The tradition of elite climbing over the shoulder of people to capture the zenith of power has been the method and consequence of political party. Whether overt or covert, the activities of political parties in this model consider the people as a tool. If this style has been effective in most counties around the world in bringing about change in social norms and political structure, why has it not been able to introduce changes demanded by the people? Even though a political party or a movement makes propaganda in pre-election times, raising up issues such as democracy and liberty, when it comes to power it fails to meet the people’s needs.
There is no doubt that the existence of various political parties in South Kurdistan is not only the manifestation of pluralism, which is the chief vehicle for power transformation, but is also the extension of the elites who have taken the helm of political structure, using it to their own advantage. The people have always been scapegoated to this style of politics.
In their relation with the Iraqi’s central authorities, prior to or after the 1991, or even in the post-2003 period, the political parties have not pursued a proactive, multi-dimensional and inclusive politics. To the contrary, they have practised a reactive, unidimensional and narrow politics. Refusing to see their failure, they have always put the blame on the central government. Those parties who have been in power since 1991, among others in Iraq, have been of ethnic character with no project for the democratisation of the country.
Those political parties, either Kurdish or non, have been based on narrow parochial nationalism. Whatever is political agenda, either religious or non, its consequence has been the deep crises of the Middle East, including South Kurdistan. Take a notice, all of political parties close to the Kurds are either Sunni or Shia, believing in the least democratic principles. This does not imply that there are no democratic circles in Iraq, but traditional Kurdish parties have always been after people with whom they can strike sectarian deals. They have not cared about finding pro-Kurdish democratic establishments. The reason for this is simple: they have not had democratic plans themselves.
It is possible to divide the formation process of political party into three phases. The first was the establishment of Darker Institution of 1937 by a cohort of intellectuals who managed to expand it to include other segments of Kurdish society. Soon later the Hiwa Party came into being. No research has been conducted with a view to shedding light on the demobilisation of the Hiwa and the establishment of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in 1946. The second phase is concomitant with the defeat of the KDP and the emergence of a new trend which had been in existence within the KDP, ushering in a new era marked by multi-party pattern: the Kurdistan Patriotic Union (PUK), the Socialist, the Pasok, and the People’s Party. Following this, the KDP revamped itself. Ever since, it has not allowed for the existence of other parties, eliminating them through the use of terror and violence or other soft approaches including financial incentives such as bribery. Both phases bore the influences of the Soviet Union.
The third phase began on 1991 where a number of political organisations emerged. Although they sought to launch the beginning of a new stage, the KDP neutralised all of them. In 2003, proposal for an opposition group was put forward which stemmed from the rise of Islamic groups, and the emergence of a circle within the PUK which later named itself as the Goran Movement.
The formation of different political parties and organisations has not improved the circumstances of South Kurdistan, because their agenda is unilateral, unidimensional and reactive in character. They did not try to become a democratic alternative for the status quo. Because the foundations of authority and the conventional approach (legislation, executive, and judiciary) to politics which is the government, the parliament, and the judiciary have not been institutionalised, any talk of reform is futile. If there is nothing based on which to initiate reform, how would one embark on it? What there has been is nothing other than a skeleton without substance, suffering from lack of democratic contest.
There is no one ignorant of the fact that those who make decision in Parliament are not the deputies, but a narrow circle of elites from two dominant parties—KDP and PUK. In such a model, they work more like businessman and petrol companies, and even if they boast of certain democratic, it is in word only. This is why the people no more believe in political work, considering it as “dirty game” and “lie telling”. The model of political party in South Kurdistan, in its 23 years of reign, is the worst model after the Middle Eastern national parties.
The economy of South Kurdistan is based on the monopolised oil revenue that has been crippled by corruption. Each day a new report is published claiming the oil revenue has gone far beyond our imagination capacities. After 2009, it has been known that the confrontation between the opposition and the authority, despite making some limited changes, is blocked by their fascination with power and position.
