Within the Middle East, Kurdish, who are composed of Indian-European groups, form the fourth largest ethnic group within the region (Middle-east). They dwell within the Middle East mountains, and their origin can be traced back in millenniums. Despite the long period they have been in the Middle East; these ethnic groups are recognized to have never obtained statehood. Their hopes were raised after World War 1 when the peace settlements were made. However, this never came to be as they were given the minority status after the peace treaty. In essence, Kurdish was regarded as a minority in most states where they resided, including Turkey, Iran, Syria, and Iraq. In this case, they had to conform to these countries’ governance systems and follow the legal authorities. Simultaneously, every policy that was made back before the fall of Saddam Hussein was regarded as a minority group. Their population has since grown to between 20 to 25 million across their host countries.
Consequently, their number in Iraq is recorded to have reached between 4 to 4.5 million. This comprises about 25% of the Iraq population, thus indicating the proportion they take in Iraq. Besides, this population is significant enough to remain autonomous in their operations and governance systems, as illustrated by Katzman (2010).
According to Katzman and Prados (2005), in their articulation for the CRS report for Congress, they described the Kurds as being treated with discrimination and prosecutions within their host countries or preferably countries where they reside. In this case, Kurds were left with the option of settling for the reasons of meaningful autonomy or fair treatment in their host countries. On the other hand, some Kurds in other states were recognized to aspire for independence and acquisition of statehood. Nonetheless, Kurds in Iraq were observed to have enjoyed the greater meaning of national rights as compared to other Kurds residing in other states such as Syria, Turkey, and Iran. However, in their articulation, Katzman and Prados reiterated that successive Iraqi governments have allowed for limited use of the Kurdish language, especially in the education sector.
This was evident where the Kurdish language was lesser used in the elementary education systems. Additionally, the Kurdish nationality was theoretically recognized as co-equal to the Arab nationality. This allowed for the limited implementation of Kurdish autonomy programs in the country, especially within the most occupied areas by the Kurdish. Essentially, the Iraqi concession to the Kurdish seemed to be more real and appealing as responding to the minority groups in the country. However, the Kurdish complained and insisted that only those (Kurdish) who were willing to conform to directions from the Bagdad were given the opportunity to participate in the autonomous administrations. For three decades, following the Ex-led expulsion of the Iraq military from Kuwait, there has been an intermittent and insurgent Kurdish-Iraqi militia that has faced oppression from the successive Iraqi regimes. This climaxed during Saddam Hussein’s brutal and reprisal government.
Following the background information, which illustrates the Kurdish situation before the fall of Saddam Hussein, it is evident that these communities faced a threshold level of inhumanity considering the legal human rights. They were marred with discrimination, brutality, and limited autonomy over their lives. Despite providing a certain level of authorization for the use of their language within the elementary schools, applying their language within education centers was quite limited, which may inhibit cultural values for these communities. Analysis in this essay is thus motivated by such drawbacks as it aims to understand better how the Kurdish life and standards of living became after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Furthermore, the Kurdish situation worsened further after the ex-led expulsion of Iraqi forces from Kuwait and the Iraqi-Kurdish militia.
The main argument explored in this essay is that the livelihood, both social, economic and political living standards, for the Kurdish became better and improved compared to pre and during Saddam Hussein period. The following specific questions have been used to guide the articulation of this essay and to contribute to the main argument;
To explore how the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) reacted to the situation after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
To articulate how the Kurds’ situation got better after the fall of Saddam Hussein.
To articulate steps taken by the Kurdistan Regional government to have a stronger position within their region as well as within the international community.
Kurdish Reaction to the fall of Saddam Hussein
Kurdish reaction to the execution of Saddam Hussein was varied both from the Kurdish government and the Kurdish community. For instance, a politician from Kurdish, who was then in the Kurdish government, indicated that Saddam Hussein deserved the punishment he received following the crimes he had committed. He further added that the crimes deserved the capital punishment he was given. He also reiterated that the execution was quickly done, but for only one case. Therefore, other cases remained with many secrets that would not have been known; for example, the use of chemical weapons against people of his own religion and racial regime.
Other Kurdish government officials, including the Prime minister, indicated that justice had been carried out in the name of the people through the death of Saddam Hussein. He was sentenced for his criminal activities and fell like his fellow tyrants. He reiterated in his statement that the fall of Saddam Hussein has rid-off the filth of dictator and a black page of Iraqi history and that Saddam Hussein does not represent any ethnic group, sect, or religious group within Iraq. These reactions illustrate the expression of hate and injustice that Saddam was doing to the Kurdish people, undermining their autonomy and living standards in Iraq. In essence, this was the justice that the Kurdish were waiting for, and the news of Hussein’s execution illustrated their long-awaited salvage from the long-time brutal regime in Saddam’s government.
