ANOTHER LETTER FROM KURDISTAN
- THE SITUATION IN IRAQ BEFORE THE INVASION OF KUWAIT
- Unemployment is everywhere in Iraq. Excepting food, all imported goods
are very expensive. All Kurdish people born between 1945 and 72 are in
- Political discontent and the construction of the left. Grouped
along the Iranian border the nationalist opposition is caught up
in internal disputes ignoring the everyday life of the people.
- Police brutality is at its height. No one could mention the opposition.
To do so meant death and annihilation. In other words peoples'
perspectives were restricted. They had no hope that the regime would
- THE SITUATION IN IRAQ AFTER THE INVASION OF KUWAIT
- At the outset people liked it. They thought Saddam's regime would be
overthrown this way. Now prices started to rise gradually to astonishing
levels - for example, a 80 kg sack of flour rose to 1000 dinars in Basra,
800 dinars in Baghdad, 600 dinars in Mosel. (footnote)
A sack of rice in the south rose 375-400 dinars while a bag of sugar cost
somewhere between 350-400 dinars. Unemployment rose dramatically. Most
cafes and factories were closed due to a shortage of the basic necessities.
- The government kept stepping up the pressure on people. Militarisation
became increasingly predominant, tightening its grip on urban centres.
At the same time the number of army deserters rose. But the government
was still powerful and crushed any opposition.
- During this period the KF stood to one side. They even put a stop to
peshmerga activity. One example - the best: the head of a unit and two
peshmergas were arrested on a visit to Sullemania. PUK stated that they
had averted a shoot-out but that the government had arrested a member
of one of their units.
- THE GENERAL SITUATION IN IRAQ DURING THE ALLIED ATTACK ON IRAQ
- The armed forces were moving towards the Iraqi border. There was a
massive desertion of entire army divisions. The security forces were less
active and confused. In Mosul army bases and security services were moved
into the houses of local people. But as soon as they joined radio contact
they were bombarded. That is why civilians disappeared. Most factories and
places of importance were destroyed. The retreating army took their rifles
back home with them and many people were predicting that the government
would be overthrown. But when a ceasefire was declared on 26th of February,
1991, people were unhappy about it - preparations for the uprisings hadn't
progressed far enough. The regime was weary and frightened and began to
intimidate the people, wanting to prove to them that they had won the war
because they had defiantly confronted some 30 countries - despite the
incredible economic collapse, the destruction of Iraq and the killing of
- THE SITUATION IN IRAQ DURING THE UPRISING
- When the army retreated from Kuwait on the 29/2/91, a tank entering
Basra shoots at any surviving photos of Saddam destroying them. This was
the first spark of the uprising in the south and it begins to get underway
and gradually extends to other towns like Koot, Omura, Nasria, Samawa, Najaf,
Kurbala and Hilla - until finally it reaches Mosaib. But it was chaotic,
religion being the dominating factor with everyone tying a green heart around
their forehead pretending to be a Sayid. (footnote) The
government infiltrates it in order to find out who the activists are. Their
slogan was "Neither the East nor the West, but the Islamic Republic". All
government buildings and institutions were looted with the majority of
the army joining in. But they couldn't organise it. When the south was
retaken by government troops the most horrendous massacre took place and
all public meeting places were destroyed. Even now as people return
they are being detained in groups. When the government resumed its attacks
on Southern Iraq it was easy to recapture it - showing how religion is
incapable of seizing the rhythm of uprising and revolution.
- THE SITUATION IN KURDISTAN DURING THE UPRISING
- When the south exploded on the 29.2.91 it had a big effect on Kurdistan.
In Kurdistan, armed units had been set up to initiate the uprisings.
Every tendency wanted to set up their own armed unit. However, the armed
units were independent. So it turned out Rania was liberated by the people
on 5.3.91 and the Chwar-Korna division, the "secondary internal security
force", surrendered to the people on 6/3/91 and therefore the Kawar Korna
and Hasiawa receiving camps (footnote) were
liberated. We belonged to the insurrectionary units in Sullemania having
fours armed units in Karachawa, Azady (Khanwak Korakan), Majid Bug, and
Sarachnar, each unit composed of about 30 people. But we were independent
and we had several meetings with the "March of Communism", RAWT, with a view
towards joint participation. They hesitated for three days. Finally they
said they were not prepared to sacrifice the organisation for the sake of
the people. The KF were set to hold a demo at 1 pm on 7.3.91. However, at
8 am that morning, we started moving. The entire city was liberated, except
for the Akary security force that held out for a day. All Sulliemania was
liberated by the 20.3.91. Hawlir was liberated in 3 hours on 10.3.91. and
Kirkuk on the 20.3.91. The army, encamped nearby, came down and surrendered
to the people. Then townspeople began to loot shops and government buildings.
It didn't just stop there: they also looted the contents of offices and
factories. Anyone mobile enough to have a car could see that all the cities
and towns of Kurdistan had been taken over with little or no resistance,
with the exception of Sulliemania where there had been much resistance
THE PATTERN OF THE UPRISING
In Sulliemania, days before the uprising, internal security forces
had warned the government institutions and departments that anyone caught
agitating would be executed and their homes destroyed. Also on 6.3.91
prior to the uprising the governor of Sulliemania had convened a meeting
with the Mshtashars (formerly the Jash) warning them to have their troops
on standby. So on the same evening at 5 pm the armed forces started carrying
out the following manouevres:
Doshkas (anti-aircraft guns) were placed at vantage positions. Mobile
units and Modara (similar to tanks) were there in strategic places and some
trucks, loaded with Doshkas and covered with sheets, prepared to move in on
crowds and shoot. But to no avail because of the following reasons.
- No-one had any faith left in the regime and that meant that the
regime had no-where to run to. And people were not prepared to
sacrifice themselves for the regime.
- The KF had previously notified the Mstashars through letters.
- The internal security force was in an unbelievable mess.
- The uprising in the south had raised the morale of the Kurdish people.
- A general willingness to overthrow the regime was at its height.
But a readiness to begin was lacking.
- The liberation of Rania had a pronounced effect on people's morale
and also events in Sulliemania affected other places. That meant the
liberation of one place after another, affecting everywhere else.
OUR ROLE IN THE UPRISING
After having set up armed units we commenced the uprising at 8 am. on
7.3.91. The Majid Bug unit was out on duty, so for a few hours there
were 10 people with two hand grenades and a borrowed rifle. In the
first three hours we occupied the Iscan police station, the crime
prevention and traffic wardens building, the Inland Revenue, the martyr
Osman intelligence wing, the law courts,the prison and the old Sara
cop station. The university stores were destroyed and looted by the
people. Sarchnar Party headquarters and those in Aboosana were taken
as well as the police station and public militia in Khansa Khorakan from
Karachawa towards Hasib Salh and Sara. 8.3.91. Security headquarters
have still not been occupied. We organise a march covering the entire
city with eleven banners proclaiming the following.
- Select for your representatives conscious and upright people.
- Make the shora your base for the long term struggle.
- Revolutionary people! the achievements of the revolution has
been at the cost of your own blood. Don't waste it.
- Class consciousness is the arm of liberation.
- Revolutionary people set up your own shoras.
- Long live the Shoras' Authority.
- Women are the arm of the revolution. They have a clear role to play
(No obstructions must be put in the way of their participation).
- Unconditional and unfettered political freedom.
- Forward to the right of self-determination for the Kurdish people.
We also hung two banners from the hospital calling for blood donors
and asking people not to loot.
- Brothers and sisters: Your sons in the hospital are in need of blood.
Who will volunteer to go to the hospital.
- The hospital's medical store is a safe guard to revolutionaries and
the injured. Anyone touching it would be considered a thief.
We also managed to get many people to give blood which we took to
the hospital. On the 8th there were nearly 1000 wounded and in Sulliemania
300 had been massacred. Until the 8th there was no PUK base. The Shoras's
movement swiftly proclaimed itself, seizing the initiative. The number of
shoras increased rapidly until there were 54 district shoras altogether.
There were workers' shoras also. (The City Council workers's shora, the
textile workers' shora, the cigarette workers' shora, the chicken factory
shora, the Hamoraby Company's shora, the power industry shora, Semini
Company shora and the shora at the hospital).