Even if the oppositions claim to be willing to deal with the crises differently, but due to its failure to overcome the narrow classic mentality, prevalent among its cadres, it has not been able to overcome current critical circumstances. The opposition parties have not made it secret that they have entered Parliament with a view to bringing about change. But how can change be effected without some initiatives and a mobilised society? Change in a society is effected without ideology, yet many of these circles proudly have claimed they do not believe in ideology. This in itself gives rise to fundamental problems, which make the dissolution of these parties only a matter of time.
In this model the people are not represented. Even if they had been, in the time of guerrilla warfare when they were used as a means, and during the election time, it is for the formality of voting. Women, youth and other segments of society are considered as additional means to embellish political parties in order to impose themselves on the people. Religion constitutes yet another means. Whenever needs arise, they bring it to the political scene, using it in the worst possible manner, and as a consequence, emptying it of its original meaning. Whenever needs subside, they denigrate it as the opium of society.
To hide the truth, when political parties are being criticised, only a few issues are mentioned, such as the dominance of one leader or the lack of transparency and corruption. Among most political parties, either secular or religious, there is no policy difference regarding the social issues; if there is, it is only on paper. On gender inequality, all they have provided has been in a classic and out-dated form. Until now, those parties which have tried their chance, have not formulated a coherent reading of concepts, phenomena, and instances which have directed humanity in a precarious direction.
With the emergence of the waves of discontent during the 1960s and the rise of student movements, after which the emergence of feminist and ecologic movements had an impact on all movements around the world, South Kurdistan remained an exception. At the same period, the greatest part of Kurdistan, North Kurdistan, became the hotbed of new leftist movements which did not survive the internal and external interferences, and the killing of Dr Siwan “Seid Qumrzi Toprak” and his associates. Also, the disappearance of Shehid Aram in the South, the demobilisation of JK Society and many more cases.
In sharp contrast to classic Kurdish parties, there emerged in the North the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) whose ideological and political foundations do not accept the status quo. Change and self-renewing is first implemented within the party, and then it is extended to society. In the PKK’s model, the political party do not interfere in the self-management processes of society. But it highlights liberty’s principles among its cadres, and puts them to the service of society, helping it to organise itself and to take part in the process of self-administration.
Abdullah Ocalan transformed the ideology of the PKK from Marxism to democratic socialism. Instead of nation-state model which results in racism and eliminates societal diversities, while consolidating the system of one ethnicity, one language, and one state, Ocalan introduced the concept of “democratic nation” as an alternative. The latter is known for its development of self-rule, democratic socialism, democratic principles, gender and ecological emancipation, a free life encompassing both individuals and society, and a peaceful co-existence of peoples. Moreover, with the conceptualisation of his own branch of feminism known as Jinology—meaning the science of woman—he has enhanced women to a quite new and unprecedented level.
Taking advantage of this new model, which has attracted attention world-wide, South Kurdistan is in need of a political party which is not in haste to grasp power and state, but within the society it busies itself with the organisation of people with a view to rescuing them from this dire situation. The South needs a political structure that educates individuals based on ethic and conscience who can rely on themselves. The best way to achieve this is education, which can revitalise those whom the state has marginalised, as they refuse to be dominated by it.
Philosophy of this type of political work is based on the people. The latter is an important component of political work, as politics is participation of people in the process of decision-making. Not through elected representatives, but things are directly dealt with and problems are solved. In case of contestation among nations, both models work together in a complementary manner. When the issues of peoples are dealt with, it would not be at the expense of social issues. Both issues together with women’s issues are dealt with. Women and youth are regarded as pioneers in this model.
One of the most threatening concepts for a political party is haste for power and expropriation of illusory gains, which means those achievements have not been guaranteed, even though the people have been made to think otherwise. Most political parties after the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 have been amenable to this phenomenon of illusory gains.
