Change, a third way of expressing a “protest vote”.
Born at Suleimaniah in 1944, he studied political science at Baghdad University. On his return to Kurdistan, he ran a weekly, Rizgari (Liberation) while forming an underground party, Komala, with other Kurdish intellectuals. His political activity forced him to go into exile in Austria, where he continued his research. He returned to Kurdistan as soon as the 1975 “Kurdish revolution” began and became one of the most prominent leaders of the grouping that was to become the PUK. From 1976 on, his role was as much political as military. Thus he took part in the 1991 uprising. From 1992 on he returned to his intellectual activities, writing several books while holding senior posts in the PUK. However, because of his differences with his party’s Political Committee, he gradually withdrew from the PUK and started up his own press group and then his own political movement.
The attack on an engagement party in the village of Bilge, in Mardin province, by eight armed and masked men caused 44 deaths. Over and above the recurrent problems of honour crimes and clan rivalries, which Turkish public opinion readily ascribes to the Kurdish regions, this affair also re-opens the debate on the highly controversial issue of the “village guardians”, since the assailants were all members of this rural militia.
According to the survivors, the attack was launched from several different points just as the imam ended the religious part of the ceremony. The bride-to-be was the daughter of the former village headman (mokhtar). She was killed along with her fiancé and his younger sister, his parents and the imam’s young sister.
Amongst the other victims were 6 children and 16 women, three of whom were pregnant. Forty-eight of the children in the village lost at least one of their parents, while 31 lost both, according to the local social services, who indicated that the orphans would be looked after by close relatives. According to one young woman who survived, the deaths of the women and children were not just “collateral damage” — the attacker had herded them into a room together before gunning them down.
The murderers then fled, taking advantage of the darkness and a sandstorm. The army pursued them for several days before capturing them near the Syrian border.
“In this region, concepts of honour, of dignity and reputation are carried to extremes that defy Western understanding”, declared, for his part Mazhar Bagli, a sociological researcher at Diyarbekir’s Dicle University. “In common parlance, a man is said to live for the sake of his honour, but this is the bloodiest tragedy linked to questions of honour I have ever heard of”.
It seems, indeed, that the origin of this massacre lays the conflict between two families. However, the fact that the killers were all members of the government’s “village guardian” militia reopens the controversy over the existence of these groups of armed Kurds, initially and officially created in 1985 to fight the PKK — especially as the arms used in this massacre were those supplied by the State. There have already been man complaints of murder, rape and drug trafficking against members of this militia — who enjoy a certain degree of impunity against villagers who have refused to join them. There are said to be some 60,000 “village guardians” today, and breaking them up would also create a security problem. Disarming them would expose them to reprisals from Kurdish families that have suffered from their violent abuses of power. The endemic unemployment in the Kurdish regions also raises problems for their reconversion.
Faced with a storm of criticism, the Minister of the Interior nevertheless did not really envisage dissolving them completely, only admitting that their status should be “reconsidered” and denying that this militia created a security problem. “Some village guardians are involved in this incident, but the village guardian system is not the direct cause”, he declared, before recognising that the militia had certain “dimensions that should be criticised, discussed and revised” and that his had already been done, in part.
The DTP Member of Parliament, Emin Ayna, called for the immediate suppression of this militia in a press conference in Ankara, as did Sevket Soke, an M.P of the opposition CHP party and the NGO Human Rights Watch.
On 8 May the Kurdish regional government announced that its crude oil exports would begin on 1 June via the pipeline that leaves the North of Iraq for the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Some days later, the Iraqi government announced that it approved this programme of exporting oil from the Kurdistan Region. This “authorisation” delivered by the Iraqi Oil Ministry was confirmed by the Kurdish authorities. Thus Ashti Hawrami, the Kurdistan Minister for Natural Resources, told the Reuters Agency that he had received an email from Hussein Sharistani, with whom, however, the Kurdish government has very poor relations.
In its official statement, the Kurdish Regional Government envisages exporting about 60,000 barrels a day. This oil will be sold by the Iraqi Trade Organisation and the revenue will go to the federal government for redistribution among all the Iraqi provinces in accordance with their needs. The Kurdish Region should receive 17% of Iraq’s total budget.
