“Those who produce should have, but we know that those who produce the most – that is, those who work hardest, and at the most difficult and most menial tasks, have the least.”
~ Eugene Debs, American labor organizer.

Just to add a bit of local color to all my bellyaching about the building of resorts, hotels, shopping malls and “Dream Cities” in South Kurdistan, everybody should check out Kurdish Globe’s recent article on life in Penjwen. Here’s a sample:

With his private car, Sheikh Salam has transported 38 pregnant women to the delivery hospital in Suleimaniya at midnights, but no baby has so far come to the world inside his car. Salam said that fathers of three of the newly born babies had no money to pay for the car expenses.

Penjwen, about 150 km west of Suleimaniya, is a town at the borderline connecting the southern (Iraq) and eastern (Iran) parts of Kurdistan together. The town is notorious for its loads of iron resources and its frosty winters. The current population of the town approaches 60,000, most of whom residing in nearly 2300 houses.

Did you get it? This is a town–no–this is a city of almost 60,000 in South Kurdistan that has no hospital. I have one question for the KRG: Why the hell not?

Think just babies are the only reason for these people to have a hospital? Think again:

. . . [T]hey [Penjwenîs] have to find a way to deal with yet another dangerous hitch, namely landmines. Landmines planted by the former government were supposed to prevent Iranian army’s infiltration during the mid 1980s. But the mines that still remain deactivated two decades later, explode once in a while, as Kurdish border workers mistakenly walk and find themselves in the middle of mine fields. It was just a week ago, two mines exploded when a man and his son in Hushiyari village walked into a mine field. Both were killed instantly.

I guess Mam Celal figures that if the people are killed instantly by the mines, why build a hospital? I wonder if the city even has a morgue? That’s another thing that should be one of the top priorities of the KRG–landmine clearance. But no! It’s more important to build shopping malls that 95% of the population can’t possibly use.

The article also talks about the city’s winter fuel needs, but this business of the desperate need for a hospital and for landmine clearance is something that jumps out at the careful reader. This hacks me off as much as the fact that Kurds in Turkish-occupied Kurdistan have to take their sick to a hospital or clinic by sled in the winter. Why? Because the occupation forces don’t give a damn whether Kurds live or die, that’s why.

I’ll bet anybody a year’s salary that none of the elites in their “Dream Cities” have to be driven 150 kilometers to the nearest hospital, or have their nearest and dearest bundled up for a day-long sled ride in order to see a doctor.

Did anyone catch how Sheikh Salam’s good friend, Mam Celal, treated him during Mama’s last visit to Penjwen?

“When Talabani visited Penjwen three months ago, we were not allowed to meet him,” he recalls unhappily. He says that the political party officials prevented people from reaching Talabani and talking about the deficiencies of the administrative running.

Yeah, the officials prevented it. Guess who gives the officials their orders? Come on, now, brothers and sisters in Penjwen, it’s time to rise up and make your voices heard all over Kurdistan.

In another article, this time on the economic situation for the ordinary Kurd, we read this, again from the Kurdish Globe:

Rashid Ishmael, 46, father of seven children, is a laborer employed by the MAN Company, which is currently constructing a modern market in the center of Erbil. He complains that lower paid citizens and workers are in no way beneficiaries of the economic development in Kurdistan. “We have not benefited from this growth and our life is just a misery…. I could not stay with my family one night and have to work all the time,” Rashid said.

Ahmad Agha Suleiman, a former co-worker of Rashid’s, agreed with his colleague; “Yesterday I bought 13 pieces of loaves for 1000 Iraqi Dinars and today I bought 10 pieces for the same price. Services don’t reach out to us because of the top officials. Our quarter has no streets, no water supply and no electricity; we have no share from this economic growth,” Suleiman said of his perception of the current economic climate.

A Kurdish economist agrees with the workers, saying that living standards have worsened since 2003:

“The illusion of investment and development should be resolved. Investment is a superficial claim when individuals’ income does not reach more than $1200 per year,” said Nouri of this perceived culture of economic revival.

[ . . . ]

Shamal Nouri argues that what is happening in the Kurdistan Region is a daily construction and far different from a market economy with real investment and economic growth.

[ . . . ]

Voicing further disappointment with the current economic situation of the region, Rashid said, “This development and investment has not brought us anything good and has been only to the benefit of the rich people and businessmen,” and it is very difficult to assert the reality of economic growth to a man who cannot afford to support his own family.

Shamal Nouri is right; the situation in South Kurdistan is very different from a market economy. It is a region still struggling to overcome the devastation of the past and it needs a serious program of reconstruction, something that has not been seen so far. In fact, we have not seen any real concern for the ordinary people but only rapacious greed from elites. Penjwen, with its needs for a hospital, landmine clearance and winter heating fuel is but one example. We have seen others this year too, at Helebçe and in the more recent demonstrations.

I know for a fact there are good people working in the KRG, people who are concerned about these problems and who work to make the KRG more efficient, less corrupt. I know, too, that they are greatly outnumbered, and since they are outnumbered, they should join forces with the workers.

The Kurdish people are not asking for the world. They aren’t asking for resorts. They’re asking for the dignity that is due them as human beings.

Does anyone think we can get someone to make commercials about this?


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