Senior Kurdish officials, leaders discuss unity, constitution at conference in Erbil

Senior Kurdish officials and leaders participate in a conference on “The Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Unity and Constitution” in Erbil, May 19, 2021.

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — Senior Kurdish officials discussed unity and constitution at a conference in Erbil on Wednesday, calling for unity in order to write a Constitution that reflects Region’s people, not parties.

The University of Kurdistan – Hewler held “The Kurdistan Region of Iraq: Unity and Constitution” Conference in Erbil, with the participation of senior Kurdish officials and leaders as well as U.N. Envoy to Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.

Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said the parties in the Region needed to reunite their goals before coming up with unity as it won’t be made with “slogans and speeches”.

“We cannot call for unity but move toward two different directions,” Barzani told the conference’s attendants. “We cannot be in a ship, which our final stage is not the same.”

“All the parties should discuss with each other closely. We should be ready to listen to each other and accept each other so as to reach an agreement on the goal that is the purpose of all Kurdistan people,” he added.

“We can preserve our unity that way. We can step toward unity by identifying common goals,” he noted.

The KRG premier reminded the uprising against former Baath regime in 1991 when the parties united to achieve goals of the Region’s people.

“In the beginning of the 1991 uprising, we all saw what our achievements were by the unity of the parties. We could establish an entity and live together by that struggle and unity,” he said.

“It is very normal if we have different views. It is normal to have different thoughts as the political parties. But there should be some boundaries and a framework where we can work together and connect us to each other,” he continued.

“And that framework can be determined in the Constitution.”

He also said the political parties can put aside the issues between them and reach a common understanding to work together.

“We can create a Constitution that reflects our society, that reflects demands of most of the Kurdistan people,” he told the conference. “We are proud of the peaceful coexistence of the nations and religions in Kurdistan … The Kurdistan Constitution must reflect that coexistence. It must protect the rights of each individual of the Kurdistan Region.”

U.N. Iraq Special Representative Hennis-Plasschaert said it had taken a long time to achieve today’s level of autonomy, calling on the Region’s leaders to not take “today’s autonomy for granted”.

“In order to sustain it, unity will prove essential,” Hennis-Plasschaert said as she was addressing the conference.

“A federal system is only as strong as the bonds between its components – and these bonds are strengthened by community reconciliation and cohesion,” she added.

“Now, the Kurdistan Region is inherently diverse. It is home to a vast array of peoples, languages and religions … One could say that the remarkable strength and resilience of the Kurdistan Region arises from this diversity,” she noted.

The U.N. envoy continued to say that the “unity in diversity” is the fundamental recipe which allowed the Region to come into being and that it is the principle which will guarantee its future.

“Political diversity exists as well in the Kurdistan Region. As is the case in many, many other countries. While many of these diverse democracies appear strong and stable today, their history was also marked by bloody wars and suffering,” she further said.

“Needless to say: a strong Kurdistan Region is best equipped to protect its interests. Conversely, with disunity comes weakness,” she added. “A strong, united Kurdistan Region also strengthens federal Iraq, not only domestically but also internationally. Strength abroad begins with strength at home.”

“A balanced system is one in which service delivery is fully assured in all areas at all times – and regardless of which political formation may be in power. Having said all this, it is critical to distinguish unity from uniformity,” Hennis-Plasschaert added.

She also said constitution is about the rights of people and how their rights are protected, setting limits on the power of authorities.

“A Constitution is a social contract,” she added.

At the first panel on Unity for the Constitution, Co-president of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) Bafel Talabani said unity is a “guarantee” to have a constitution for the Kurdistan Region.

“At first, we have to change the political process in Kurdistan. What is presence is that we are very far from each other. We can easily get close to each other. We have to reconcile our people,” Talabani said.

“We have to have a program. The Constitution is very important. It requires a serious work and study,” he added.

Secretary of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) Politburo Fazil Mirani said the issues of the parties was that they criticize and make someone a “victim without talking about ourselves”.

“I say Constitution is necessary and a social contract, that determines the rights and duties. Therefore, a Constitution is important for the Kurdistan Region,” he noted.

“We the parties have a big problem … We only show the holiness and victories rightly in our historic papers. No one has the courage to turn the paper to see where we had made a problem and to avoid repeating it and try to correct it,” he continued.

“So, the Constitution is a contract and necessary.”

General Coordinator of Change Movement (Gorran) Omer Said Ali said the two major parties could create unity as they are responsible for the situation in the Region.

“If we speak frankly, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and PUK are responsible for the current situation in Kurdistan. They can create unity and they can destroy it. The others parties don’t have such a role in destroying the unity of people,” he noted.

“Unity is very important. If we don’t have unity, no constitution will be created even if we write dozens of it, and it will be like the other laws that are present,” the Gorran leader added.

“Where we bring unity when we have two administrations, two armed forces, two forces of Asayish [security], two educations, health and finance [sectors]. Where we should bring unity,” Said Ali said.

Kurdistan Justice Group leader Ali Bapir, for his part at the panel, said Constitution could be an “effective factor” to contribute to equity.

“But there something else that is very important before equity, which is justice. If we want to be equal and united, we have to build justice,” Bapir said.

“Justice is a base that all other things can be built on,” he added. “When we establish justice, there will be equity and unity. An equal and united society can create the best constitution for themselves,” he added.

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