However, the legal disputes between the Kurdish government and Hussein Sharistani are still not settled regarding the KRG’s signing contracts with foreign companies for exploiting Kurdish oil without going through Baghdad. Thus the Iraqi Minister has persisted in re-iterating his allegations of the “illegitimacy” of contracts signed between Irbil and foreign companies. “The Oil Ministry’s position has not changed regarding contracts signed by the Kurdistan Regional Government with foreign oil companies. Authorising the Kurds to export does not mean approval of the contracts they have signed”, declared its spokesman to Reuters.
“All we say is that these contracts are illegal and illegitimate. The Region has no more right than any other province to sign contracts in the name of Iraq without authorisation”, said Minister Sharistani, going one better. “All contracts must be submitted to the Ministry”.
However, this will not prevent the Korean National Oil Company (KNOC) from starting to drill as from next October. Its share of the Bazian field is 50.4% while another Korean company, SK Energy, will have 15.2%. The Koreans say they are confident, now that that exports have been officially approved. “With this announcement, KNOC’s projects for pumping crude oil in the Kurdish region will accelerate”, the company declared, adding that exporting should begin very soon.
In total, KNOC has shares in five fields in Kurdistan, including the Sangaw field, where drilling should begin early next year and the Qush Tepe field, late 2010. These two Korean companies had been excluded from the invitations to tender for operating fields in Southern Iraq because of the contracts signed with Irbil without Baghdad’s approval.
Among other foreign companies involved in exploring Kurdish oilfields are the Norwegian DNO, the Turkish Gerel Enerji and the Canadian Addax Petroleum Corp.
Baghdad’s lack of keenness for Kurdish oil activity has led some officials to doubt the truth of the news of Kurdish exports, which are due to start in June. However, the timetable has been confirmed by the President of the Kurdish Region, Massud Barzani, in a press declaration: “This is a very important step which is taken in accordance with the Constitution and so is in the interest of all the Iraqi people. It is a success for all Iraqis — but this success was achieved by Kurds. It is like in football — one player scores a goal but the whole team benefits from it”.
The Iraqi Oil Minister, on the other hand, is seriously criticised for having failed to increase the production of oil in the country, which remains stagnant at 3.3 or 2.4 million barrels a day — far below the production before the old regime fell in 2003. Questioned about the intransigent stand adopted by Hussein Sharistani, Massud Barzani limited himself to replying: “I do not think he even understands himself let alone what he does. And what he says is of no importance to us. The President to the Kurdish Region also brushed aside the idea that the dispute over the contracts his government had signed might be used for bargaining with Baghdad over the status of Kirkuk.
A few days later, however, Hussein Sharistani indicated that the revenues the Kurds earned from their oil sales would be paid in full to the central government for redistribution to all parts of Iraq. Some people saw this as a sign of an easing up of this conflict, although the Minister repeated that any agreement reached with the Kurds should first be presented to his government.
This warning had little effect on the Kurds, as Massud Barzani had indicated. On 18 May, encouraged by this first success, the Regional Government publicly welcomed the announcement by several companies, including the United Arab Emirates Crescent Petroleum (UAS) in partnership with the Austrian OMV, the Hungarian MOL companies and Dana Gas to invest in the Region to accelerate the extraction of its natural gas reserves. It would be sold via the Nabucco pipeline, which is due to connect Turkey with Central Europe in 2014. The Kurdish Minister for Natural Resources himself presented these investments as a strengthening of “the bonds between the Kurdistan Region and Turkey” and a contribution to strengthening the strategic position of Turkey as Europe’s partner in the field of energy.
The announcement of this second export project was not favourably received by Baghdad this time and Hussein Sharistani immediately rejected the project. His spokesman, Asim Jihad, repeated that Iraqi gas and oil should only be sold by the government, while the government’s spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, pointed out that while Iraq was, indeed, planning to supply Europe with gas, these plans did not include agreements, signed quite independently by the Kurdish Regional Government: “The government rejects any agreement that does not include the Iraqi Oil Ministry”.
However, the Central Government’s support of the Oil Minister may not save him from being put on the spot by the Baghdad Parliament, exasperated by the disastrous oil production results especially when compared with the positive and rapid development in the Kurdish Region. Thus 140 Iraqi Members of Parliament have summoned Hussein Sharistani to the National Assembly to give an account of his management over the last three years. Should a vote of no confidence be passed, he could be relieved of his office by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, as pointed out to the AFP by the Kurdish M.P. Mahmud Othman. Ezzeddin al-Dawlah, a Sunni Arab M.P. and member of the National Concord Front, the largest Sunni Arab block, confirmed the summons but without mentioning the date.
This would not be the first time an Iraqi Minister was stripped of office after a no confidence vote in parliament — on the 14th of this month a similar action by the M.P.s resulted in the departure of Abded Falah al-Sudani, Minister for Trade, involved in cases of corruption and embezzlement of funds intended for the national food assistance programme.
There are also some suspicions of corruption regarding Hussein Sharistani, but his spokesman, Asim Jihad, it was only the management of oil production that was being questioned by parliament.
Mashal Temo, a 52-year-old Kurdish dissident, was sentenced to three and a half years imprisonment by a Syrian Court that found him guilty of “weakening national morale”. One of his lawyers, Mohammad al-Hassani, criticised the conditions of the trial: “We were not really allowed to defend him. The court rejected the seven witnesses we put forward in his favour”. Another dissident was sentenced on the same grounds, although he was already in prison serving a two and a half year sentence, which inspired al-Hassani to make the ironic comment: “How can anyone weaken national morale from behind the bars”.
Mashal Temo is active in the defence of the rights of Kurds in Syria. He was arrested last year as he was driving between Kobani and Aleppo and some political leaflets were found in his car. He was detained by the political police on Damascus for 12 days in solitary confinement before being transferred to the Adra prison in Damascus on 26 August 2008.
Amnesty International condemned this sentence, saying that Mashal Temo should be considered a prisoner of opinion, jailed for having expressed his opinions in a peaceful manner, and called for his immediate release. The organisation expressed its concern at the conduct of the trial and the court's refusal to hear the witnesses for the defence.
Qala Mere, alias Qadir Abdullah Zada, a great composer and virtuoso player of the shemshal (a kind f flute) died on 21 May. Thousands of people attended his funeral at the Nalashkena cemetery, where he lies near that other great Kurdish artist, Hassan Zirek.
Qala Mere was born on 23 October 1925 in the village of Kulija, in the Bokan region of Iranian Kurdistan, A musician totally devoted to his instrument, he was also politically committed, ever since the Mahabad Republic, in which he served. He was an admirer and loyal supporter of Abdekrhman Ghassemlou, the General Secretary of the KDP-I who was assassinated in Vienna in 1989 by the Iranian secret services. He evoked his memory, with tears in his eyes, in a recent interview on Tishk TV, saying that he hoped that one day God would avenge the sufferings of the Kurds and that the four parts of Kurdistan would be freed of their occupiers.
Qala Mere described in these terms the beginning of his present vocation: “It was in autumn. I was invited to a party in which my brother and two other people were playing the shemshal. I wanted to play with them but they chased me away. So I left crying and, still crying, hid in a mud hut. After crying still more I fell asleep. In my dream, someone came to me and said: “Wake up Adbel Qader ! You are annoying God with your tears. Stop crying and play the shemshal !” So I woke up and no one could equal my playing of the shemshal”.
This shemshal, which he said was 140 years old, accompanied him throughout his life, he was never separated from it, day or night, slipping it in his clothes or under his pillow when he slept. He said that he had fallen in love with this instrument when it was still owned by its previous own, a sayyid (descendant of Mohammed). He asked for it several times, but the other refused until his death. As soon as the musician heard the news of this death, he went to the dead man’s son and exchanged the shemshal for a sheep. This instrument became, in his works, his only friend. “We have grown up together, we gossip together. Sometimes it is rude and insults me! We often have private discussions in that way”. As he was already suffering from a longstanding illness, the doctors told him to stop playing but he refused to the end and finally died at the age of 84.
Qala Mere had also recorded for the Kurdsat television. He was famous in Iraqi Kurdistan and has been awarded a prize that is given each year to the most eminent artists. He had expressed the wish to bequeath his instrument to a museum in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region, so his shemshal will go to the Irbil museum.