Submission to this material-oriented situation of the South coupled with the people’s lack of trust in political work, the opening of society to persistence influence of the occupiers of Kurdistan and the importing of cultures alien to Kurdish life is another phenomenon. Even now, some imported ways of life that have been adopted by a certain sector of Kurdish society close to the dominant elite, are alien to the lower and middle class of Kurdish society, and affected by it.
With a new sociologic reading, political parties can deal with the class, gender, religion, and ethnic issues. Outside the material-oriented circumstances of the South even with a limited number of dedicated cadres a process of radical change can be initiated. Politics does not mean membership in a political organisation, but it is the art of the creation of a context in which the people would be empowered to participate in the process of making decision, affecting their lives. On the opposite side of this is the dirty politics game devoid of any principle which is based on power, pushing the people out of the participation processes and in direct violation of those laws rectified in Parliament by those political parties themselves, the most obvious of which is the removal of the Head of Parliament, Dr Yousef Mohammad along with four deputies from the Goran Movement. This removal was an illegal decision of the KDP.
In my opinion, to the extent that a Muslim looks to Kaaba, a political party with a new paradigm should look to the people and turn its back on the authorities. It should see in the palaces of authority its tomb, avoid hasty decisions and populism, always evaluate itself and other political parties critically, not to narrow politics into the sphere of elites, consider the political work as a matter of people’s work, as at the end of the day this is the people who is having an issue and political parties are only means.
Any political party wanting to propose a democratic alternative should educate pioneering cadres and organisers, cultivating in them a strong commitment towards the democratisation and the institutionalisation of democracy. Consolidation of activism in a few spheres is important for political parties and movements which have a new ideology. Some of these spheres are gender, mobilisation of youth and organisation of society based on the principle of self-rule or decentralisation.
South Kurdistan needs a political party, or movement, or a structure whose organisations would be horizontal not hierarchical, which decisions are made through a bottom-up process as opposed to a top-down one. What is required is a cogent analysis of the current situation which political Islam has taken advantage of and has become a favourable context for the rise the Islamic State. A few parties in the South claim to establish a state, yet during one month, in the summer of 2015, only, 100,000 people immigrated to Europe.
Other than immigration, problems such as economic crises, the lack of payments, poverty, corruption and the lack of transparency have plagued the system. To tackle this, a democratic front is required to undertake a thorough analysis of and to coordinate a military organisation which is able to integrate the military power of the South with those of other parts of Kurdistan within a national and strategic framework.
If Peshmerga forces on 3 August 2014 left Shengal behind, it resulted in a genocide which was a tragic event of national scope for all Kurds in the whole world. It laid bare the deep political, social, and ethical crises. If Guerrilla, Shervan, and Peshmerga are now together fighting in the same front, it highlights the necessity of the formation of a unified military force. If in Manbij, whose majority of the population are Arabs living with the Kurds, protect and govern their city, this manifests the emergence of a new model: the model of democratic nation and co-existence of peoples.
Ocalan the Leader has conducted a methodical analysis of the Middle Eastern crises which are that of mentality. First of all, he reaches a sound conclusion on the matter of mentality, proposing a new outlook for the Kurds and other nations in the region. Particularly, he rendered the Kurdish people in possession of a new outlook, a revolutionary movement, and the system of democratic confederalism. In his exemplary outlook, there are both regional and universal dimensions. If the Kurdish people are standing up for it, this is because of the circumstance they have been suffering from; a situation that under the influence of global capitalist system and the divisionist conducts of the occupiers of Kurdistan has plunged the Kurdish people into state of non-being. The Kurdish case was neither to be buried like a corpus, nor to live like a living being. Notwithstanding, with the paradigm of democratic modernity he has brought under criticism the common concepts such as state and authority, nationalism, religious fundamentalism and capitalism. Moreover, he provided a deep analysis of issues such as self-defence, women and family, society and environment, health, education, and economy.
