Latif Rashid, a leading Kurdish politician, explains why he believes Iraq can still have a peaceful future despite last week's violence

Sunday 24 August 2003


The Observer

As we look at the carnage of last week it may not seem it, but there is still an opportunity in Iraq to undo the mistakes of a century ago when the Middle East was carved into states by occupying powers in the aftermath of the First World War and to build a peaceful, stable country.

I am a Kurd, and for me that division has always been particularly painful. The Kurds were dispossessed - emasculated in the new international system based on nation-states and marginalised politically and geographically. We were forced to fight successive Iraqi regimes to preserve our culture, livelihood and honour. Last week we saw the capture of one of the most evil men ranged against us - Hassan ali Majjid, known to everyone as Chemical Ali for his brutal use of chemical weapons against my people.

But this is about more than just the Kurds. It is about the nation of Iraq. The first thing that the Americans must realise if they are to stabilise the country is that, whether they like it or not, the Iraqi people must be given a stake in their own security.

At the moment the American forces are being attacked by a minority of Iraqis, merely a handful of individuals and extremist terrorist groups, while the majority just look on. Give the Iraqis a stake in the maintenance of security and they will feel that anyone loyal to the old regime is attacking them and their wellbeing.

As Kurds and Iraqis, we are profoundly grateful to the allies for getting rid of Saddam and for capturing men like Chemical Ali. They now have to make sure that malevolent and reactionary forces are no longer able to gain power and to use such power in the pursuit of racist and genocidal policies.

Only by embracing a representative system of government in which the rights of all peoples are enshrined and protected can we ensure that such grotesque figures as Saddam Hussein are consigned to historical ignominy.

We may be Kurdish, but we are also Iraqi and are full partners within the Iraqi political community. We believe that our government in Iraqi Kurdistan acts as a reminder to the world that Iraqis can live in freedom, untroubled by terror or oppression, and acknowledge and support democratic, fair and federal principles and human rights.

As Iraqis, we are embarking on a new, exciting future, but one which needs to be managed carefully and needs to be assisted in the early stages. Iraq needs to be repaired, both in terms of infrastructure and in terms of society.

The international community was a committed partner with the Iraqi opposition, and certainly with the Kurds, but we need to be trusted with the running of our own country's affairs, and not to be treated like children who have the potential to run riot.

Iraqis are proud, and it is essential that we are empowered to make the decisions which will fundamentally affect our lives and, more importantly, those of our children.


-Latif Rashid is a senior representative of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan