The following is a copy of a speech given by the Iraqi President on the 16th July 2001 relating to the north. It has been included in the context of historical interest only and to provide an insight into the ongoing political and diplomatic framework underpinning life in the northern autonomous region at the time of my visit.
It must be stressed that views and opinions contained in the text are not necessarily those of the author of this blog.
Iraqi leader says Kurdistan enjoys autonomy; talks can take place later
In the name of God, and during a magnificent celebration which was full of feelings of love, pride and pleasure; and in the presence of a number of members of the Revolution Command Council [RCC], members of the Iraq Command of the Arab Socialist Ba'th Party, and the vice-chairman and secretary of the Legislative Council of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region and heads of the council's committees, leader President Saddam Husayn, may God watch over him, was decorated with the sash of jihad for the liberation of Palestine and its crown, Jerusalem. His excellency, may God protect him, was granted the jihad shield for the same purpose.
Due to his excellency's brave, firm and principled stand and the heroic jihad role, which is full of genuine pan-Arab spirit, and proceeding from the confidence of all the people - Arabs, Kurds and minorities - in the fact that the liberation of Jerusalem and its crown, Jerusalem, can only be achieved by the lofty Arab leader Saddam Husayn, the Legislative Council in the Kurdistan Autonomous Region has decided to grant his excellency, may God support him, the shield of jihad and the sash of jihad for the liberation of Palestine and its crown, Holy Jerusalem, in order to be part of the equipment of the war the Iraqis will wage under the banner of their unique leader to expel the Zionist invaders from the land of Palestine and to purge all Arab land from their filth, God willing...
[Saddam Husayn - recording] In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate. Nay, we hurl the truth against falsehood and it knocks out its brain, and behold, falsehood doth perish! [Koranic verse]
Thank you very much, brother members of the Legislative Council of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region, for honouring me with this symbolic gift, the meaning of which I can understand very well. I also believe that all honourable people can understand the significance of this gift. We started talking jokingly, but despite our joking we were serious when we said that whoever serves his people faithfully, sincerely and fairly will be rewarded. He will be rewarded in the sense that the people will love and respect him. They will also obey his decisions, which, they believe, are for the benefit of the people.
You know that the autonomous region is in a special situation now. This situation was brought about in the circumstances of the 30-state aggression, particularly during the major aggressive military chapter of 1991. It continues until now, although, in terms of the real and direct response, this abnormal situation was changed, as you know, in the jihad operations launched by the people and the armed forces in the spring of 1991.
But why did the leadership leave this situation as is until now? Was it because it was incapable of correcting something which it felt should be changed for the better, or was it for other reasons? The answer is: for other reasons.
The basic thing we seek to achieve is to serve our people from the north to the south, be they in the autonomous region or in southern Iraq, and also in western or eastern Iraq. All of Iraq is, God willing, part of the nation. Each part of this nation can preserve its peculiarities so that we can serve the entire Arab nation after that. If such a service were not supported with absolute conviction by the people, then it would not be understood correctly. We know that the people, if they lack leadership, might lose direction for some time. The people themselves create or give birth to leaders, but people without leaders cannot find the correct path, so that they cannot grasp the historic opportunity as they should. We understand this very well.
But as regards our people in the Kurdistan Autonomous Region, we wanted our people to deal with the events and the circumstances in detail, with the good and the bad, so that they will later reach a conviction, the conviction that relates to their genuine choice. We understand that their choice will not be anything but a genuine Iraqi nationalist choice. This is because the state of affairs of our people in Iraq is one, be they Arab or Kurds, and under any conditions.
This state was not arranged hastily, as some other states in the world, near and far, were arranged. This arrangement was dictated by history and not by technical considerations. The Iraqis have lived on this land for thousands of years as one, regardless of the diversity in language, tradition, customs and national peculiarities. However, they all meet at the great post of the big tent, which is Iraq. This tent forms the real shield that protects them against the evils of time. At the same time, it provides the cover that protects them from the climate changes which may kill some people, and I am speaking figuratively here.
So we wanted our people to cope with life for some time away from the little annoyances created by the traffic policeman in the street, whose actions, as some people with evil intentions might say, are instigated by what they call the Baghdad regime. And also away from the soldier, who might act in such a wrong manner that his bad behaviour is said to be part of the central government's policy. Such occurrences would harm relations among the one people and also relations between the people and the leadership.
Talking about the same idea, you remember that during one of my visits to the governorate of Wasit, which was less than two years before the 30-state aggression, as I recall, I said: Leave our Kurdish people for me, away from the interference of the security and intelligence services. I do not want reports by these services. You remember that. Leave our Kurdish people for me so that we can detect the imbalance, address it, and march ahead as one people. This is our fate in this area, as predestined by Almighty God and as dictated by history over thousands of years.
