by Zachary Selekman
I could see fireworks from my room last week inaugurating the campaign season. While cars adorned with flags of contending parties drove up and down streets, their drivers honking horns and chanting slogans, extreme violence rages in southern and central Iraq. Car bombs have killed candidates and fighting continues over the election’s inclusion of ex-Baathists, an inclusion that caused a two-month delay.
Though Suleimaniya is much calmer than cities to its south, it hasn’t been conflict-free. The conflicts here have mostly been between the Kurdistani List and the Goran (Change) List. The Kurdistani List is a joint ticket of the two parties that hold power in the Kurdistan region: the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). The Goran List formed last year and most of its members are former PUK members who have become discouraged by the party and its co-founder Nawshirwan Mustafa failing to adopt necessary reforms.
Opponents of Goran have harassed and beaten its supporters. A few nights ago, we heard reports of mysterious men in black cars opening fire at the PUK headquarters on Salim St., not too far from where I live. One night, as crowds started to gather in front of the PUK HQ, shots were fired from the building to disperse the crowd, injuring three people. A news report said that the three were taken to the hospital, only to be abducted from the facility by men who some say are a part of the PUK’s “anti-terrorist squad.”
While driving back from Zharawa on Friday, we heard Nawshirwan Mustafa address his constituents on the radio. He called for those who have been singled out or attacked for supporting Goran not to retaliate and not to slander people affiliated with the other parties. This instruction may seem minor, buts it’s quite a precedent for KRG politics.
The support for Goran has increased substantially since last year. These are good signs for the KRG’s fledgling democracy, and signs that many people desire something different. While I am reluctant to put much faith in any political party, I can’t help but admire those who openly advocate for Goran at risk to themselves, their families, and their jobs.
A dust storm hit yesterday, coating everything outside, some of the furniture inside, and lingering in the air like a gritty fog. I am reminded that to dust we shall return, and the overwhelming presence of the dust reminds me of the overwhelming presence of corruption in the political system here, and whether people’s participation in the political system is futile. Does the current political situation mean we should stop working towards our ideals? No, I don’t think so. Nor should the corruption or lack of progress in the political arena paralyze us. If anything, flawed political processes could mean that fighting for justice is more important than we ever imagined, despite our perseverance being stretched to its limits, despite the amount of dust that collects in our lungs.