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One-party province: Why only one party dominates Kurdistan’s Bahdinan?

One-party province: Why only one party dominates Kurdistan’s Bahdinan?
Nechirvan Barzani, Deputy President of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), during an election campaign in the city of Duhok. May 6, 2018

 Peregraf

Like other areas in Kurdistan Region, Bahdinan Region has multiple political parties and activists, but only the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) dominates the area and wins the votes successively.

According to observers and activists from the province, the main cause behind this one-party phenomenon is the disorganization and weakness of the other parties. The other parties also claim that they work in a closed political arena which is under the hegemony of and threatened by security forces.

Bahdinan Region is one of the areas of Kurdistan Region of Iraq which covers the cities of Amedi, Akre, Zakho, Shekhan and Duhok. The Kurdish dialect of the people in this region, which is called Bahdini, differs from the one of the rest of Kurdistan Region, including Erbil and Sulaimanyah, called Sorani.

Security forces in Bahdinan, affiliated to KDP, are always being used as a means to pressurize KDP’s dissidents and contain any protest and demonstration, similar to the events of Saturday 16th of May in Duhok city when security forces attacked a protest gathering of teachers and public sector employees, arresting many participants.

The gathering was held at the city’s general park where protestors asked for their unpaid salaries in a civil manner. After five months in 2020, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has not yet managed to process the January payroll. The protest was announced a few days earlier. Despite pressures and threats by security forces, raids and arrests of political activists, the protest was held as scheduled.

Protests rarely break out in Duhok. Years before, when many parts of Kurdistan Region experienced demonstrations, Duhok, under pressure and threat, chose to remain silent. The protest formed on Saturday, however, proved that dissenting voices differing from political parties are active, giving KDP the message that Bahdinan is not a fortress to KDP and it contains different colors and voices who seek their rights and freedom.

KDP links its success to the effectiveness of the party’s policy and agenda, and thinks that no party other that itself has managed to fulfill Bahdinan population’s demands.

Kawar Hassan, a civil activist in Bahdinan, told Peregraf: “Other parties are weak in Bahdinan for two reasons.”

He explains the weakness of the parties, “The nature of power in Bahdinan is very different from that of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. Freedom practices are restricted in Bahdinan and all sources of power are in one party’s hands. KDP’s absolute power in Bahdinan has affected people to the point that they wonder what would happen to them without KDP.”

Giving another cause, Kawar says, “The parties themselves have an insufficient performance because they use the same political characters for many years. Besides, the new parties’ only concern was personal profit, and they have failed.”

The activist strongly criticizes other political parties in Bahdinan for how they forget the demands of the people for their own personal profit and positions, giving the example of Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and Change Movement.

“Bahdinan is important for every political party. KDP governs Kurdistan Region and part of Iraq thanks to votes from Duhok.”

Kawar believes that other parties should act according to the ground situation and build long term strategies. “Instead of building coordination with KDP, they have abandoned Bahdinan to KDP and consider it as the big brother.”

In Kurdish governance history, Bahdinan Province has always been in favor of KDP’s interest and power. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and KIU have been KDP’s rival without any increase in power.

Ali Oramari, Deputy Chief of PUK’s Duhok Organization Center, told Peregraf: “The issue of freedom of expression is one that we should carefully consider, since KDP has secret pressure groups against other parties. It supervises the groups through security forces and uses them to turn every political issue towards KDP’s interest, or creates internal issues for the other parties.”

For Oramari, part of the weakness of other parties is due to their weak relationship. “When even two small parties do not cooperate, they look like small local parties.”

According to the results of 2014 Governorate Council elections in Duhok, KDP won 19 seats out of 28 when 357 000 out of 500 000 voted for KDP. The second was KIU with 3 seats and 62 000 votes, PUK 2 seats and 41 000 votes, Change Movement 1 seat and 23 000 votes. All the votes of other parties combined are less than half of KDP’s votes.

“Bahdinan is under a strict security control. Neither parties nor activists can arrange any activity unless it is allowed by KPD’s security and political bodies,” Journalist and activist in Bahdinan, Akrem Kulli, told Peregraf.