However, the Mother of Battles took place. Nonetheless, we have a will that is capable of resolving any situation that befalls Iraq. You know this and all the Kurdish people know this. We wanted the status quo to remain unchanged for some time in order not to lose any one of our Kurdish people. Later on, we will discuss things at the right time and put them in perspective. Every condition entails the use of certain methods, but the most important thing is the need to develop real and deep convictions by the well-intentioned nationalistic politicians, no matter what their leanings are, and by the [Kurdish] people in general. After that, people will be guided to the right solution.
There is nothing impossible, with God's grace, in front of your leadership and people. However, this solution should be one with minimum losses. It has to be nationalistic and initiated by our [Kurdish] people. For our Kurdish people, patience should not be termed desperation, nor should it be called submission. But when it comes to the foreigner, things are different. Differences among the one people are solvable. You can bear up with them and discuss them. The ultimate result is that we are one people, Arabs and Kurds, not two. We are one Iraqi country, not two. We want our people to be free and not to submit to anyone but God .
Now, what if it was said that the three governorates - which were originally two and the third was declared after the revolution - have become a state in northern Iraq? What will happen to the Kurds? Will they start speaking Kurdish? They already speak Kurdish. Who said otherwise? Will they start writing in Kurdish? They already write in Kurdish. This situation is different from the Kurdish situation in other neighbouring countries. You know them and they know themselves. One might argue that they want to think in accordance with their own culture. Let them do that. Another might say we want bodies to represent us, look into the local interests and be closer to finding solutions or proposing them. In other words, he might say that we want central councils. They already exist. There are executive and legislative councils. Another might argue that we [the Kurdish people] want to elect our local councils on our own free will. Let them do that of their own free will. Who prevents them from doing so? One might say: we would like to establish parties. Let them do that. If they want to establish new partes, other than the existing ones, let them establish other new parties so that they can reach the result that the ailment does not lie in the large number of parties. The most important thing is that one must represent the people out of respect for one's conscience and mind, not out of fear of the stick of the people.
Be confident, brothers, that if the people who claim that they rule the Kurdish people in the autonomous region had not thought of Baghdad's intervention, they would have opted for the harshest methods in dealing with the Kurdish people. However, many figures in the autonomous area deal with the Kurdish people out of their fear that Baghdad might use their maltreatment of the Kurdish people to seize the opportunity. They do not know that we wanted the Kurdish people to go through this experience so that they can come to realize who represents them in his conscience, mind and policies.
Convey my greetings to the Kurds, whether on top of the mountains, in the plains, in Klawhasan, Galialibay, Bikhal, Dukan, Darbandikhan, Dahuk and elsewhere. Please convey my warmest greetings. Tell them that when you become fully convinced and ready to indulge in a dialogue - whether through those who you believe can represent you - as one people and one team in order to reach what we aspire to, we will be equally ready. If we become positive that that this will not happen, then we will wait and tackle things in their course and at the right time. At this stage and until a later time, we want to develop one stand, one thought and one solution that fits the Iraqis. I am not talking about the people of Basra, Ninawa, Karbala or Salah al-Din, but about the entire Iraqis. The Iraqis must be committed to this stand in the future as they adhered to their unity over thousands of years. Those who are part of a state like Iraq are much more esteemed and honoured than those who live on a tiny and humble part that calls itself a state. God greet you, brothers, thank you and God bless you.
[Unidentified member of Kurdish delegation] Very profound statements, Mr President.
[Saddam] I have not made an effort to come up with these statements because this is a permanent state inside me. This vocabulary is available to me because they are the terms in which the interests of our people as a whole can be realized.
[Member of the Kurdish delegation] Sir, if you please. The Kurdish people are the same people they have always been, apart from the traitors, the agents, who are the majority at the time being. The people of the autonomous region have the same feelings that the people in Baghdad or any Iraqi governorate have.
[Saddam] Are you sure they are the same people? Why do the people of Maysan display the feelings we see, or the people of Ninawa? Why would the people of Al-Sulaymaniyah, Arbil or Dahuk not express the feelings they should? It is not possible to invent a description for a nation that is different from their historical description. It is one nation that shares the same cultures, kings, history, glories and swords.
Only a small-minded person would abandon a big clean sea for the sake of a corner or a stagnant canal that is controlled by foreigners who can deprive him of water whenever they wish, who can starve him whenever they want, who can also determine the manner in which he should work, act and take a stand.
A great nation is tantamount to a great armour, shield and sword. It is also tantamount to a big spade and a waterwheel for agriculture as well as a great protector of life. There is no substitute for a united nation. It is possible, however, to find some distinct features.
[Member of the Kurdish delegation] They can be found among the governorates.