THE ACTIVITY OF THE SHORAS
- Every Shora had its own radio station which broadcast its
own programme, its publications, poetry and activity and
the wants of the local people.
- Every shora set up medical posts where blood could be donated
to the hospital and be used to treat local people.
- Each shora had a number of committees dealing with the media,
the militia, medical matters, administration, finance and general
assistance and the law, as well as a committe for relations
between the shoras and a foreign relations committee.
- The method of struggle is to be had in the shora's authority.
- The shoras organised meetings in localities and factories. But not
all of them were able to hold a general meeting. More on this later.
- The building up of a militia for resistance purposes.
- The shoras elected to work on some public matters.
- On the 16th of March, 1991, the anniversary of the massacre of
Halabja, the shoras incited the entire city even threatening the KF.
- On the 17th, a general meeting of all the shoras took place at the
Majid Bug shora to elect a supreme shora covering the city.
- On the 18th, the KF called for the disbanding of the shoras.
- On the 18th, at 2 pm, there was a general meeting of shora delegates.
At 9 in the evening it was decided to condemn the KF declaration.
- On the morning of 19th, a meeting of shora delegates and the KF was
held. At the same time a rumour spread around that shora delegates
had been arrested and their activities curtailed. The shoras organised
a demonstration in front of the KFs base. (the former Baathist "Peoples'
- On the 20th a march was organised against the KFs position which had
called for the disbanding of the shoras.
HOW THE CRISIS EMERGED BETWEEN THE KF AND THE SHORAS
There are lots of opinions about the crisis; each coming from a particular
perspective or angle. Some blame RAWT, the March of Communism group, and some,
a hard-line extremist group. Others say that they all thrived on the rivalries
between themselves. The KF blames a political faction amongst them composed of
anarchists and a group of teenagers. It says that their language is utopian,
that Kurdistan still hasn't been liberated and that if what they're saying is
true then let them go and liberate Kirkuk and not occupy ourselves with all
this big talk. Such views attempted to justify things to the KFs rank and file
and some of the shoras.
However the crisis started as follows. In the beginning the shoras were
a massive social movement gathering a huge force around themselves. All
political tendencies, left and right, were directly trying to either control
or manipulate this social movement for themselves or to liquidate it or take
over. But once itwas acknowledged that thiswas an independent social force
not belonging to any political organisation, the latter, feeling their
interests threatened started directly opposing the shoras here and there.
From the start the KF wanted to take over all the City's institutions and
rebuild them.In that period the crisis was over political power which is
why the shoras became the centre for class struggle which meant: womens'
struggle, unemployment, free elections for representatives and the overall
authority for the city's affairs etc...
At the time, the shoras struggle was against the bosses (the big
directors, administrators) and the old administration which the workers
had terribly bitter memories of. The KF, however, wanted to give the
bosses back their jobs. For example, in these places, (factories,offices),
the bosses were insulted by the workers; sacked people such as Karim
Osman, the boss of the City Councii and bosses such as Aziz Khoshnow of
the cigarette factory, Khalid of the clothes factory, Khasm (electricity)
and Mustapha Hagy of the Mamoraby company. Later on these people brought
along with them KF peshmerga squads, proceeding to obstruct and prevent the
generai assemblies of the factory workers. Here and there, Jamal Hawramy
and (Kakimr) Haloy Aha Smell (footnote) even attacked
some shoras and wanted to close them down. What they were doing in part was
to spread poisonous propaganda against the shoras creating a threatening
atmosphere of terror. This meant that the crisis was not an invention of
any particular group or tendency but in itself had a realistic basis that
would have come out sooner or later and which is a problem for us.
Some political tendencies (hard-line and extremist) wanted to confront
the KF. For instance, the March of Communism group, RAWT, wanted to oppose
the KF in order to sharpen the crisis within the shoras stating they would
cut off any heavy hand daring to oppose the shoras. Extremist influence
was equally on the move within the shoras. But there was another group
active at the base at Awat calling themselves "The Forward Movement of
the Shoras Group". More collaborationist, they wanted to minimise and nuance
the shoras colours to a degree that the KF would find satisfactory, so that
later they could dissolve the movement within the KF. Two days after the KFs
declaration calling the shoras unauthorized, this tendency disbanded and
closed the doors ofthe shora. They are still confused and don't know what
to do. But the shoras' movement ignored the threats of the KF until the day
the cities were retaken by the forces of the regime.