The system that Ocalan formulated is open for negotiation with those who accept it, but resist against whose who seek to negate it. This differentiates it from other movements in the Middle East. It adopts non-conventional method, assuming that what should be done within the crises is the cogent analysis and the mobilisation of the peoples to form, in this historical era, a democratic self-rule, rejecting the concept of expectation from the state and authority.
The Turkish state during the Erdogan government has used, as much as it could, the Islamic State against the Rojava Revolution. Yet, with the defeat of the Islamic State in Kobanî, Shengal, Serikani, Grespi, and lately Manbij, even though the Turkish government captured co-presidents of HDP and other Kurdish deputies, resistance of the Kurdish people in and outside Kurdistan further troubled Erdogan’s fascists politics. The Islamic State’s retreat is the retreat of the Turkish state which means the disruption of the regional balance of power that had been in place for the last century.
The Turkish army’s invasion of Jarablus is the quagmire that Ocalan has since the 1990s tried to prevent its eruption, which would result in an all-out civil war. The Turkish state had vociferously demanded that they are against the disintegration of Syria and Iraq. Notwithstanding, with the deployment of its troops in Syria and Iraq, the Turkish army has itself disintegrated those countries. Erdogan himself is well aware of the fact that the Kurdish movement in Syria has no plan to separate, and it was only a few months ago that it declared with other peoples the federal project of Rojava and northern parts of Syria.
The Turkish state and the Erdogan government claim they are against the formation of a Kurdish state in South Kurdistan, but the prime minister considers the South Kurdistan as the south east of Turkey. The Kurdish resistance, however, neutralised all of Erdogan’s plans and made manifest his true face to the whole world. Erdogan cannot develop relations with both NATO and Russia for a long period of time. It cannot develop ties with Iran while at the same time remain hostile to its long ally, Assad, and stay in the Syrian territory for a long time. It cannot keep pretending to be against the Islamic State while keep supporting it. It cannot sustain its oppression of the Kurdish people when faced with the rising dynamics of the Kurdish liberation movement. The Turkish state in the last few years have become the manifestation of radical religious ideology. That is why it has moved to the edge of precipice.
Both Turkey and Iran are well aware that if in future Syria Kurdish national rights are secured, they also have to change their approach towards the Kurdish issue. But they should remember that the disintegrated Syria and Iraq would never be governed from the centre again. This radical change has shaken Turkey and Iran and what unite them is this worry. Now, instead of the Green Strip of the Middle Eastern radicalism, a stripe of dissolution of fascism, and instead of erection of walls among peoples—Erdogan’s wall on the border of North Kurdistan and Rojava—it is time for the creation of a strip of democracy.
The development of the strip democracy is the task of Rojava alone. But one of the democratic, national, ethical, and institutional tasks of Kurdistan Regional Government is the expansion of this strip of democracy to South Kurdistan. Although in South Kurdistan there are favourable factors for this project such as a youthful population, a rich economic infrastructure, a society which still has the capacity to change, yet it suffers from the lack of a mentality and a pioneering organisation.
The lack of such a mentality has had an effect on the image of the Kurds among the international public opinion. Politics has not been democratised in the South. Even now it is conducted with romantic spirit and narrow nationalism, which is under the influence of the occupiers of Kurdistan. Even if all political establishment are not off the same character, there is a mechanism for investigation, especially in those spheres related to defence, economy, education, health, diplomacy, and social crises. Those who used to claim that the era of armed resistance and Che Guevara is over, and have been engaged in an ominous game against the PKK, withdrew from Shengal and left the population to be massacred by Islamic State. They did not even consider them having the right to defend themselves.
It would be a historic mistake to expect an international power to raise its voice against the lack of a democratic institution. The only power which can direct this region towards self-sufficiency and self-rule is the people themselves. A truthful democracy is impossible to be brought above from above. The people need to organise themselves and not to be under the control of political parties and tribal groups who need them only for the purpose of election show. Only when democracy is able to meet the needs, it falls into the category of truthful democracy. Truthful change in the South is impossible without a democratic mentality, a pioneering group of revolutionaries, and a social movement.