President Nechirvan Barzani: Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, faces great challenges and opportunities
President Nechirvan Barzani participated at the annual forum of the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani on Wednesday. During the forum, which was attended by a large number of dignitaries, including Iraq’s Prime Minister Mr. Mohammed Shia’ Al-Sudani, political figures, academics, researchers and journalists, the President delivered a speech on the situation in Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, and the challenges and opportunities facing the country. The President stressed the importance of working together and consolidating unity. The following is a readout of his speech:
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Your Excellency, the Prime Minister of Iraq,
Your Excellency, the President of the Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council,
I welcome you all. Thank you dear Dr. Barham Salih and the Presidency of the American University of Iraq-Sulaimani to continue holding this annual Sulaimani Forum.
On the anniversary of the criminal chemical attack on Halabja, I pay tribute to the souls of the martyrs. We will always remember and honor the sacrifices of the people of Halabja. For years we have worked hard to make Halabja a province, to compensate and serve its people.
On behalf of the people of Halabja and the entire Kurdistan Region, I would like to thank Mr. Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani, the Prime Minister of the Federal Republic of Iraq, who worked faithfully to complete the procedures. I would also like to thank all those who have worked in the Kurdistan Region and Iraq to make Halabja the 19th province of Iraq.
I call on the federal government to allocate a special budget for the reconstruction of Halabja and compensation to the families of the victims and the injured. The efforts of the Federal Government and the Prime Minister to support Halabja and reimburse the victims are constitutional steps and are supported by court decisions against the criminals of the former Iraqi regime. This is a completely constitutional and legal issue to do for the people of Halabja.
We in the Kurdistan Region fully support the government and the steps taken by Mr. Prime Minister of the Federal Government of Iraq. Since taking office, based on the agreement of the coalition to form a government as a roadmap, the Prime Minister has tried to create political stability, and attached importance to all regions and communities of Iraq, and implemented the agreements and the laws.
The agreement reached within the framework of the budget bill, for the whole of Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, is good and commendable for the Iraqi Federal Government and the Kurdistan Regional Government. We expect this trend to continue and the oil and gas law to be passed in the same spirit of cooperation between the two sides.
20 years have passed since the Iraqi liberation process. This meeting is a good opportunity for an important assessment that will be useful for the future. However, it is very important that evaluation avoids blaming each other for the failures. Because this is not a useful method and we all share in the failures and in the successes together.
The past 20 years, despite all its setbacks, was different from the era under the dictatorship. At least the Iraqi people made use of its freedom to demonstrate their vitality in the region during the past two decades. The Iraqi opposition was successful, at the London and Salahaddin congresses and the establishment of the Iraqi Governing Council and the drafting of the constitution. But then, the deviations and mistakes gradually began to become a major crisis, due to the lack of fundamental dialogue among the parties and the failure to implement the constitution.
The Iraqis’ objective of creating a democratic, pluralistic, civilized and stable Iraq was derailed by great failures. Therefore, the participation of the people in the democratic process has decreased significantly, which has a very dangerous impact on the future of the democratic process, especially since Iraq in the past lost millions of people and billions of dollars due to dictatorship.
Civil society and the civil rights of the people and women in particular were severely damaged. This has once again created a major obstacle to social progress and a modern life in Iraq. This has severely damaged Iraqis’ ability to take initiative and innovate.
I assure you that if civil rights had been guaranteed to the Iraqi people as expected in the constitution, we would have a much more innovative and prosperous society in Iraq.
The proliferation of decision-making centers, the use of state weapons in internal political conflicts, and undermining the Iraqi communities’ belief in equality, participation in decision-making and governance of the country have caused great damage to the political process and institutions.
Those who rewrote the constitution belonged to different faiths, nationalities and communities in Iraq. Not all of everyone’s demands were written in the constitution, but they all believed that they had written a good constitution that could make Iraq the country of all and make it a federal, democratic and developed Iraq.
Unfortunately, the constitution has not been implemented. In 2017, an expert committee identified 57 constitutional articles related to the federal system and the rights of the Kurdistan Region that have not been implemented! As a result, the people of the Kurdistan Region do not feel that the federal system has been implemented. If federalism had been implemented according to the constitution, the people of the Kurdistan Region and the whole of Iraq would now feel equality and true partnership.
Many people accuse the Kurdistan Region of not implementing the constitution! After 20 years, we cannot say that we are infallible. We have all made mistakes in Iraq, but we must learn from the mistakes of the past. President Massoud Barzani and the late President Jalal Talabani made great efforts to implement the constitution.
President Barzani has repeatedly warned that the constitution has been violated and that this will destroy Iraq. The leadership of Kurdistan Region felt a great responsibility to implement the constitution, as a loyalty to all Iraqi communities. We are ready to do anything to correct the constitution. After 20 years, we must all take shared responsibility and find a middle ground that is collectively beneficial to everyone.
Ladies and gentlemen.
By 2050, climate change will force 1.2 billion people to flee their homes. Unfortunately, according to the World Bank and the United Nations, Iraq is one of the five countries most affected.
This is a very serious and vital issue. We must have a lot of dialogue to find a solution. We must have many discussions with the countries of the region, especially Turkey and Iran, to reduce the damage caused by these changes and water shortages on Iraq. The conference held in Basra last week and the support of the United Nations and friendly countries in Iraq’s programs and steps are a source of hope and joy.
Another threat in Iraq is its dependence on oil as its main source of income. Due to climate change, rapid efforts to change energy sources and lifestyles in the world, the lives of Iraqis will be under great threat in the future. Especially as the population is growing and the employment portion of the budget is increasing, the government’s task is very difficult.
Iraq needs a strategic plan and many different projects. It must spend large sums of money on strategic projects to keep the country safe to live in. However, spending wage income, which is largely spent on supplies, increases the risk.
Iraq has great human and natural resources. It can be used in the best way to become one of the developed countries and take its rightful place in the region and the world. It will become a prominent contributor to consolidating peace and stability and become a significant center in the region.
For such an Iraq, Iraqis of all communities must work together and take shared responsibility. A unified Iraqi national objective and agenda that protects the highest interests of the country, brings everyone together.
All communities, regardless of nationality, religion or sect, must feel that Iraq is their country. We must all work together to make the Iraqi agenda succeed in Iraq. The will, decision and sovereignty of Iraq and Iraqis must be protected.
In the current political, security and economic situation in the region and the world, Iraq, including the Kurdistan Region, is facing great challenges and opportunities. Now is the time for an open and courageous dialogue. It is time for all of us in Iraq to look at the future together with a common vision.
By working together, in solidarity and unity, in cooperation and shared responsibility, we can overcome all difficulties and challenges. Let us take advantage of the opportunities for the present and build a better future, a stronger and more developed country.
In the Kurdistan Region, we must resolve conflicts in the spirit of unity and solidarity. In this regard, the efforts and steps of the political parties to remove the obstacles to the elections are encouraging.
We in the Kurdistan Region Presidency will continue our work and efforts to overcome the problems and conflicts. We will work together to set the date of the elections and the process to be held on time.
I welcome you again.
Thank you very much and I wish you a good day