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http://www.kurdmedia.com/reports.asp?id=1644 Defining federalism for Iraq 16 September 2003 KurdishMedia.com - By Vahal Abdulrahman Defining the "F" Word What exactly does federalism mean and how can the Kurds ensure that a federated Iraq would grant them their political and cultural rights? Unlike any other group in Iraq, the Kurds did participate militarily in Operation Iraqi Freedom, American and Kurdish forces fought together, were wounded together and paid the ultimate sacrifice together in the effort to liberate the northern cities of Mosul and Kerkuk. Iraqi Kurdistan is without any doubt one of the most pro-American places in the entire world. The Kurds of Iraq have been the greatest hosts American troops can ask for. Iraqi Kurds must realize that they have no choice but to play their cards right during this turning point in Iraq's modern history. The Kurds of Iraq were subjected to every named and every unnamed crime by the totalitarian Ba'athi regime. Halabja and her scar of WMD served as a justification for the Anglo-American war against Saddam Hussein's regime at a time when there was no evidence that the Iraqi regime still had weapons of mass destruction. The mass graves of Anfal victims, which were discovered in the post-April 9, 2003 world, continue to justify to the world that while the war was unpopular, it was most certainly worthwhile. Now the time has come for the Kurds to settle in a civil, secular, democratic and free Iraq, but not without unsubtle guarantees. Northern Iraq was known to Saddam Hussein's regime as the "self-ruling region," yet needless to mention, the reality of the situation was that the region was a concentration camp where hundreds of thousands of innocents were murdered to leave millions of others chained in their pain, stripped of every basic human right. So let us not fall for words. Federalism is a fancy word but so is "self-rule." The Kurds must make every effort that the constitution of the New Iraq specifically grants the Kurds their political rights. First and foremost the Kurdish language must be an official language in not only the four Kurdish provinces but also in the center and southern parts of the country. The new education system of Iraq must require all Kurdish students to learn Arabic but by the same token, all Arab students to learn Kurdish. Certain supreme judicial and other high-ranking posts must require mandatory bilingualism, that is to say, fluent Kurdish and Arabic skills. Such a step would initially ensure that the Kurds occupy those positions, but in the long run, Kurdish-speaking Arabs would also take part. Mandatory bilingualism will ensure that neither the Kurds abandon Arabic as an official language nor the Arabs abandon Kurdish. The constitution must clearly state that Iraq is not an Arab country. The Kurds, the Assyrians and the Turkmens are all non-Arab peoples living in Iraq and are entitled to the same political rights as the Arab majority. Let us assume that a federate Iraq will be divided into four provinces, a Kurdish north, a Sunni center, an all-Iraqi Baghdad and a Shi'a south. These provinces must have a number of significant powers granted to them with little if any control from the central government. The exclusive powers of the Kurdish province must include total control over the education system, religious affairs, criminal justice and defense. Let me briefly elaborate on each one of these powers that ought to be given to the Kurdish province rather than the federal government. The Education System During the decade of 1990's, the Kurdistan Regional Government took various measures to turn Kurdish into the primary language in Iraqi Kurdistan. Year after year, the Arabic language became more distant to the Kurdish children and teenagers resulting in the birth if a generation of Kurds who lack the ability to speak even basic Arabic. While this change has Kurdified a once Arabized region, the process of de-Arabization was taken too far. Every Kurdish young man or woman who seeks for opportunities within Iraq will be required to speak Arabic. A future education ministry in the Kurdistan province should immediately take measures to include Arabic in the curriculum not only as a one-subject requirement as is the case now, but also as an intense program to produce Arabic speaking youngsters. Aside from language, a Kurdish-controlled education system for the northern province will ensure that the curriculum includes subjects such as Kurdish history and Kurdish literature as well as Assyrian and Turkmen history and culture. This is beneficial for all the provinces. For instance, if the southern Shi'a province chooses to include religious studies as a school subject, then it is their right to do so. Religious Affairs Iraq has a number of religious groups. There are Sunni and Shi'a Muslims, Catholic and Orthodox Christians, Yezidis and others. The federal government should have no power to regulate any religious affairs and must grant the power to individual provinces. Due to the fact that most Kurds are secular Muslims and there are non-Muslim groups in the future northern province, Islam must not play the same role in the north as it seems likely to play in the south. The religious disparity between various Iraqi groups can only be solved if the federal government handed that power exclusively to the provinces. For the Kurds, a secular platform of governance is not only fit for reasons mentioned earlier but also because a secular Kurdistan is likely to attract tourists who will provide an additional income to the local government not to mention give opportunities for the local residents to invest in the tourism industry. It is in Iraq's best interest to leave religion to the individual provinces. If the predominantly Shi'a south decides to make and enforce laws on the basis of religion, then it would be undemocratic for the federal government to stop them. However, it would be equally undemocratic, not to mention unacceptable to make the rest of the country follow an unpopular religious platform. Criminal Justice The Kurds must insist that the northern province is given exclusive power on the issues of criminal justice for the Kurdistan region. If by virtue of referendum, the people of Iraqi Kurdistan decide to abolish polygamy, capital punishment, honor killings, or if they decided to allow the selling of alcohol, licensed ownership of small arms, or abortion, they should not have to go through the federal government to do so. There are many issues on which the people of Iraq in general should agree to disagree. The only way to satisfy all groups is to allow them to have their own way bound of course by a federal constitution protected by the armed forces of the provinces of Iraq. Defense It would be unrealistic to assume that the Peshmerga forces would change their uniforms and become Iraqi soldiers overnight. The issue of defense is a crucial and a complex one as the federal government must eventually be put in charge of all the armed forces. However, to ensure that the armed forces of the New Iraq are loyal protectors of Iraq's constitution and borders, there must first be some degree of trust between the various groups that constitute the mosaic known as Iraq. In the initial stages of the transition, the Kurds should insist that the Peshmerga forces remain intact and the formation of a unified Iraqi army be delayed. That said, the President or the legislative branch should have the power to call upon the armed forces in matters of supreme emergency. The Kurds and the Arabs of Iraq must work together, live together, form shared establishments together, create Kuro-Arabic associations together, learn each others' languages together before a firm trust is created. Once the trust is there and a relative stability and economic prosperity is there, then the constitution should be amended to form a unified Iraqi military. I have briefly specified some of the terms that must be included in the new Iraqi constitution; there are various others that the Kurds should strive to obtain. The word "federalism" is used daily by policymakers and media outlets yet the details of such a plan are seldom mentioned. The Kurds of the Diaspora as well as those living in Dohuk, Erbil, Sulaimany, Kerkuk and of course Baghdad should urge the 25 members of the Governing Council and the 25 cabinet ministers as well as ambassador Paul Bremer III and his team and the constitutional committee to include the mentioned points in the constitutions as exclusive powers granted to the northern province. Once these powers are given to the local authorities rather than the central government, the Kurds can then fantasize about having a Kurdistan soccer team to be allowed by FIFA to play to qualify for the world cup like Scotland. Or they can try to get the government to build a Halabja monument or a museum in Baghdad so that the whole world can see that the New Iraq is really a new Iraq. The Kurds must realize that maintaining the territorial integrity of Iraq does NOT mean that Kurdistan will be under the control of the central government. They must insist that they run their affairs by themselves. The Kurds of Iraq deserve to be given autonomy in a unified Iraq, their experiment with civil society in the past decade is apparent by the fact that Kurdistan is the only place in Iraq where American soldiers are not being murdered. _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk