President of Kurdistan Region
A major result of Saddam Hussein
's defeat in the Gulf War
(1991) and Operation Provide Comfort
was the ultimate establishment of Kurdish control over their traditional homeland in northern Iraq, known as Iraqi Kurdistan
and "South Kurdistan". Just a few months after the creation of the autonomous zone, free elections
(a first in Iraq) were held in 1992. The two main Kurdish parties, namely Barzani's KDP and the Jalal Talabani
-led Patriotic Union of Kurdistan
(PUK), split the vote, and subsequently split the government ministries evenly. In May 1994, however, fighting
broke out between the Peshmerga
of the PUK and of the KDP. On August 31, 1996 Barzani called on the assistance of Saddam Hussein's regime
to help him combat the PUK, which was receiving Iranian assistance. With the aid of the Iraqi army, the KDP drove the PUK from Iraqi Kurdistan's major cities. The PUK eventually regrouped and retook Suleimani
and parts of Hawler province
. An end to the civil war was brokered in 1998 in the Washington Peace Accords, leaving the Kurdish zone divided between the KDP in the Northwest and PUK in the Southeast.
After the invasion of Iraq in 2003
, the KDP and PUK gradually established a unified regional government. Barzani became a member of the Iraqi Governing Council
and was the president of the council in April 2004. He was elected as the President of Iraqi Kurdistan by the Parliament of Iraqi Kurdistan
in June 2005.
In July 2009, in the first direct elections
for the presidency of the autonomous Kurdistan Region, Masoud Barzani was reelected as president by a popular ballot, receiving 69.6% of the votes. The elections were closely monitored by international observers and the Iraqi Electoral Commission. In August 2013, after the expiration of his 8-year term, the parliament
extended his presidency for another two years, and he continued in the role even beyond this extension.
2017 independence referendum
Baranzi meets with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
in January 2019
On 7 June 2017, Barzani had announced that Kurdistan Region
would hold an independence referendum
on 25 September 2017.
On the day following the referendum
, 26 September 2017, he announced that the referendum had been a success in seeking independence, and called on neighboring countries to be open to future dialogue.
The Iraqi government rejected the results of the referendum. On 15 October, units of the Iraqi security forces and Popular Mobilization Forces
entered the Kurdish-held city of Kirkuk
, forcing a withdrawal of the Peshmerga and prompting similar withdrawals across other contested cities in northern Iraq.
Following the failure of the referendum and the Peshmerga's territorial losses, Barzani announced on 29 October that he would step down as the President of Kurdistan Region.
He is still the president of the KDP and receives Ambassadors.
Members of the Barzani family allegedly control a large number of commercial enterprises in Iraqi Kurdistan, with a gross value of several billion dollars, although no evidence of such ownership by Masoud Barzani himself exists. While accusations of corruption against both the KDP-Barzanis and the PUK-Talabanis are often levied by both Kurdish sources and international observers such as Michael Rubin
, President Barzani on several occasions has denied involvement in any commercial enterprises.
Insufficient financial transparency in the region serves to both exacerbate the accusations and hamper efforts to find any evidence of malfeasance. In July 2010 the opposition paper Rozhnama
accused the Barzani-led KDP of pocketing large sums from illegal oil-smuggling.
In December 2005, Kamal Qadir
, a Kurdish legal scholar with Austrian citizenship, was arrested in Iraqi Kurdistan for a series of articles criticizing Barzani's government and family. He was charged with defamation and sentenced to thirty years' imprisonment.
He was released in 2006 following international pressure from Amnesty International
, Reporters Without Borders
, and the government of Austria.
In May 2010 the journalist Sardasht Osman
was killed after criticising the Barzani family.
Barzani's detractors say he is tribal, conservative, and unworldly, often playing traditional tribal roles. However, his administration in Erbil successfully built modern transportation infrastructures, attracted foreign business investment, and prioritized education.
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Last edited on 8 April 2021, at 20:17
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