SOME INAPPROPRIATE METHODS WITHIN THE KF AND FROM THOSE OPPOSING THEM
- A large part of the shora's movement didn't acknowledge the KFs
social authority and thought everything should be carried out
through the general assembly.
- Some of the slogans were provocative causing the peshmergas to
re-entrench themselves instead of getting them to support things.
They were saying "disarm yourselves, bourgeois capitalists, from
head to toe you are incapable of carrying things through. Whenever
have bourgeois capitalists carried arms?"
- When the KF broadcast their declaration to attack the city of
Kirkuk, on the same day the left were ironically organizing a
march against the KF. The outcome of this was not in the interest
of the shoras.
THE NUMBER OF SHORAS
- 52 shoras in Sulliemania City
- 6 shoras in Kirkuk (footnote)
- 42 shoras in Hawlir
- Some shoras in Rania and Nasro Bareeka.
THE ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE UPRISING
- The institutions of terror that the Baathist Party had
strengthened and continually regenerated for 23 years
broke down in a short space of time and there's no way
they can be rebuilt again.
- It has made Kurdistan andIraq into a political society.
Everyone has become political, men, women and even young
children of all classes. Class struggle is put on the agenda.
- The shoras's movement was the bright star of the uprising
because it acknowledged itself as the bearer of the interests
of the workers and exploited in the cities and villages. It
didn't bargain away the achievements of the revolution; it
was against any form of inequality, against nationalism,
religion and social backwardness. It didn't want to cool down
the uprising's heat-wave in the public heart despite all the
inefficacy and lack of clarity.
THE WEAK POINTS OF THE UPRISING
- The weakness of nationalism in holding back the tempo of the uprising.
- The energy and enthusiasm in the people's heart was gradually cooled
down bit by bit and the KF made poisonous propaganda proclaiming
peshmerga forces are everything and the public could do nothing.
And that's how they got the market going again with traders and
street vendors. At the same time the KF went through houses taking
back what the people had looted and selling it for themselves.
- People started complaining about these unwanted individuals who
were the force which tried to crush the uprising before it happened
and now today were in charge under the KFs leadership.
- The practical and serious activists of the uprising were not organised
but were working from within the movement's heart. The leftists who've
carried on looked at the movement from outside - they weren't at the
heart. But the activists weren't organised in another sense; lack of
a communist political organisation. (footnote)
- Absence of a connection between the workers' socialism and the key-points
of economical, social and political changes.
BUILDING UP THE MILITIA'S RESISTANCE
When the forces of the regime resumed attacks on Kurdistan, the
committee of shoras' delegates published a leaflet declaring
resistance within Kurdistan; setting up training centres in every
shora base, sending shora peshmerga (footnote)
forces into battle even if the KF didn't officially recognise them. We
sent two units into battle in Kalar for 10 days. We also sent a force
to Kirkuk, a mainly symbolic act since the number of peshmerga was only
about 80. We also gave a lift to 25 peshmerga of Kirkuk's October Shora
unit. On that trip we spoke and agreed with the KFs leadership of military
operations although practical relations remained the same. Via telex
they contacted Masine Jalal and Masood Burzany for us and after two
days we got a reply. As shoras we were about to have a meeting with
the KFs political leadership but on the day we were to have the
meeting the city was evacuated during the night and we missed out.
TENDENCIES IN THE SHORAS'MOVEMENT
The Shoras' Movement and the form it took emerged from historical
necessity in the uprising. It was forever expanding its influence
in all different ways and increasingly publicised itself. The Shoras
Movement was the ground on which to stiffen and sharpen social struggles
and the political and ideological crisis. This ground let all social
possibilities develop. Some people on the left wanted to take a softer
line but that didn't work out. Another tendency which was so passive
that they were reformist and never active on the ground. When the KF
declared the shoras to be illegitimate they retreated saying "because
the KF has reached the conclusion that the shoras have to be disbanded
it's best not to leave them a faded shadow, passive to the point where
the KF would be satisfed with them". There was another tendency which
was nationalistic. It said they didn't oppose the KF and they withdrew.
There were also extreme leftists. They were prepared to confront the KF -
even with arms whilst the majority were thinkinp about the future fate
of the shoras and wanted in every conceivable way to protect the
revolution's achievements and to gather as many people around their
class interests as possible. But the Shoras Movement was unfortunately
SLOGANS THAT WERE RAISED BY THE SHORAS MOVEMENT
- Unconditional political freedom
- Long live self-determination for the Kurdish nation.
- Revolutionary Public! Set up your own Shoras.
- Long live the 35 hour working week.
- Freedom, equality, workers' government- (RAWT)
- People should freely control their social economic and political destiny.
- Long live the Shoras' Authority.
- All power to the shoras.
- Long live the equal rights between men and women.
- Revolutionary women; organise your own independent unity.
- All administrative organs should be by way of (shora) elections.
- We, the workers and exploited, request a shoras' government and not
- The invaders force must get out of Kurdistan.
- No rebuilding the oppressive security forces, neither police,
intelligence services, Jash nor public militias.
- The criminals must be punished.
- Aid Kirkuk's and Toose's refugees. Help them.
- Bread, work freedom, shoras' government.
- The only alternative to the Baathist penal dictatorship is the shoras.
- Halabja, Budenan, = the Hiroshimas of Kurdistan.
- The shoras will heal the wounds of Kurdistan's exploited.
- Rise up, stand up and fight. Break the institutions of fear.
- The right of villagers to return.
- The people should be armed to ensure the shoras' authority.
- Freedom to strike and demonstrate.
- Freedom of speech, thought, opinion and organisation.
- For all democratic demands (political, economic and social).
THE LEVEL OF PUBLIC CONSCIOUSNESS
The public aren't conscious of its own interests to a sufficient degree
for the following reasons:
- Starvation, poverty, high prices is an objective situation and the
people cannot gather themselves together around their own interests.
An everyday dog's life prevents them.
- The black dictatorship now without cover hasn't permitted the public
to find their own self-practice.
- It's true the oppressive institutions were broken but the oppressive
institutions built up in people's heads didn't dissolve within those
few days and more time was needed.
- Nationalistic, religious and social backwardness were obstructing
people's vision and prevented them from actively coming onto the
- The social authority of the KF had its role to play on the public.
- The organised left was very weak and nearly dead. It didn't participate.
Even though the shoras movement was immature and deficient, day by day
it was taking great steps forward, distancing itself from all the forces
which didn't express its interests.
I will write to you giving details of these issues in following letters.
Greetings... To all friends and mates - greetings from all supporters and fans
of the shoras movement.
Help us, support us. Introduce us to Europe. Whatever way you can, one
by one, in groups, help us, it doesn't matter about some differences of
opinions amongst us.
You can alter some things on condition that it won't affect the core content.
Shoras' Movement activist (14.6.91)
ASSISTANCE WITH TYPESETTING AND TRANSLATING BY WORKERS' INFO-RAG, DUBLIN CONNECTION.
- The average wage was 150-220 dinars per month, so a
sack of rice would have cost roughly twice the average monthly wage (TN)
- Sayid: A kind of religious title like Mullahs. They
could be Sunni's but more likely Shia. Persecuted during the time of
Harun-al-Rashid. In fact he killed all of them. (TN)
- Receiving camps: made up of easily constructed
concrete buildings and used tor those people transferred trom vlllages
and small towns destroyed by the Baathists.
- Nickname: the moustache. Haloy, meaning eagle, is a
common name like Victor. Aha - the fathers' name. Smell moustache. (TN)
- Nothing was ever settled here. There was continuous
fighting between insurgents and Baathist forces. (TN)
- Is this an ultra-leftist reflex? (TN)
- Peshmerga is also a general term meaning those
who are prepared to fight to the last drop of blood.
- Toose: a small town near Kirkuk where a terrible
atrocity took place during the uprising.
- Budenan: a town on the Turkish border where 8,000
people were kidnapped in 1985
- No alterations have been made in the translation
of this text.
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