The Electoral High Commission published official results of the Iraqi Parliamentary on 25 May are as follows:
Maliki’s State of Laws list was at the top in 10 of the 18 provinces, while the results for the Sunni Arab parties disappointed their leaders, probably owing to the fragmentation of their various organisations and competition between several of their leaders like between Al-Nujayfi and Al-Mutlaq. It may also show a degree of Sunni Arab disillusionment with elections that they consider lost in advance and so useless.
The results for the Kurdistan Region and those provinces with a substantial Kurdish population were as follows:
Adding all the seats of the Kurdish parties gives a total of 62 Members of Parliament, which is five more than in the previous assembly. To this should be added the 4 seats of the Kurdistan religious minorities, traditionally allies of the Kurdistan Alliance, making this the biggest block after Maliki’s State of Laws.
The increase of the PUK and Gorran and the drop of KDP, that had hoped for at least 28 seats, as was admitted by one of its leaders, Khosro Goran. On the KDP Internet site he expressed disappointment, saying they had expected “to win more seats in Erbil and in Nineveh” and at least one in Diyala.
On the strength of its overall score, the Presidency of the Kurdistan Regional Government stated, in a communiqué published on its site, that the Iraqi Kurds were “entitled” to the Federal Iraqi Presidency (in the event of Jalal Talabani’s forthcoming “resignation”, since his illness has prevented him from fulfilling his duties since 2012).
Since the Iraqi Constitution was adopted by referendum in 2005, the duties of president have been carried out by Jalal Talabani, while the position of Prime Minister have been held by Iyyad Allawi, Ibrahim al Jaffari and Nuri Maliki in succession. Nuri Maliki is now aiming at a third term or office.
While, because of their numerical superiority, the Iraqi cabinet is predominately Shiite, the Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament has been a Sunni Arab, Usama Al Nujayfi. This has helped to compensate the lack of balance in the distribution of leading positions between the ethnic and religious components of Iraq created by the flight and in absentia death sentence passed on the Sunni Vice-President Tariq Hashimi.
Having a Kurd as President, in addition to playing a neutral role as between Sunni and Shiite political parties had the additional advantage, for those who feared a split between the KRG and the Iraqi Federal government, of maintaining a Kurdish presence and involvement in the Central Government. Since no leading administrative position had been given to a Kurd, the lack of a Kurdish President could only serve to accentuate the political and administrative distancing of the Kurdistan Region, especially since Nuri Maliki has stopped paying the wages of Kurdish civil servants thus encouraging Masud Barzani to talk about independence.
While the Presidency that the KRG claims, in its communiqué, to be “a right due to the people of Kurdistan”, there is no basis in the Iraqi Constitution for making this automatic since it was the result of an consensual agreement between the political factions following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The rival Arab movements have, hitherto preferred to have a Kurd in this post, whose role was to arbitrate in their conflicts.
The Kurdistan Region is, furthermore, demanding that the every Iraqi President (who is elected by the Baghdad Parliament) should also be approved by the Kurdish Parliament in Erbil. This has aroused the fury of the other Iraqi political movements.
Apart from the superficial reactions that are provoked by every Kurdish advance towards a Confederal rather than Federal status, the idea of replacing Jalal Talabani by another Kurd is far from being opposed by the Arab political circles. Indeed, the absence of President Talabani from the Iraqi scene has coincided not only more Kurdish-Arab conflicts but also with a general deterioration of political climate and, consequently of security throughout Iraq fueled by Sunni-Shiite differences. Thus since the virtual retirement of the present Iraqi President, other Kurdish names have been frequently put forward, from the ranks of the KDP and the PUK.
Thus, Roj Nuri Shaways, a member of the KDP Political Committee who is also Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, announced on the Kurdish radio station Nuwa that “several political lines and parties” (without identifying them) had asked the Kurdish Region’s President in office to succeed Talabani as Iraqi President but that Masud Barzani would only accept this position on certain conditions — essentially those covering an increase in Presidential powers.
However the KDP finally preferred putting forward Hoshyar Zebari, at the moment Iraqi Foreign Minister, who would be a more consensual candidate than Barzani, particularly from an Iraqi point of view.
