Since 1992, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has been based in Arbil. The KRG has a parliament, elected by popular vote, called the Kurdistan Parliament, and a cabinet composed of the KDP, the PUK and their allies (Iraqi Communist Party, the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party etc.). Structurally and officially, the two parties exhibit few differences from each other. Both of their international organizations are similar and both have a similar structure of authority. Nechirvan Idris Barzani, Masoud’s nephew, was prime minister of the KRG from 1999 to 2009, including presiding over the first KDP-PUK unified cabinet from 2006 to 2009.
President since 2005
PM since 2012
Masrour, Masoud’s son, is now in the Political Bureau. Nechirvan, as Prime Minister, spearheaded unprecedented social and economic reforms, including attention to violence against women, improvements in infrastructure, and a focus on the private sector and foreign investment. He has also been at the forefront of the rapprochement with Turkey and the active development of oil and gas fields in the Region. According to Bruinessen, the traditional structure of Kurdish social and political organization was inherently tribal, with a tribe being a socio-political unit with distinct territorial limits and membership based on kinship. Tribal power is widespread in Arbil and Dahuk. And one must recognize the cultural differences between Arbil and Sulaymaniyah to understand the political nature of the region.
After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Kurdish politicians were represented in the Iraqi Governing Council. On January 30, 2005 three elections were held in the region: 1) for Transitional National Assembly of Iraq 2) for Iraqi Kurdistan National Assembly and 3) for provincial councils. The Law of Administration for the State of Iraq for the Transitional Period recognized the autonomy of the Kurdistan Regional Government during the interim between “full sovereignty” and the adoption of apermanent constitution.
The Kurdistan Regional Government has constitutionally recognised authority over the provinces of Arbil, Dahuk, and Sulaymaniyah.
Elections for the Kurdistan National Assembly are held every four years. The latest elections for the parliament of Kurdistan were held on 21 September 2013. The leading political alliance was the Kurdistani List which consisted of the two main political parties, PUK, which held 18 seats and the PDK, which held 32 seats. The newer and less popular competing movement, the Gorran List (“Gorran” means “change” in Kurdish) headed by Nawshirwan Mustafa won 24 seats, a quarter of all parliamentary seats. The Gorran List had a strong showing in the city of Sulaymaniyah and the Sulaymaniyah governorate, which was previously considered PUK’s stronghold.
In the presidential election, Masoud Barzani was appointed President and won another term in 2009 by gaining 70% of votes. Dr. Kamal Miraudeli came second with approximately 30% of votes.
Elections for the governorate councils are held every four years, however the last ones being held in 2005. Each council consists of 41 members.
Iraqi Kurdistan houses numerous consulates, embassy offices, trade offices and honorary consulates of countries that want to increase their influence and have better ties with the Kurdistan Regional Government. As of October 2010, there were 20 diplomatic representations in the Region, including Turkey.
The representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government to the United States is the youngest son of Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, Qubad Talabani. The KRG’s high representative to the United Kingdom is Bayan Sami Abdul-Rahman, daughter of Sami Abdul-Rahman who was killed in a terrorist attack on 1 February 2004.
Peshmerga is the term used by Kurds to refer to armed Kurdish fighters; they have been labelled by some as freedom fighters. Literally meaning “those who face death” (pêş front + merg death e is) the peshmerga forces of Kurdistan have been around since the advent of the Kurdish independence movement in the early 1920s, following the collapse of the Ottoman and Qajar empires which had jointly ruled over the area known today as Kurdistan.
The Peshmerga fought alongside the US Army and the coalition in the northern front during Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the following years, the Peshmerga played a vital role in security for Kurdistan and other parts of Iraq. Not a single coalition soldier or foreigner has been killed, wounded or kidnapped in Kurdistan since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The Peshmerga have also been deployed in Baghdad and al-Anbar governorate for anti-terror operations.
The Kurdistan Region is allowed to have its own army under the Iraqi constitution and the central Iraqi army is not allowed to enter the Kurdistan Region by law.
In 2010 Human Rights Watch reported that journalists in Kurdistan who criticize the regional government have faced substantial violence, threats, and lawsuits, and some have fled the country. Many journalists faced trial by political figures because of their reports and threatening to jail them if continue doing reports about the corruption in the region.[awkward]
Human Rights Watch reported that female genital cutting is practiced mainly by Kurds in Kurdistan; reportedly 60% percent of Kurdish women population have undergone this procedure, although the KRG claimed that the figures are exaggerated. Girls and women receive conflicting and inaccurate messages from public officials on its consequences. The Kurdistan parliament in 2008 passed a draft law outlawing the practice, but the ministerial decree necessary to implement it, expected in February 2009, was cancelled. As reported to the Centre for Islamic Pluralism by the non-governmental organization Stop FGM in Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq, on 25 November, officially admitted the wide prevalence in the territory of female genital mutilation (FGM). Recognition by the KRG of the frequency of this custom among Kurds came during a conference program commemorating the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. On 27 November 2010, the Kurdish government officially admitted to violence against women in Kurdistan and began taking serious measures. 21 June 2011 The Family Violence Bill was approved by the Kurdistan Parliament, it includes several provisions criminalizing the practice.
British lawmaker Robert Halfon sees Kurdistan as a more progressive Muslim region than the other Muslim countries in the Middle East. The region has populations of Assyrian Christians, Yazidi, Yarsan, Mandean and Shabak faiths.
Although the Kurdish regional parliament has officially recognised other minorities such as Assyrians, Turkmen, Arabs, Armenians, Mandeans, Shabaks and Yezidis, there have been accusations of Kurdish discrimination against the aforementioned minorities. The Assyrians have reported Kurdish officials’ reluctance in rebuilding Assyrian villages in their region while constructing more settlements for the Kurds affected during the Anfal campaign. After his visit to the region, the Dutch politician Joël Voordewind noted that the positions reserved for minorities in the Kurdish parliament were appointed by Kurds as the Assyrians for example had no possibility to nominate their own candidates.
The Kurdish regional government has also been accused of trying to Kurdify other regions such as the Assyrian Nineveh plains and Kirkuk by providing financial support for Kurds who want to settle in those areas. The KRG defend their actions as necessary compensation for the hundreds of thousands of Kurds that have been forced out of the same areas by previous Iraqi governments.
The Kurdistan region’s economy is dominated by the oil industry (with potential reserves of around 45 billion barrels),agriculture and tourism. Due to relative peace in the region it has a more developed economy in comparison to other parts of Iraq.
Prior to the removal of Saddam Hussein, the Kurdistan Regional Government received approximately 13% of the revenues from Iraq’s Oil-for-Food Programme. By the time of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, the program had disbursed $8.35 billion to the KRG. Iraqi Kurdistan’s food security allowed for substantially more of the funds to be spent on development projects than in the rest of Iraq. By the program’s end in 2003 $4 billion of the KRG’s oil-for-food funds remained unspent.
Following the removal of Saddam Hussein’s administration and the subsequent violence, the three provinces fully under the Kurdistan Regional Government’s control were the only three in Iraq to be ranked “secure” by the US military. The relative security and stability of the region has allowed the KRG to sign a number of investment contracts with foreign companies. In 2006, the first new oil well since the invasion of Iraq was drilled in the Kurdistan region by the Norwegian energy company DNO. Initial indications are that the oil field contains at least 100 million barrels (16,000,000 m3) of oil and will be pumping 5,000 bbl/d (790 m3/d) by early 2007.
The stability of the Kurdistan region has allowed it to achieve a higher level of development than other regions in Iraq. In 2004, the per capita income was 25% higher than in the rest of Iraq. The government continues to receive a portion of the revenue from Iraq’s oil exports, and the government will soon implement a unified foreign investment law. The KRG also has plans to build a media city in Arbil and free trade zones near the borders of Turkey and Iran.
Since 2003, the stronger economy of Iraqi Kurdistan has attracted around 20,000 workers from other parts of Iraq. According to Iraqi president Jalal Talabani, since 2003 the number of millionaires in the Kurdish city of Silêmani has increased from 12 to 2000, reflecting the financial and economic growth of the region.
Iraqi Kurdistan currently has the lowest poverty rates in Iraq. According to the KRG website, no coalition soldier has died nor any foreigner been kidnapped since the 2003 invasion of Iraq in areas administered by the KRG