Kurdish party nominates Iraqi veteran Barham Salih for next president

Barham Salih and his wife, during the May election. Salih has been nominated by the PUK to be the next president of Iraq. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2018
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Kurdish party nominates Iraqi veteran Barham Salih for next president

  • Iraq’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the ruling Kurdish parties, selected Salih to take over from Fuad Masum
  • The nomination and election of the president is the second step in the process of forming a government

BAGHDAD: Veteran Kurdish leader Barham Salih has been nominated to be the president of Iraq.

Iraq’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the ruling Kurdish parties, selected Salih to take over from Fuad Masum, Kurdish leaders told Arab News on Wednesday.

The nomination and election of the president is the second step in the process of forming a government.

The elected president will then assign the candidate of the largest bloc to the post of prime minister, to form a government.

The rival Shiite-led blocs on Tuesday agreed to nominate Adel Abdul Mahdi, the former vice president, for the post of prime minister.

An initial deal was made by the two heads of the factions to dedicate the parliament session on Sept. 25 to elect the president and assign the nominated prime minister to form a government, negotiators told Arab News.

Salih, who was born in Sulaymaniyah in 1960, is a graduate of American universities and holds a PhD in statistics and data. He headed the Kurdistan Regional Government in 2001, and was one of the deputies of the federal government in 2006. He occupied many ministerial posts in Baghdad and Erbil in the last 15 years. 

“Barham is the sole nominee for the post of president,” Sa’adi Berah, the  PUK spokesman said on Wednesday. “PUK leaders have voted today on this decision after he (Barham) accepted all the conditions of the PUK.”

The relationship between Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region dominated by the Democratic Party of Kurdistan (DPK), the second ruling Kurdish party, has faltered since September last year when the Kurdistan regional government held an independence referendum.

Baghdad responded by launching a military campaign to push Kurdish forces out of disputed areas they had taken control of in the preceding years. This included the city of Kirkuk - one of Iraq’s main oil producing regions.

Salih, a secular politician, is a moderate and acceptable figure to all political parties and can play an active role in dismantling both the crisis between the Kurdish region and Baghdad, and disputes between the Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish political parties inside the Iraqi capital, Shiite negotiators said.

The backing of the Shiite and Sunni parliamentary blocs in Baghdad for Salih’s nomination is crucial to him winning the post as the president needs two thirds of the votes of the 329 members of parliament to be approved.

“Initially we are happy to back Barham for the post as he is calm, pragmatic and has no problems with Arabs,” a key Shiite negotiator told Arab News.

“We are waiting for them (PUK and DPK) to conclude their decision and officially present his name for us, then we can discuss the other details.”

The US envoy to Iraq and Syria, Brett McGurk, played a key role in restoring Salih to the PUK, which he had split  from in 2017 to form his own coalition. 

McGurk met with Hero Khan, secretary-general of the PUK and wife of the late Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, several times last week at her residence in Sulaymaniyah. 

Khan and her two sons have dominated the leadership council of the PUK since 2013 after Talabani fell ill. McGurk’s efforts were rewarded on Wednesday as Salih won 26 votes of the 40-member PUK leadership council, sources told Arab News.

The post of Iraq’s president falls to the Kurds as part of a power-sharing agreement adopted by Iraqi political forces after 2003. 

Salih's candidacy must first be approved by the DPK.

“We have no objection to Barham's nomination for this post. The DPK does not look for this position,” Reibein Salam, a DPK leader told reporters.

“But we have made many concessions in favor of the Kurdish interest and we have to get something in return.

“We want the position of governor of Kirkuk in return. It is not reasonable that PUK gets both posts.”


Nobel laureate Murad to build hospital in her hometown in Iraq

Updated 15 December 2018
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Nobel laureate Murad to build hospital in her hometown in Iraq

  • The laureate was awarded the $1 million prize alongside Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege
  • She said she will use the money to “build a hospital in Sinjar to treat ill people, mainly widows and women”

SINJAR, Iraq: Nadia Murad, an Iraqi Yazidi woman held as a sex slave by Daesh militants who won this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, said on Friday she intended to use the prize money to build a hospital for victims of sexual abuse in her hometown.
The Yazidi survivor was speaking to a crowd of hundreds in Sinjar, her hometown in northern Iraq.
“With the money I got from the Nobel Peace prize, I will build a hospital in Sinjar to treat ill people, mainly widows and women who were exposed to sexual abuses by Daesh militants,” she told the crowd and gathered journalists.
She thanked the Iraqi and Kurdistan governments for agreeing to her plan and said she would be contacting humanitarian organizations “soon” to start construction.
Murad was awarded the $1 million prize alongside Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege for their efforts to end the use of sexual violence as a weapon of war and armed conflict.
She was one of about 7,000 women and girls captured in northwest Iraq in August 2014 and held by Daesh in Mosul, where she was tortured and raped.
She escaped after three months and reached Germany, from where she campaigned extensively to appeal for support for the Yazidi community.
The Yazidi area in Sinjar had previously been home to about 400,000 people, mostly Yazidis and Arab Sunnis.
In a matter of days, more than 3,000 Yazidis were killed and about 6,800 kidnapped, either sold into slavery or conscripted to fight for Daesh as the religious minority came under attack.