Kurdistan Region: Land of Masked Men?


Kurdistan Region has been called the “Other Iraq,” “the next Dubai,” and is the most stable region of Iraq with a vibrating economy and social life, though primarily enjoyed by the elites and the middle class, which do not make up a large percentage of the 4-6 million populations. Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, not one US or the coalition soldier has been killed or any foreigner been kidnapped; and aside from few explosions, the region has been relatively stable and secure and that largely is due to the effectiveness of the Kurdish Peshmerga- Kurdish army- as well as the Kurdish security forces and the reporting of suspicious activities by the Kurdish people. The trend, however, seems to be shifting towards South, rest of Iraq.

In the last few years, there have been more and more attacks being carried out by masked men against journalists, writers, political party buildings, as well as against radio and TV stations. And to this day, not anyone of these masked criminal has been captured.

On March 6th, 2011, dozens of masked men attacked protesters in Sulaimaniyah carrying firearms and clubs and the Asayish forces, Kurdish security forces, stood and watched without attempting to stop the masked men. “It is shameful that after decades of repression, Kurds today still don’t have the rights and freedoms promised by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), including the right to peaceful protest” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch. Listed below are some of the incidents:

-On February 20th 2011, group of masked men entered the only independent TV station in Kurdistan Region, Nalia Radio and Television, destroying and burning their equipment and building.
– February 2011, Kawa Garmiyani, journalist for Awene was attacked by masked men.
-March 8th, 2011, group of masked men attacked the independent Dang Radio vandalizing the office, breaking most of the equipment, and confiscating many.
-May 5th, 2010 Sardasht Osman was abducted in broad daylight in his Salahadin University and few days later was found dead in Mosul.
-In 2007, Aso Jamal Mukhtar for Education and Chaw TV was abducted by masked men.

Ironically, all these journalists, writers, and the broadcasting stations had one thing in common: they all either criticized KRG on their corruptions and poor social services; or, without criticizing anyone, such as the burned and destroyed independent Nalia TV and Dang Radio, they merely did their job by reporting the current demonstrations in Sulaimaniyah and the surrounding cities. This, thus, leads to a suspicion on a single entity: KRG. Or, people relating and/or working for KRG.

Kurdistan Region has a functioning government with effective security apparatus that since 2003, have foiled numerous terrorist attacks, have arrested hundreds of terrorists, and have captured many weapon caches. How is it possible that so many well-trained and equipped terrorists fail yet so many masked men are able to attack, assault, kidnap, and even murder so many people, on broad daylight? And all these attacks happen to be carried out against one specific group; and this one specific group happens to be critical of governments’ performances and certain politicians.

Kurdistan Regional Government, Kurdistan Parliament, and Kurdistan’s security apparatus must take concrete steps in insuring the lives of journalists, writers, independent media outlets, and the lives of all the citizens; as well as taking steps in apprehending these masked criminals. KRG, its members and leaders have been elected by the people, thus they are representative of the people and they are responsible for the people’s lives and security. And those who are responsible are supposed to be held accountable for any loss of its constituencies. Thus far, none of these masked men whom have assaulted and attacked, and even kidnapped and killed people in the Kurdistan region have been arrested and they probably are roaming the streets preying their next target.

It will not be too surprising if some group emerge and retaliate, using weapons. Throughout history, the reaction from the action of force has been force. One does not need to go too far: the brutal and oppressive actions of Dictator Saddam Hussein compelled the Kurds to react using force in order to achieve their rights and freedom, and rightly so. Similarly, the oppressed and brutalized Kurds under these masked men will be compelled to retaliate using firearms in providing justice to themselves since they feel no justice has been provided by the government. This will only lead to more violence, chaos, and instability. Taking from example of Bahrain, where a protestor shot and killed a Saudi soldier as well as Bahraini police, it is very possible that any civilian could lift arm in retaliation.

On this eve of Halabja anniversary and for its sake, let’s be united and work with each other. Let the definition of government take place: “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” Let there be equal opportunity for the citizens; let there be less thieves stealing the wealth of Kurdistan and the Kurdish people; let there be examples of punishment of the corrupt so that it create barrier for would-be-corrupt. Let there be freedom of ideas and criticisms and let there be tolerance of ideas and criticisms. After all, criticisms should be taken like a reward, a chance; a chance to do better, a chance to fix the faults, a chance to lead better. Only true patriots would criticize, because criticism of a nation from its independent citizens comes not from jealousy or hatred, it comes from love and caring. And a wise, noble government and leader would consciously, prudently, and thoughtfully would listen to any and all criticisms.