He also thinks that “Bahdinan is silenced by threats, fear and security forces. Anyone planning to arrange activities would face various threats and punishments, perhaps even imprisonment.”

Kulli claims that KIU is the only party having some kind of popularity, “all other parties have given Bahdinan to KDP, which is highly dangerous.”

“A large portion of the people is not satisfied with the province’s governance, but if there is no party to compete against KDP, what shall the people do?” Akram Kulli gives examples of Change Movement and PUK who do not consider Bahdinan as their playground and see themselves as guests there, with KIU’s activities being limited to its organizational branches.

“Generally Bahdinan people are not affiliated to KDP, but it is the other parties' fault that makes people out of Bahdinan think that all the people in Bahdinan side with KDP. And this is all because other parties are not active in the province. They think that Bahdinan belongs to KDP, giving in to the illusion of aligning Bahdinan to KDP.”

The activist also criticizes the role of the media outlets that stand outside KDP’s circle for being ineffective in letting Bahdinan's voice reach out. The available media outlets are in Sorani dialect, some of them do not even understand the dialect used in Bahdinan and publish only Sorani subjects.

Previously in 2005, KDP was the first party in Bahdinan. According to the Duhok Governorate election result, KDP with 302 000 votes gained 33 seats out of 44 seats, the other 8 seats equally went to PUK and KIU, each 4 seats with 35 000 votes.

Khalid Ahmed, Head of KDP's Duhok Branch, told Peregraf, “The changes happened in Kurdistan Region were not in favor of small parties, therefore, big parties could play a large part. Additionally, another reason is that other parties could not fulfill people’s demands and dreams. They should try to make reforms and act according to the changes, instead of making accusations for KDP.”

Head of KDP's Duhok Branch openly admits: “It is true that political and social environment in Duhok is different from other cities, political activities might be difficult here.”

He also thinks that his party has successfully acted according to the changes, unlike other parties whose votes are scattered.

“The policy of other parties are far from what people want, otherwise political playground in Duhok is open to all parties. They can decide themselves and protect their popular bases; they should try to find successful ways instead of accusing other parties for their failure.”

One-party province: Why only one party dominates Kurdistan’s Bahdinan?

2020-05-22 16:03:51

 Peregraf

Like other areas in Kurdistan Region, Bahdinan Region has multiple political parties and activists, but only the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) dominates the area and wins the votes successively.

According to observers and activists from the province, the main cause behind this one-party phenomenon is the disorganization and weakness of the other parties. The other parties also claim that they work in a closed political arena which is under the hegemony of and threatened by security forces.

Bahdinan Region is one of the areas of Kurdistan Region of Iraq which covers the cities of Amedi, Akre, Zakho, Shekhan and Duhok. The Kurdish dialect of the people in this region, which is called Bahdini, differs from the one of the rest of Kurdistan Region, including Erbil and Sulaimanyah, called Sorani.

Security forces in Bahdinan, affiliated to KDP, are always being used as a means to pressurize KDP’s dissidents and contain any protest and demonstration, similar to the events of Saturday 16th of May in Duhok city when security forces attacked a protest gathering of teachers and public sector employees, arresting many participants.

The gathering was held at the city’s general park where protestors asked for their unpaid salaries in a civil manner. After five months in 2020, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has not yet managed to process the January payroll. The protest was announced a few days earlier. Despite pressures and threats by security forces, raids and arrests of political activists, the protest was held as scheduled.

Protests rarely break out in Duhok. Years before, when many parts of Kurdistan Region experienced demonstrations, Duhok, under pressure and threat, chose to remain silent. The protest formed on Saturday, however, proved that dissenting voices differing from political parties are active, giving KDP the message that Bahdinan is not a fortress to KDP and it contains different colors and voices who seek their rights and freedom.

KDP links its success to the effectiveness of the party’s policy and agenda, and thinks that no party other that itself has managed to fulfill Bahdinan population’s demands.

Kawar Hassan, a civil activist in Bahdinan, told Peregraf: “Other parties are weak in Bahdinan for two reasons.”