Thus, at any rate is the view of Mahmud Othman, a veteran of Kurdish politics and a member of the Baghdad Parliament in the Kurdish Alliance. He announced Zebari’s possible candidature on the Iraqi FM radio on 12 May, with KDP approval. However the agreement of the PUK would be needed, since it also has its own candidates. Al-Musama Adel Murad, a member of the PUK Central Council retorted that as the KDP already has the Region’s Presidency, it couldn’t claim to have that of Iraq as well.
The governor of Kirkuk, Najmaldin Karim, a PUK member and a close associate of Jalal Talabani (whose doctor he is) is thus considered a possible PUK candidate. Moreover, he is the Kurdish MPs who secured the most overwhelming victory in both the Parliamentary and the Provincial elections, in a province where there has been incessant conflict between the Kurds, the Turcomen and the Sunni Arabs..
However, while the Iraqi Constitution stipulates that the President must be elected by Parliament and that he must then appoint a Prime Minister, the result of the elections influence that choice of a future head of the cabinet. Nuri Maliki is the relative victor of the elections but he does not have an overall majority and will have to form alliances to form a coalition government. However, he has alienated so many of the Iraqi factions (as well as the Kurds) so that many predict that giving him a third term of office could lead to the country breaking up. As he would be unable to do anything if faced with a veto from the Kurds and a major part of the Sunni Arabs, he will have to be reconciled with both — which the very opposite of the policy of retaliation he has been conducting against Erbil and the bloody reprisals carried out in the Sunni Arab Province of Anbar, that is in virtual state of revolt.
The Kurds have, so far, tended to be the “king-makers” of Iraqi politics. Today, however, Masud Barzani has let it be understood that they might well not take part in the next government. This divorce, already a fact at administrative level could then become not just political but also institutional: “all the options are on the table. The time has come for final decisions to be taken. We are not going to wait another decade and go through all this again. If we boycott the process , we will boycott everything” (the parliament and the government) according to a Reuters report of 13 May.
On 13 May 2014, the Turkish Minister for Energy, Taner Yıldiz, announced at a regional conference on energy taking place in Istanbul, that the oil transported and stored at Ceyhan was ready for sale.
“Our storage tanks at Cehan for the oil coming from North Iraq are now full. There is nothing to prevent their sale. This oil belongs to the Iraqis and they are the ones selling it”.
Taner Yıldiz also asserted that “responsible officials from Baghdad, Erbil and Turkey were overseeing the sales” and that the money would be deposited in the Turkish State Halk-Bank. He stated that there were 2.5 million barrels stored there, that is the full capacity of the tanks and indicated that the oil would probably be sold to Italy and Germany.
Some time earlier the KRG had already announced that its oil would be sold in the course of May. Masud Barzani had described this decision as “a political decision” and openly said it was a “reprisal” against the Central Government’s budgetary “punishment” that, since the beginning of the year, had deprived the civil servants in the Kurdish Region of their pay.
“We will continue to produce oil, pump it up and sell it. If they (Baghdad) persist in escalation we will do the same from out side”.
On 23 May, the KRG officially announced that the first shipment of Kurdish oil (1 million barrels) had left Ceyhan for shipment to the European markets and that this was just the first sale. It would be followed by many more to so as to sell Kurdistan’s oil through the new pipeline.
The revenue from these sales were considered by the KRG as part of the Iraqi budget which’s constitutionally allocated to them, but the Kurdish Government added that it was “open to any negotiation” with Baghdad. It would undertake to the United Nation to pay 5% in compensation what Iraq owed following the invasion of Kuwait and that this contribution would be deposited in a separate account.
From the Iraq side, Nuri Maliki’s State of Laws List publicly expressed its astonishment at the absence of any reaction not just of the international community but also from the other Iraqi parties. This was expressed by a member of the coalition, Qasim al-Araji:
“It is surprising that the political blocks and parties that rejected the idea of a third term of office for Nuri Maliki have not adopted any stand regarding the fact that Kurdistan has started exporting and selling its oil without the approval of the Federal Government. This exportation is, nevertheless, contrary to the position of the Shiite religious parties (vigorously opposed to Maliki) who affirm that the oil belongs to the Iraqi people”.
It Iraqi Government itself was not slow in reacting by announcing legal proceedings against Turkey and BOTAS, the national company that manages the pipeline and had transported the Kurdish oil, evaluating the loss it had suffered at being over 250 million dollars.
Commenting on the “call for international arbitration” filed by the Iraqi Oil Ministry against Turkey, the KRG attacked it in an official communiqué as a “behaviour incompatible with established and accepted practices”, which “endanger Iraq’s capacity for exporting oil and its diplomatic position in the world” as well as its relations with world markets. The Iraqi Ministry is also accused of acting in breach of the 2005 Constitution and of international laws since, as the Kurdistan Region points out Article 110 does not give this Ministry any powers regarding the exploration, extracting, producing and exporting of Kurdish hydrocarbons. On the contrary, Articles 112 and 115 of this Constitution give these powers to the KRG.
Indeed, he KRG points out that, according to the Constitution, the Federal Government has the right and obligation to share the oil revenues from oil fields exploited prior to 2005 and that the exports only came from more recent oil wells. The Region thus has the right to receive payment directly from sale of its hydrocarbons and recalls that, hitherto it had voluntarily applied the same system of sharing for all its wells, those before or after 2005.
Finally the Kurdish Government more directly targeted the Iraqi Oil Ministry (and, behind it the Minister in charge of all Energy issues, Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Sharistani, the most obstinate adversary of any projects to achieve energy self-sufficiency for Kurdistan). In fact Erbil accused the Ministry of presenting the situation on the nature and extent of the exports to the Federal Government in a biased and even untruthful manner. It was omitting to mention that the bulk of the Kurdish oil revenues were collected directly by SOMO, the State agency responsible for selling Iraqi oil. This agency, furthermore, was attached to the Ministry and that the profits had, hitherto been paid to the Iraqi State.
The Kurdistan Government reaffirmed its determination to enjoy its Constitutional rights regarding the direct reception of the oil revenue. Thus, on 26 May, Muayad Tayeb, spokesman for the Kurdish Alliance Parliamentary group in Baghdad, pointed out that the money from the exported oil would be used to pay the Civil Servants in the Kurdish region, less 5% due to the fund for compensating Kuwait. He also criticized the stand adopted by Washington: The Secretary of State, Jen Psaki, had indeed, stated that the USA did not support these exports being made without the central government’s approval, while the US had not said a word to criticize the Iraqi attitude about sharing the revenues and freeze of salary payments to the Kurdish Civil servants.
To sum up, the position of the Kurdish government is that of returning to the real provisions of the Constitution, which allocated 17% of the overall Iraqi budget to Kurdistan. If the Federal Government were to continue to block these wages, the KRG would levy what was needed from the money earned from its oil to ensure the wages of its civil servants.
On 22 May Masud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region, began a diplomatic tour of Europe, beginning with Paris and then Italy to discuss, officially and in general, bi-lateral relations between these countries and Kurdistan. He would, in particular, be tackling the issue of the crisis between the Kurds and Baghdad came to allow the KRG’s voice and point of view in this conflict to be heard…
It was a just timing accident that Masud Barzani’s visits coincided with Turkey’s offering of Kurdish oil for sale on the international market, the great annoyance of Iraq, which immediately threatened Ankara with legal proceedings.
On 23 May, Masud Barzani was welcomed at the Elysée Palace by François Hollande. His previous and first visit to France as President of the Kurdish Region was back in June 2010, when Nicolas Sarkozy had welcomed him. According to the official Elysée communiqué, President Hollande “expressed France\s concern at the degradation of security in Iraq. He only hoped that the electoral process under way would run its course with full transparency and observance of Constitutional commitments.
The Head of State furthermore expressed his support for the formation of a government of reconciliation in Iraq, in a spirit of unity that would allow all the communities to be fairly represented and meet the challenges facing the country.
He finally stressed France’s determination to strengthen its links with the Kurdistan Region in the framework of Iraqi Federal institutions”.
From the Kurdish side, the manager of the Foreign Affairs department, Falah Mustafa, reported to the daily paper Rudaw, that France had promised its “support” for the Region particularly in the Kurds’ “coming stage”, but without specifying the exact nature of this stage; even though, in the present climate, the Kurdish riposte could go from a Confederal status to a referendum allowing complete independence should Nuri Maliki persist in wanting to lead a third government.
