Iraqi Kurds finally get unified
government By Mohammed A Salih
ARBIL, Iraq - Kurds have long waited for
the day when a new prime minister, deputy and
cabinet walked into their new unified regional
parliament. Now they want to see how the new
government can change their lives.
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdish
Democratic Party (KDP) came together close to 10
years after signing a peace accord in Washington,
in a ceremony on Sunday marking a unified
government after years of separation.
Nechirvan Barzani of the KDP was appointed
prime minister. Omar Fatah of the PUK was
appointed deputy prime
minister. A 42-member cabinet
took oath in a 105-member parliament.
coming together of the two Kurdish factions stands
in marked contrast to what is happening elsewhere
in Iraq. A Kurdish parliament is now in place; in
Baghdad it is not.
The Kurdish government
took shape after a long history of separation
during which the two parties governed different
regions of Kurdistan in the north of Iraq. Kurdish
provinces have been under Kurdish control since
the 1991 Gulf War.
The new Kurdish
leadership plans to expand the areas under its
control to include the oil-rich city of Kirkuk,
which currently falls just outside Kurdish
Barzani said on Sunday that his
government will work "peacefully to recover the
rights that have been taken away". It was not a
remark welcomed by Sunni and Shi'ite leaders at
the ceremony. Kirkuk has a large non-Kurd
But Barzani's remarks are
being taken seriously. When the first Kurdish
government was established in 1992, only a handful
of guests attended. This time foreign and Iraqi
dignitaries swarmed the parliament hall.
"Their presence at the ceremony is a
recognition of Kurds' entity, their power and
status in the soon-to-be-formed Iraqi government,"
Kurdish member of parliament Fuad Baban said.
US Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad
attended the ceremony, and did not fail to
acknowledge "the sacrifices of Kurdish
peshmerga" (fighters) for the freedom of
In the Kurdish parliament there is
little sign of Iraq. Everything is Kurdish, down
to the flag and the language. Even the Iraqi flag
hoisted here is not the one used in Baghdad. It's
the one used in Iraq in 1958 after the overthrow
of the monarchy and establishment of the first
The new unity, and
the distinct Kurdish ways, are driven by good
reasons. "The unity and harmony among us is the
catalyst for our current and future success,"
The new cabinet includes
ministers from various ethnic and religious groups
to "satisfy all sectarian, ethnic and political
groups", new minister Mohammed Haji Mahmoud from
the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party said.
Though not satisfied with the small role
for his party in the cabinet, Mahmoud said, "We
decided to participate in order to add a block to
the wall of this government."
cabinet was approved in less than 20 minutes, and
all 42 cabinet members were ratified with only a
few Nay votes.
The formalities done,
people are waiting to see what the parliament can
do for them. They have become increasingly
dissatisfied with the Kurdish government. Quality
of services is poor, and corruption has reached
"The government has to be
up to people's expectations, and work to provide
better living conditions," said Arbil government
employee Aryan Mohammed, 23.