In an interview with the Kurdish weekly Levin, Kurdish leader and PDKI Secretary-General Mustafa Hijri addressed recent political developments in Iraq and, in particular, the question of independence for South (Iraqi) Kurdistan.
According to Mr. Hijri, the unfolding crisis in Iraq is the result of the sectarian policies of the previous government of Iraq, which, in turn, are an extension of Iran’s regional strategy of promoting sectarianism and sowing divisions in neighboring countries for the purpose of preventing inclusive democratic systems of government.
As to the question of independence for South Kurdistan, Mr. Hijri stated that PDKI supports the legitimate right of this part of Kurdistan to self-determination. However, he also stressed that independence is contingent on internal unity in South Kurdistan as well as preparedness to accept great hardships due to predictable regional efforts to undermine Kurdish statehood.
In response to a question regarding the underlying causes of the unfolding crisis in Iraq, Mr. Hijri emphasized the importance of understanding that the terrorist organization Islamic State (IS) has not emerged in a vacuum.
“The misguided policies of the government of Iraq, which for years have resulted in popular discontent among the Sunnis, Kurds and even some segments of the Shiites, reached a point where IS could take advantage of them and gain the support of some Sunni groups in order to expand its military operations [into northern Iraq],” he said. “Such policies have also enabled the Islamic Republic of Iran to increase its influence over the Iraqi government, albeit with other means,” Mr. Hijri added.
“In essence,” the Kurdish leader said, “the policies of the Maliki government were an extension of the policy preferences of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” The results of such policies have been quite evident for years, not only in Iraq but also in other parts of the region where Iran has had the opportunity to gain a foothold. “Iran’s preferred solutions to any kind of problems, whether inside Iran itself or in other countries where it has influence, consist of suppression, duplicity, intrigue and sowing divisions in order to achieve domination [over others],” Mr. Hijri averred. He also invoked the outcomes of Iranian meddling in Palestine, Lebanon and Syria.
The long-term solution to the problems in Iraq and elsewhere in the region requires a genuine commitment to inclusive democratic processes that respects and safeguards the identities and interests of all peoples, religious and ethnic communities, Mr. Hijri recommended. This, the Kurdish leader underlined, in contingent on curbing Iranian influence in Iraq and other parts of the region.
In the interview, Mr. Hijri also addressed the question of independence for South Kurdistan. He said that the policies of the central government in Baghdad toward the Kurdistan region have undermined conditions for coexistence. He highlighted the central government’s undermining of the constitution and cutting the Kurdistan region’s share of the state budget as two major problems in relations between Baghdad and Hawler (Erbil).
Asked if there is any possibility for the Kurds in South Kurdistan to declare independence, Mr. Hijri answered the question in the affirmative. He also expressed the unequivocal support of PDKI for the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination in South Kurdistan, adding that this is consistent with PDKI’s history of “struggle for self-determination for nearly 70 years.”
However, the Kurdish leader emphasized that all the major Kurdish political parties in South Kurdistan need to reach a consensus on the issue, organize a referendum and, in the event of declaring independence, be prepared to withstand regional efforts to undermine Kurdish statehood. “The population in [South] Kurdistan need to be psychologically prepared to accept economic hardships, similar to the situation following the withdraw of Iraqi forces [in the wake of the Gulf War] in the 1990s and the economic embargo on Kurdistan,” Mr. Hijri said.
Citing Dr. Ghassemlou, the PDKI leader added: “A people yearning for liberation must be prepared to pay the price for liberty.”