Barzani meets with diverse communities of Mosul and Duhok

getarticleimageservlet.jpgKurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani speaks to a press conference in this file photo. Barzani conducted a three-day visit to Shekhan and Duhok to meet with people representing minority communities in Ninewa. GLOBE PHOTO/Safin Hamed
The Kurdish Globe

The President promises to protect all Kurds from those who seek to change them.

Kurdistan Region’s President urges peace and tolerance among the leaders of all ethnicities as the country prepares for elections.

As the country prepares for a crucial local election, Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani visited Shekhan, Duhok, and Zakho for three days to meet with representatives from the Yazidi, Shabak, and Christian communities, as well as displaced Kurds from Mosul and its surrounding districts.

President Barzani focused on the Yazidi and Shabak identity issues, Iraq’s political developments, problems with the federal government, the Peshmarga issue, the disputed areas, and also preparations for the elections.

Kurds along with other Iraqi political parties are preparing for local elections next Saturday. Although Kurdistan Region provinces are not involved in the elections, the Kurdish parties seek to gain votes by the Kurdish communities in four provinces outside Kurdistan Region. Kurds work for their lists in Ninewa, Diyala, Salahaddin, and Baghdad.

While meeting with Yazidis in Shekhan town north of Mosul, which is home to a large number of Yazidis, President Barzani noted that despite the fact that Yazidis are considered ethnically Kurds, no one has the right to determine the their identity.

“Only Yazidis themselves can determine their ethnic or religious identity,” the President remarked, assuring them that they would never allow other parties to seek an alternative identity for Yazidi Kurds.

Moreover, the President emphasized the message of tolerance and freedom of religion to the minority communities in Duhok and Ninewa provinces. Later on, Barzani visited the Lalish center, the Yazidis’ principal holy site, which is situated in Shekhan.

The Kurdish leader stated that they don’t want any individual of those communities exposed to oppression. He also firmly denied accusations directed at Kurds that they are harassing Arabs in Mosul.

“I don’t say there were no mistakes at all. What we mean is to respect them [Arabs], not to harm,” he said. He asked for information about any Kurds violating Arabs in the Mosul area and he promised action.

On Friday, the President sat with representatives of Shabak Kurds and Christians from the Mosul area. Shabaks, similar to the Yazidis, are a sect of Kurds. But some Shabak and non-Shabak figures claim that they are a separate ethnic community. Christians and Shabaks have been the target of attacks by extremists in Mosul recently, and many fled and resettled in Kurdistan Region late last year.

“The calm situation we now enjoy must be protected by all of us–Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Muslims, Christians, and Yazidis. The brotherhood must be life-long and the spirit of tolerance should be broadcast by the religious men to every individual,” said President Barzani.

During the meeting, he noted that 2009 is a year for important elections. He referred to the upcoming provincial council elections due to be held on January 31; the provincial council elections in Kurdistan Region will be held in May and general elections at the end of the year.

“We are not here to ask you to vote for any particular side; you have the right to vote for your own candidates. You should vote with your conscience,” the President said. He remarked that all Iraqis’ sacrifices and struggles have been for a day so that they, as a people, can freely cast their votes and elect their own government.

On accusations that the Kurds were behind last year’s targeted attacks against Christians in Mosul, President Barzani said, “Some people blamed the Kurds for these attacks, but it has become clear to everyone that the Kurds were not responsible.”

In all his meetings with the different communities, President Barzani stressed the need for more tolerance and friendship between different religious and ethnic communities. He said Mosul has historically been a place of peaceful coexistence for different religious and ethnic groups. He urged that this tradition be upheld.

On general political problems concerning the Kurds, Barzani noted that they would never allow changes in the Constitution that would harm Kurds.

“We know they [some Iraqi parties he didn’t name] want to put the whole country’s affairs under their control, but that is a dream. Any change for developing the Constitution is valid. But I repeat: If Iraq stays with the Constitution, Iraq stays stable.”

During one of the meetings, Barzani talked about Article 140, the constitutional article set for settling disputed areas between Kurdistan Region and Baghdad. “Neither time nor force can make us forget about Article 140,” said Barzani, insisting on its implementation.