The Kurdish Example; Creating a Democratic, Secular Iraq
Byline: Falah Mustafa Bakir, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
In 1998 I was barred from obtaining a graduate degree in Iraq because I refused to join Saddam Hussein's Ba'ath Party. Luckily, a prestigious British scholarship program allowed me to leave Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan region of Iraq, and attend the University of Bath in England to get a degree in Development Studies. I've always found that rather ironic - not Ba'ath, but Bath.
Last week I again left Erbil, but this time as a member of the Iraqi delegation to the 62nd United Nations General Assembly. In the past two decades I have gone from being a member of a marginalized and oppressed group within Iraq to helping represent it to the outside world. While the news from Iraq may be dominated by terrorism and violence in a society that seems irrevocably split by ethnic and sectarian divisions, my being a member of this delegation showed another side to the story: Kurds and Arabsworking together to make Iraq's case to the United Nations.
My presence in New York is also a tribute to the leadership of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the resilience of the people of our region and the sacrifice of those who died unable to imagine that a day like this would ever come. And it will be proof positive that rather than let violence rip us apart, we in the Kurdistan region are dedicated to attaining a free, democratic, federal and pluralistic Iraq.
Some have criticized the KRG's commitment to federalism as a sign of Kurdish separatism or a long-term plan to "partition" Iraq. But this misreads Iraqi and Kurdish history. The Kurdistan region had been a de facto autonomous state since 1991, with the advent of Operations Provide Comfort and Northern Watch, the no-fly zone enforced by the United States, Britain and France following the 1991 Gulf War. It was the voluntary decision of the KRG to rejoin the rest of the country and participate in building an independent, federal and free Iraq for all of its people.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has shown itself to be a model for the democratic transition in Iraq. Not a single coalition soldier has been killed, our markets are vibrant and our people are relatively free of the terrorism inflicted on the rest of the country. We are not perfect, but we are getting things right. …