Sep 15, 2010

Northern Iraq’s ‘evet’ celebration

Abdulla H. Abdulla*

Because of the Kurdish issue in Turkey, Kurds in northern Iraq are always observing the situation in Turkey.
Kurdish media covered the referendum campaign daily, allowing people here in northern Iraq to observe news on the referendum. Many people here know more about the content of the constitutional package than the Turks themselves. Like the Turks, people here were also divided into two groups: one supportive of the amendments and the other opposing them.

But, and surprisingly, despite the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) anti-amendment campaign, most people here in northern Iraq supported the Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) democracy-oriented package because, they believe, those changes are just a path for wide change that will boost democracy and human rights, developments through which Kurds will get more rights.
Most Kurdish media supported the amendments because they believed the changes would bring more rights to Kurds and open the door for more reforms vis-a-vis the Kurdish issue. On Sunday, after announcing the results of the referendum, Kurdish media talked about it in a positive way and as a victory for Kurds, irrespective of the BDP’s boycott. Like the media, Kurdish politicians supported the constitutional package. Both Massoud Barzani, the president of northern Iraq’s administration, and Jalal Talabani, the president of Iraq, asked that Kurds in Turkey vote in favor of the amendments.
In recent years, Turkey’s popularity has risen in northern Iraq’s Kurdish-populated region thanks to the AK Party’s Kurdish-friendly policies. Prior to 2003, Iran’s popularity among Kurds was much higher than Turkey’s. But, in recent years, as well as Turkey having become northern Iraq’s top economic partner, its culture and lifestyle have also become popular. People are now trying to learn Turkish even more than English. Also, more people in Arbil, the capital of northern Iraq, can speak Turkish than Arabic and English. Turkish songs are as popular as Kurdish songs, and Turkish dramas are being broadcast on TV more than Kurdish dramas.
Even the style of Turkish parties has become popular among Kurdish parties. This is especially true of the AK Party, which is Islamic, social-conservative and uses a Western political style. The party is more popular than most Kurdish parties in northern Iraq. There is much talk among Islamic parties to use the AK Party as a blueprint. The Kurdistan Islamic Union, known as a close ally of Turkey’s AK Party in northern Iraq and the main Islamic opposition party, is now facing pressure among its supporters and some reformist leaders to make its political style just like that of the AK Party.
What is happening now is normal because Turkey’s popularity in the whole of the Middle East region is rising. As long as the AK Party stays in power, and as long as the AK Party continues its effort to solve the long-standing Kurdish issue, Turkey will remain popular and most likely increase in popularity among Kurds in northern Iraq. The Iraqi Kurds’ celebrating through their media the strong go-ahead vote on the Turkish constitutional amendment package was nothing short of a sign that they support the government’s Kurdish-friendly policies.

*Kurdish Journalist from northern Iraq.

* This article has been published on Turkey's English leading daily Today's Zaman: