Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

A Voice for Kurdistan

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

A Voice for Kurdistan

Article excerpt

"It's a very difficult thing, to ask a country to go to war," Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman said wearily when we met in her London office in September. As high representative of the Kurdistan regional government (KRG) to the UK, she had been lobbying for greater intervention against Islamic State/Isis militants in Iraq for months.

Ten days after we spoke, parliament voted to join the US in launching air strikes on Isis in Iraq. But Abdul Rahman's mood was far from triumphant. "Eventually, Britain may have to join air strikes against Isis in Syria, too," she told me. "Containing Isis isn't enough. It has to be defeated. And to do that, it needs to be hit at its nerve centre, which is Syria."

The jihadists' rise has renewed the international attention on Iraqi Kurdistan. This semi-autonomous region enjoyed greater stability and prosperity than the rest of the country following the US-led invasion in 2003 but now it forms the front line of the battle against the militants. The crisis has exposed longstanding tensions between the Iraqi national government and the KRG. Abdul Rahman complained that although Kurdistan's peshmerga fighters are dying in battle, they "aren't receiving their salaries from Baghdad, aren't getting the weapons that they should, that America has supplied". The Iraqi government has launched a series of lawsuits to block Kurdistan's attempts to sell oil.

In July, KRG leaders promised to hold a referendum on Kurdish independence, although no date has been set. How would Abdul Rahman vote? "There's the head and the heart," she replied. "The heart always says independence, because of the historic injustice against Kurdistan."

She cannot remember a time when she wasn't involved in Kurdish politics. Her father, Sami Abdul Rahman, was the deputy prime minister of the KRG before his death in 2004. …

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