He explains the weakness of the parties, “The nature of power in Bahdinan is very different from that of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah. Freedom practices are restricted in Bahdinan and all sources of power are in one party’s hands. KDP’s absolute power in Bahdinan has affected people to the point that they wonder what would happen to them without KDP.”

Giving another cause, Kawar says, “The parties themselves have an insufficient performance because they use the same political characters for many years. Besides, the new parties’ only concern was personal profit, and they have failed.”

The activist strongly criticizes other political parties in Bahdinan for how they forget the demands of the people for their own personal profit and positions, giving the example of Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and Change Movement.

“Bahdinan is important for every political party. KDP governs Kurdistan Region and part of Iraq thanks to votes from Duhok.”

Kawar believes that other parties should act according to the ground situation and build long term strategies. “Instead of building coordination with KDP, they have abandoned Bahdinan to KDP and consider it as the big brother.”

In Kurdish governance history, Bahdinan Province has always been in favor of KDP’s interest and power. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and KIU have been KDP’s rival without any increase in power.

Ali Oramari, Deputy Chief of PUK’s Duhok Organization Center, told Peregraf: “The issue of freedom of expression is one that we should carefully consider, since KDP has secret pressure groups against other parties. It supervises the groups through security forces and uses them to turn every political issue towards KDP’s interest, or creates internal issues for the other parties.”

For Oramari, part of the weakness of other parties is due to their weak relationship. “When even two small parties do not cooperate, they look like small local parties.”

According to the results of 2014 Governorate Council elections in Duhok, KDP won 19 seats out of 28 when 357 000 out of 500 000 voted for KDP. The second was KIU with 3 seats and 62 000 votes, PUK 2 seats and 41 000 votes, Change Movement 1 seat and 23 000 votes. All the votes of other parties combined are less than half of KDP’s votes.

“Bahdinan is under a strict security control. Neither parties nor activists can arrange any activity unless it is allowed by KPD’s security and political bodies,” Journalist and activist in Bahdinan, Akrem Kulli, told Peregraf.

He also thinks that “Bahdinan is silenced by threats, fear and security forces. Anyone planning to arrange activities would face various threats and punishments, perhaps even imprisonment.”

Kulli claims that KIU is the only party having some kind of popularity, “all other parties have given Bahdinan to KDP, which is highly dangerous.”

“A large portion of the people is not satisfied with the province’s governance, but if there is no party to compete against KDP, what shall the people do?” Akram Kulli gives examples of Change Movement and PUK who do not consider Bahdinan as their playground and see themselves as guests there, with KIU’s activities being limited to its organizational branches.

“Generally Bahdinan people are not affiliated to KDP, but it is the other parties' fault that makes people out of Bahdinan think that all the people in Bahdinan side with KDP. And this is all because other parties are not active in the province. They think that Bahdinan belongs to KDP, giving in to the illusion of aligning Bahdinan to KDP.”

The activist also criticizes the role of the media outlets that stand outside KDP’s circle for being ineffective in letting Bahdinan's voice reach out. The available media outlets are in Sorani dialect, some of them do not even understand the dialect used in Bahdinan and publish only Sorani subjects.

Previously in 2005, KDP was the first party in Bahdinan. According to the Duhok Governorate election result, KDP with 302 000 votes gained 33 seats out of 44 seats, the other 8 seats equally went to PUK and KIU, each 4 seats with 35 000 votes.

Khalid Ahmed, Head of KDP's Duhok Branch, told Peregraf, “The changes happened in Kurdistan Region were not in favor of small parties, therefore, big parties could play a large part. Additionally, another reason is that other parties could not fulfill people’s demands and dreams. They should try to make reforms and act according to the changes, instead of making accusations for KDP.”

Head of KDP's Duhok Branch openly admits: “It is true that political and social environment in Duhok is different from other cities, political activities might be difficult here.”

He also thinks that his party has successfully acted according to the changes, unlike other parties whose votes are scattered.

“The policy of other parties are far from what people want, otherwise political playground in Duhok is open to all parties. They can decide themselves and protect their popular bases; they should try to find successful ways instead of accusing other parties for their failure.”