[Saddam] They can be found in the governorates. The governorates have their own distinct features within the local government laws. As for language, culture, poetry and prose, the revolution has had its say in that regard. Everything has become clear. Only a small group of hunters of blind worms, not vicious creatures, will benefit from a state of disarray in Iraq, God forbid. These can be present among the peoples of any nation, at any time.
[Member of the Kurdish delegation] Our people will only be pleased when the sun shines again on Kurdistan. This will happen soon, with God's will.
[Saddam] We are only urging our Kurdish people not to allow foreigners in their country, by which I mean the land of Iraq, the land of the Kurdish people and all the Arabs. Basra belongs to the Kurdish people as much as Al-Sulaymaniyah belongs to people from Al-Najaf. Expel foreigners from the autonomous region and everything will be made clearer to the Kurdish people and the political forces. Patriots will come to the right solution. The agents will take their belongings and follow the foreigners who have been expelled.
It is not wrong. It is not incitement. It is not out of line to say that every honest Kurdish person should expel every foreigner he sees from the autonomous region. They should be expelled. As for the Iraqis, whether they agree or disagree, it is their internal affair. No foreigner should be allowed to remain. The Kurdish people are harbouring foreign intelligence under various names and descriptions, of which they are aware. There must be no foreigners in the autonomous region. There are no foreigners in the other governorates in Iraq, apart from those who perform services to the people according to certain procedures. These services are carried out using Iraqi money, not these foreigners' money. We pay them money to perform certain services.
Foreigners in the autonomous region are all spies. If foreigners here are given a chance they will become spies as well, in the same way the dogs, members of UNSCOM, were spies in Iraq, in Baghdad and Al-Najaf. Members of UNSCOM acted as spies in the autonomous region as well. You know what happens to spies who are exposed. So, banish foreigners. Focus on expelling foreigners. Foreigners only go to the autonomous region aiming to deceive and play a wicked role that aims at bleeding Iraq to weaken it.
I interrupted you. Excuse me. We have not had a chance to discuss the cause of our people in the autonomous region for a long time...
[Saddam] Our Kurdish people know that at the outset of the Mother of Battles, and before the beginning of the showdown, I chose a purely Kurdish brigade to protect the presidential palace.
[Kurdish official] Yes, sir.
[Saddam] I also chose another brigade to protect the National Assembly.
[Kurdish official] Yes, sir.
[Saddam] These are the two major presidential palaces.
[Kurdish official] Yes, sir.
[Saddam] Our people should know this.
[Kurdish official] Two infantry brigades that are entirely made up of Kurds. This is the way I deal with our people. I deal openly with our people. In order to improve our people's standards, it is no longer useful to them to say this is Kurdish, that is an Arab, this is a Shi'i and that is a Sunni, or I fear that this and that is impossible. This should not be the case. He who does so wants to be a ruler. If the issue is to be a ruler, then we can become rulers just like them, and they are well known [not further identified]. I do not refer to them by name because they might become angry and our comrades do not want us to make some of them angry. We do not want to become rulers. Had we wanted to become rulers, we would have been defeated a long time ago. We are strugglers. We are in the middle of our people. If they carry a rifle we will carry the rifle with them; if they carry a shovel we will carry the shovel with them; if they ride a tractor [preceding word in English] to plough the land we will ride a tractor to plough the land; if they resist all evil in the world we will resist all evil in the world. Sometimes we are in the front and sometimes we are on the flanks, and at other times we will be where we should be. We do not have the standards of the rulers who want to spend some days in order to take a salary or to earn illegal money, illegal reputation or illegal stands.
[Kurdish official] May God grant you victory. God willing, the Kurdistan Autonomous Region will be liberated. We are your faithful soldiers.
[Saddam] The Autonomous Region is liberated. It will be liberated when the individual becomes liberated from inside. When every Kurd becomes aware of his patriotism, he will be liberated. Regarding the other procedural issues, they are very easy. We want our people in the Kurdistan Autonomous Region to have in their mind and conscience the people who are part of them and of whom they are part , and the people who seek to plunder their resources to put them in Swiss banks and live there. The Kurdish people are Iraqis and the Iraqis have a long history. So, they can use their intuition to understand the situation. So, how would it be if the situation were exposed to them? They can now understand those who are part of them and those who are like leeches that suck their blood and make investments even if they raise legitimate slogans. I would raise all the slogans that the other sides raise if they do not raise them. However, I raise them for dialogue and discussion. I see what is right and wrong in them within the framework of the one people, the one state, the one stand, the common eagerness and the one history. Slogans can show who is sincere and who is a liar. But this can only be done by action, deeds, stands and behaviour. These are the only factors that determine the final results and the points of success or failure. May God grant you success...
[Saddam] This is our approach. Someone can be a disobedient son for some time. If he wants to correct his stand, please help him do so. Rancour and revenge cannot solve the problems of the one people, but tolerance can do so. However, right is right and falsehood is falsehood...