The Kurdish community also have varied reactions to the fall of the tyrant. Some Kurds, especially those who were direly affected by Hussein’s actions, believed that he could have been brought to trial to answer all the atrocities he committed, especially those actions that led to a large number of deaths among the Kurdish. For example, a civilian who lost his father and brothers due to Saddam’s brutality said that Saddam is now the garbage of history in Iraq. Other individuals, especially from the town of Shi’as celebrated the execution of Hussein.
They danced across the streets of the town with jubilance and happiness. Despite the rapid excitement on the execution and fall of Saddam Hussein, reports have also shown that a section of the Kurdish community expressed emotions of concern, especially in relation to Iraqi stability. As illustrated by Jongerden (2019), some of the Kurdish community feared that the execution of Saddam Hussein might incite violence and further brutality to their communities as this has been successive brutality for most governments in Iraq. They further reiterated concerns of instability in the country, which may further their demise of being minority groups. Some commented that even though Saddam’s regime has fallen, Kurdish problems will continue. Some even felt guilty that Kurdish only brought issues to themselves the moment the Iraqi-Kurdish militia was formed.
In summary, there were mixed reactions from the Kurdistan regional government as well as the community themselves in relation to the fall of Saddam Hussein. In large part, the Kurdish government was delighted that this is another chance of gaining their stability and autonomy. Besides, it was a window for them to seek for statehood and sovereignty. This can be seen from their delightful reactions and excitement on the fall of Saddam Hussein. Similarly, expression was also evident among the larger part of the Kurdish community in Iraq. However, modern history also illustrates the concern of stability both to Iraq and, more specifically, among the Kurdish. This can be seen through fear of further violence to the community from the government as it has been in the previous governments.
However, in their CRS congress report, Katzman and Prados illustrate contrary findings from the expectations and fears described by the Kurdish and section of the Iraq people. After the fall of Saddam Hussein, there were expectations of a mass exodus of Kurdish families from their homes, especially during the combat operation of the Iraq freedom. On the other hand, there was no observed mass emigration of these communities. Besides, Northern Iraq, which was primarily occupied by the Kurdish, remained stable and excitedly welcomed the fall of Saddam Hussein. Further, the Northern (primarily comprised of the Kurdish) lobbied the United States to return Iraq’s sovereignty and grant the Iraq Governing Council the advisory powers. The council was constituted 25 persons who were appointed after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
How Kurds’ situation got better after the fall of Saddam Hussein
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, a wide range of reports have illustrated that Kurds, who live in the northern part of the country, now live a better life. Generally, their situation can be said to have better since the fall. Observation by Hama (2018) outlined that Kurds now efficiently and effectively run their social, political, and economic affairs. They are now able to administer a population of more than 4 million. Their administration’s success is attributed to the successful management of the transition stages from the authoritarian type of governing system to a more democratic system. They further added that the transition management, which was made in Kurdistan, was considerably and efficiently managed more than other countries such as the Somali or Afghanistan or even the former Soviet Union. This smooth transition enabled social and political cohesion and integration in the country. Current history reiterates that what the Kurds achieved with little outside assistance was much more than what George Bush was unable to accomplish in Iraq, which was an orderly defeat of a regime by Saddam Hussein.
Illustration by Gourlay (2018) further observed less crime in the Sulaimaniya region under control by the Kurdish. This illustrates a remarkable social cohesion process that underlies the success of the Kurdish administration. Similarly, they further reiterated that the crime rate at Ba’ath, which is located in the southern part of Iraq, and who mostly condemned Saddam’s execution, were much higher compared to that of the Nothern part. Currently, the north’s community has higher trust and cooperation with the police compared to pre-Hussain fall when people had no trust and avoided the police. The social cohesion and integration thus illustrates increased justice, improved living conditions among the Kurdish communities. This observation was also echoed by Omar et al., (2018), Illustrated that the head of Kurdish regional government reiterated the same observation of lower crime as compared to before the fall.
Enhanced education system has also been attributed to better Kurds’ situation in the northern part of Iraq. Students are now seen to take the responsibility of learning with passion to pass their exams and engage in low exam malpractices. Before the fall, issues of exam malpractices within the north were significantly high as students saw it as a good thing to go against the regime. In this case, they took less responsibility to study with passion to gain knowledge but were only bogged with atrocities of the regime and the need to explore avenues through which they can go against the regime. However, since the fall, exam malpractice has dramatically gone down and students are seen to take responsibility. Currently, a greater population of Iraq including the Kurds are relatively educated and with the use of regional standards. Kurds can now learn through their language, understand contents and gain knowledge as compared to before when Kurdish language was marginally used even within the elementary institutions.
