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Controversy Renewed Over Fate of Communist Group in Kurdistan

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image Iraqi Communist Party supporters protesting in Iraq.

ERBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan: A senior leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party has accused Nawshirwan Mustafa, head of the Gorran opposition movement, of being responsible for banning the Kurdistan Communist Workers’ Party (KCWP) almost ten years ago, while Mustafa was a senior member in the PUK. 

But, a Gorran spokesman denies the allegations, saying the decision to ban the KCWP was taken by PUK’s Political Bureau, and was not the personal decision of Gorran’s current chief.

The allegations by Mulla Bakhtyar, head of the PUK’s Political Bureau, came during a recent interview with Kurdish daily newspaper Hawler.  In response to a question regarding punishment for political views, Bakhtyar referred to Mustafa’s past Marxist-Leninist ideological views, saying that “the only political organization outlawed in Kurdistan was the KCWP, which was banned by Nawshirwan Mustafa, not the PUK or the Kurdistan Democratic Party [KDP].”

The PUK, led by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, and the KDP, headed by the semiautonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region’s President Massoud Barzani, are Kurdistan’s two ruling parties. 

In a statement by the KCWP, the group confirmed Bakhtyar’s allegations, saying Mustafa had banned their party when he was PUK deputy secretary general. 

In 2006, Mustafa, along with several other senior officials, split from the PUK and later formed his Gorran (meaning “Change” in Kurdish) movement for the Kurdish parliamentary elections in 2009.

His party currently has 25 lawmakers in the 111-seat Kurdistan parliament.

The KCWP’s offices in Sulaimani were raided in July 2000 by PUK armed forces, leading to the execution of five of the group’s cadres.

“Now, 10 years after those events, Nawshirwan Mustafa is no longer part of the PUK, nor the KDP-PUK government, but the KCWP still remains an outlawed party,” read the KCWP statement. “The PUK leadership is still not ready to apologize for those crimes [against the KCWP].”

Speaking to Rudaw, a senior KCWP official said his party had problems with the PUK, claiming that Bakhtyar had said in the past that the PUK had “taught the KCWP a lesson.”

“If what Mulla Bakhtyar says is true, why has the PUK not issued a statement saying what was done [to the KCWP] was Mustafa’s doing, since he is no longer part of the PUK,” said Nawzad Baban, a member of KCWP’s Political Bureau. “Mulla Bakhtyar’s words are not true.” 

Baban added that, despite completing the legal procedures to obtain a license to operate in Kurdistan, his party had still not been granted the license.

“The PUK and KDP do not want to give us a license, even though the [Kurdistan] Interior Ministry has approved it,” he said. “Two years after we applied for the license, our application has been rejected by the Council of Ministers, under the pretext that some of our party’s aims contradict the Iraqi Constitution.” 

Responding to the allegations about Gorran’s leader, the group’s spokesman, Mohammed Tofiq, said the KCWP was banned by the PUK’s Political Bureau, and not by Mustafa.

Tofiq added that it was expected that Bakhtyar would make such allegations. 

“We at Gorran support licenses being granted to all political parties, including the KCWP,” said Tofiq.


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