Falah Mustafa also reported that President Barzani had clearly stated to François Hollande as well as to senior French leaders that the Kurds had “other options” should Baghdad fail to change its policy towards the Kurdistan Region.
“It was fully stressed that the Kurdistan Region had done its best but that it was not possible to continue in this way and that, we had several concrete alternatives for the future”.
Fuad Hussein, the Presidential Chief of Staff, nevertheless made the point that the issue of independence had not been dealt with in the course of this meeting but that François Hollande had said to Masud Barzani that “whatever decision you may make, there should be an exchange of views between us”.
Masud Barzani then flew to Rome where he met Pope Francis for the first time on 30 May, though, in 2009, and 2011 he had met his predecessor Benedict XVI.
This time the meeting was due to cover the security situation and the asylum offered to the some 30,000 Iraqi Christians who have sought refuge in Kurdistan.
Interviewed by Vatican Radio regarding this visit and what Iraqi Kurdistan represented to the thousands of threatened Christians, Monsignor Rabban al-Qas, the Bishop of Zakho-Amadiya, considered that this meeting was a “help” for these Christians of Kurdistan. He stressed that Kurdistan was “the exception” compared to the rest of Iraq, where there was “no stable peace” but, on the contrary, political factions tearing one another apart and where no understanding or collaboration reigned between, for example the Prime Minister and the leaders of other parties:
“There is no government (…) Nothing has been done about poverty — on the contrary. Many people have become impoverished and live in fear. These people have suffered and are continuing to suffer”, added Mgr Rabban, who in particular condemned the corruption of the Iraqi political elites.
“If you compare this with what is happening in Kurdistan, where there is considerable respect as between the communities (…) the Kurdish Region is exceptional. I can’t say it is a paradise, but there we live in a freedom that is something palpable, where there are foreign companies and plenty of shops… Those who want, can study, go to university, those who want to work here can do so”.
Masud Barzani then met the Italian Foreign Minister, Federica Mogherini, to discuss bi-lateral relations, the situation in Iraq and in Syria and the question of the Christian refugees in Kurdistan.
During both these meetings the Kurdish community was very much aware of the fact that at both the Vatican and the Italian government, the Kurdish flag was being flown side by side with the Iraqi flag — a fact that Fuad Hussein considered was a “message to the people of Kurdistan that the outside world understood the status of the Kurdistan Region. It is also a recognition of the identity f the people of Kurdistan and of its legal identity”. (Rudaw)
Minister Federica Mogherini stated that Italy had some 400 investment projects in the Kurdistan Region under way and wanted to strengthen these links in the future:
“Our economic and trading relations are very good. We are trying to improve them and increase them in the future”.
In the opinion of Falah Mustafa, there is, at international level, an increased interest in the Kurdistan Region and the attitudes of the governments towards the Kurds has changed in this respect:
“What we have feel, from a personal and professional point of view, is that these journeys, of the President as of the Prime Minister, are different from the earlier ones. “The way the international community sees Kurdistan is different now and its greater preparedness to listen to us is different”.
For his part, Fuad Hussein summed up the subjects tackled during his series of meetings by revealing that the greatest part of the meetings dealt with the present situation in Iraq, on the formation of its next government and of a possible step forward of the Kurds towards a referendum on independence.
The Jihadist organisation, the Islamic state of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) has carried out raids against three villages around Serê Kaniyê (Ras al-‘Ayn) and killed dozens of civilians, including women and children, according to the ANF news agency, close to the PKK, that said that the bodies of at least 15 people, including 7 children, had been found.
Thus Temad village, near Serê Kaniyê, was attacked by the I SIL with a car bomb, causing several victims.
According to a YPG source (the PYD armed wing) some ISIL troops that had been repulsed by the Kurds. Withdrew and so doing massacred several civilians in at least two villages.
“In Syria some Youtubers film and die every day while others kill and film their acts.
In Paris I can only film the sky and show these Youtube pictures, guided by an unshakeable love of Syria.
This tension between my distance from my country and the revolution is born from a chance encounter.
A young Kurdish film maker from Homs “chatted” asking “If you were here in Homs what would you film?
The film is the story of this sharing.
This is how this documentary filming the war in Syria live is presented. “Simav”, Kurdish for “Silvery water”, made a considerable impression at the Cannes Festival. It bears the name of one of its joint authors: Wiam Simav Bedirxan, 35 school mistress at Homs, who filmed the war with the means available in partnership with the Syrian director, Ossama Mohammed, 60 years old and in exile in France since 2011.
“Simav” mingles some documentaries that Ossama Mohammed had brought with him from Syria, some videos published on Youtube and the on line exchanges by chat and video with Wiam Simav who recounted daily life in wartime Syria from Homs and Derma. It was filmed for three years using a DV camera or mobile phone. It has also includes violent scenes, particularly of torture, carried out by the Syrian forces and filmed by the perpetrators themselves and posted on social networks as well as those carried out by the Jihadist militia.
On 16 May, the day it was shown, Simav Bedirxan joined Ossam Mohammed, who she was meeting for the first time, on the stage. Having left Syria via Turkey, it was only at the very last minute that she succeeded in arriving at Nice by plane to be present when her film was screened.
“This revolution was also made by pictures. In an unprecedented manner it was a war of pictures and images that mobilized both sides. As a filmmaker, I had to record this fact. I sought means of doing so for a long time till, in November 2011, I received through Facebook, the first message from this young woman, Simav, in which she told me she had decided to film things to avoid dying and asking me for my advice. This message was a moment of truth for me — I understood that his was an artistic opportunity that had been offered to us and, in the course of our exchanging messages, when each one could have been the last, I understood that the film was by both of us and, through us both and Simav’s pictures, by the whole Syrian people” (as interviewed in Le Monde).
Interviewed by Le Monde, Simav Bedirxan expressed her desire “” even if “as a woman who did not wear the veil and was a Kurd” she had never, before the war, felt at home in Syria
“I went to Aleppo, bought a camera that I took into Homs secretly. I contacted Ossama and I set about filming without being able to stop. Even when sleeping I held the camera. I think that if I have survived it is thanks to that camera— it was like a beating heart and Ossama in Paris was the umbilical cord that connected me to life”.
Abbas Kamandi, a Kurdish singer, poet and painter, from the town of Sine (Sanandaj) died in his hometown on 22 May of a heart attack at the age of 62 while he was being treated in hospital for Kidney problems.
Born into a poor family, he had never been able to enjoy higher education but started writing at the age of 16. Less than two years later, in 1970, he won a literary prize in a competition organized by Sine-Radio. It was then that he met Hassim Kamkar, the father of the famous Kamkaran, who was his music and folklore teacher.
He then worked for over thirty years for this radio station and was also the author of several radio and television plays. He also managed his town’s House of culture and literature.
At the beginning of the Islamic Revolution, at a time when music and stage arts were no longer allowed because of religious bans, he concentrated more on the anthropological and ethnological aspects of popular music, of which he was a profound expert. This for 18 years he collected legends, proverbs, beliefs and riddlesand other oral traditions.
He was the author of 150 songs, of which he himself recorded about sixty. His work was very popular with the Iranian Kurds. He leaves behind him a considerable written work, several collections of poetry, four novels, and an anthology of the biographies of eminent public figures of Sine and Kermanshah.
He also held and exhibition of his paintings in 2012 in Suleimaniyah, where his songs were also popular, especially “Sabri given” that he had recorded in a duet with the woman singer Shaheen Talabani. He also performed publically with the Kurdish Kamkaran group.
His main concern was to perpetuate the Kurdish art of singing and its distinctive character while also preserving it from the influences of Turkish and Arabic pop: “Sometimes when I hear our singers, you wouldn’t know whether their music was Kurdish, Arabic or Turkish until they sing the first words” (quoted in Rusaw).
When asked if he had been influenced by Persian music he replied; “No, it was I that influenced Persian music”.
His funeral took place on 26 May at Sine, and thousands of Sine’s inhabitants, artists, musicians and writers accompanied his corpse making a funeral procession to the rhythm of the daf, a traditional Kurdish drum.