Study by Amalyan (2018), also observed a strong feeling of solidarity among the Kurds, something which has been rare in many parts of the Middle East. Kurdish had a communal solidarity which strengthen their cohesion and understanding for each other. In this case, issues of communal differences in relation to tribe, ethnicity and religion were dramatically minimized. This is an issue which has been common in most Middle East communities and has been highly fatal to the social inclusion and cohesion. Before the fall of Saddam Hussein, the Kurds were also known for such division especially considering the party differences between the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). It was even evident when both parties had differences in sharing of resources and leadership. However after the fall, Kurds were apprehended that such divisions could reemerge and therefore sought a solution to mitigate such happenings. They thus strategized a unity strategy among the people to ensure that every individual despite their religion, tribe or ethnicity remain united as a Kurdish. Today every Kurdish, including party members are cognizant that any division among them would provide a bigger opportunity for another “Saddam Hussein” to intervene.
In summary, these strategic measures taken by the Kurds after the fall appear to have better their situation and livelihood as compared to pre-fall situation. Furthermore, studies by Amalyan illustrates that the Kurds are now have relief since the dictator is gone and they have a universal living standards and civil rights even though the current times still seem to be hard.
Steps taken by the Kurdistan Regional government to have a stronger position within their region
After the fall, unification of the Kurdish and abilities to strengthen their social and political ties, they also took strategic steps to ensure that they remained stronger in their position as well as within the international communities. One of the steps was to lobby the United States to return Iraq sovereignty and appoint an Iraq Governing Council (IGC) that would act as an advisory to the government. The council thus constituted Talabani and Barzani who were dominant party leaders from the Kurdistan region (the KDP and the PUK). Along with these two influencers from Kurdistan were also another three individuals appointed in the council who were Kurdish. Similarly, the Kurdish also pushed to ensure that a top Barzani aide known as Hoshyar Zebari was appointed as the foreign minister within the appointed cabinet of the IGC. This is a cabinet that served as an advisory committee to the country’s affairs before an interim government was formed to assume Iraq sovereignty. The picture depicted here was that the Kurdish were now strongly represented in the government affairs and thus issues of marginalization were limited (Jongerden, 2019).
The second step was to amalgamate the Kurdish-Iraqi militia (peshmerga) into the Iraq military to enhance security within the country. These were the most pro-US forces in Iraq during the fight against Saddam Hussein’s regime. In addition to this, Dr. Bruska Shaways, who was a Kurdish was appointed as the secretary general for the Iraq defense ministry. This step was to ensure that Kurdish were also represented in the defense lines of the country. Furthermore, most of the Peshmerga were deployed at Kurdish regions to ensure that insurgencies in Arab Iraq are not spilled to the north (Hama, 2018). This move strengthened the Kurdish security and position since they had a legitimate and recognized defense lines.
In the formation of the interim government, a protection for the Kurds was pushed for in the constitution. This was made by the top officials in the interim government including those who were in the IGC. Similarly, Iraqi allies together with the United States reached a consensus on how to develop a constitution that would see the protection of the Kurdish in November 2003. To this case, it was agreed that before Iraq gained its sovereignty, the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL) was to be drafted and signed. The law clearly outlined the political transitional processes from that of Saddam’s regime to a more democratic political system. The constitution also provided for citizens’ rights. However, observations made reiterate that several provisions in the civil rights section of the constitution called for the protection of rights and privileges of the Kurdish (Amalyan, 2018). This was another step that ensured Kurds remained strong within their region and position as compared to previous periods. Besides, the Kurds were able to insert a provision within the constitution which allowed the citizens from any of the three provinces to vote down a permanent constitution that should be put to public referendum. This gave them the power to deny any permanent constitution that has provisions that would harm them or return them to previous atrocities.
In 2004, the Kurds begun to position themselves for the national elections of 2005. Through communal solidarity cohesion and integration, both the KDP and the PUK understood that they can be stronger in the elections if they form an ally. The alliance between these two parties formed the Kurdistan Alliance with proportional representations in the assembly. Kurds also turnout 90% for the voting which made the alliance won 26% of the vote with 75 assembly seats, with other smaller parties also gaining seats in the assembly. This step enabled the Kurds to be stronger in their political representation in the national government as well as improving their formation. They were thus able to advocate for international community assistance and support and improve their wellbeing.
This essay explored the situation of the Kurds before the fall and after the fall of Saddam Hussein. Through the analysis, it is evident that the Kurds were oppressed and discriminated even after the World War 1. The peace treaty that emerged after WW1 described the Kurds as marginal communities within their residential countries. This gave them less privileges and autonomy to effectively administer their affairs. The discrimination and oppression were also felt in Iraq especially within the Kurds northern region. The discrimination and oppression was further worsen during Saddam Hussein regime which also led to the killing of many Kurdish. The fall of tyrant Saddam Hussein gave a relief to the Kurdish which saw a better life for them in the current political, social and economic systems. After the fall, the Kurds are observed to have a cohesive, integrated and solidarity community which has even made them stronger in Iraq political and economic systems.