Sunday May 19, 2013
Stand-off in Karkuk: When Fears of Conflict Threaten Development Achieved in KurdistanRizgar Ali Hawlery for Salem-News.com
A dispute between the Kurdish Regional Government and the Iraqi central government over control of Kirkuk brings back old fears...
(LONDON) - Since the fall of the Saddam regime, the Kurdistan region of northern Iraq has become the most peaceful in the country. Suicide bombers and arms faction groups, that have been a regular occurrence in other Iraqi regions, are nowhere to be seen in the Kurdistan region.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has made the attainment of security their first priority - and they have succeeded. It was achieved by promoting community participation and instilling in each resident a sense of responsibility to maintain the peace in their region. The Kurdish community’s past experiences of oppression and massacres during the Saddam regime have enhanced their awareness of the importance of living in peace, and have given them the power to reunite in order to preserve their security. The eyes and ears of residents in Kurdistan are always open for suspicious individuals or behavior. The security is also maintained by well-trained special police known as the Asayesh, and the Kurdish regional army known as the Peshmerga.
This peaceful and secure environment has facilitated rapid development in almost all areas of the economy. Economic growth has been driven by many members of Kurdish diaspora who have returned to Kurdistan to live and work, as well as foreign investors who are enticed by the region’s investment policies, and assured by its high level of security.
Development in Kurdistan has had a positive impact on the vast majority of the Kurdish people’s lives, by reducing unemployment, improving public services and - most importantly - reducing illiteracy and improving the quality of skills and education. The benefits can not only be seen in the local capital Erbil, but have also reached most other Kurdish cities and villages such as Sulaymaniya, Kirkuk and Duh
The recent dispute between the Kurdish Regional Government and the Iraqi central government over control of the contested northern city of Kirkuk has brought back old fears of conflicts, worries over safety and a strong feeling of disappointment.
The more the situation endures, the more the current economic growth driven by diaspora and foreign investments will slow down. If this happens, the Kurdistan region will lose its reputation of being the safest, and having the fastest growing economy, of all Iraqi regions. It will lose its identity as a model of what can be achieved in terms of development and attracting investment when security and political stability are in place.
It is now the responsibility of politicians in Erbil and Bagdad to recognise how the current political stand-off is negatively impacting on the successful path to development undertaken by the Kurdistan region, and to make decisions that re favorable to sustaining that development.
If this doesn't happen, politicians will have failed to maintain the most important pillar of sustainable development. They will also have dishonoured the sacrifices that have been made to achieve the recent years of stability. People may lose confidence in politicians’ ability to maintain political stability, and when this happens it will undoubtedly reverse the current trend that has given the people of Kurdistan a sense of achieving their most desired dream: safety and development.
By Rizgar Ali Hawlery (Kurdistan Community Support Agency in UK)
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