The deputy director of community outreach for the Kurdistan Regional Government spoke Wednesday night at the Elliott School about the prospects of an independent democratic government in Iraq’s northern region.
Heyrsh Abdul told the approximately 30 people in attendance that the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is committed to development in Iraq.
“We have chosen to be part of Iraq and we are committed to that,” Abdul said. “We can declare independence, but we will be destroyed. It is better to be with Iraq right now.”
He added, “(The PUK) wants the idea of Iraq to work and we want to be part of it provided that the new Iraq protects us and our way of life.”
The founder and secretary general of the PUK, Iraqi President Jalal al-Talabani, has been at the forefront of the power struggle in the Kurdistan Regional Government between his PUK and the Kurdish Democratic Party.
The PUK and the KDP have battled over control of Kurdistan’s government since Kurdish independence was declared in 1992 with the help of the United States during the Gulf War.
Both parties are reluctant to relinquish their power despite having renounced old rivalries to form a unified regional government.
During a question and answer session following his speech, Abdul did not answer many of the questions posed by GW students about the Turkish government’s historical abuse of the Kurdish people.
“This is a sensitive question,” Abdul said several times.
Later, Abdul seemed to hint at Turkey’s persecution of Kurdish people.
“We have been attacked, persecuted and threatened by our neighbors and made to feel unsafe and unwelcome in the land of our birth,” he said.
“To be sure, we have had our differences,” Abdul said. “But more often than not, the Turks have been our brothers in the struggle for peace and freedom.”
Abdul then addressed the debate over the war in Iraq and the possibility of a troop withdrawal from the country
“While it is for Americans to decide whether to maintain military troops in Iraq, I can tell you that your presence over the past four years has accomplished a great deal,” he said. “Iraq is far from perfect; it faces many and difficult challenges in the years ahead. But progress is being made. We will continue this work, whether American troops remain or not.”
The GW Middle East Peace Group, which sponsored Wednesday’s event, wanted to bring attention to the situation of the Kurds.
“Israelis and Palestinians, I feel, are given perhaps too much attention when we speak about the Middle East,” said senior Jeremy Makover, an executive member of MEPG and the organizer of this event. “There are many similar people in similar situations fighting over land or their identity or the right to live in a nation that they feel represents them justly. This is something that we wanted to showcase with this event.”