President Barzani addresses Alliance of Democrats conference in Rome | |
Speech delivered by Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region at the Alliance of Democrats conference in Rome, Italy 19 June 2008

Esteemed president of the conference,
Distinguished members of the conference,

I would like to thank you and the organisers of this conference for inviting me to participate in this important event. Let me convey to you the gratitude and good wishes of the people of Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Kurdish people have always been struggling for democracy, freedom, progress and prosperity as a basic principle.

Democracy upholds and ensures human rights. Democracy allows different cultures and religions to coexist and flourish and it creates the right balance between the citizen and the state, and between rights and responsibilities. This in itself leads to more freedom on the basis of equality before the law.

We are all gathered here to support and strengthen the principles of democracy. It is important to say that in emerging democracies, all the rights of the people should be granted, and human rights should not be violated in the name of democracy. Democratic principles should be implemented according to the law and the law should be respected by all.

Building a democratic country should be carried out in parallel with economic development to raise living standards. This will ensure that democracy takes root and is established on strong economic foundations.

We, in the Kurdistan Region, have been trying - since 1991- to implement democratic principles and we have so far taken good steps in this direction. We are in the process of building legal and administrative institutions. Although we are new and we have our shortcomings, the will of our people to succeed and to encourage us is strong. Furthermore, we have always tried to help other parts of Iraq and hoped that they would look to the Kurdistan Region and use our experience to build a democratic and federal Iraq.

For a democratic and federal Iraq, we need help from everyone.

I would like to take this opportunity to call for your support to strengthen the economic infrastructure of the Kurdistan Region. The Kurdistan Region enjoys good security and it has taken constructive actions to build democratic institutions. Large scale employment opportunities need to be created for the people in our Region if democracy is to take root and to persist.

Having said that, we in the Kurdistan Region are facing many challenges and we all need to be united in our efforts to uproot terrorism and violence. We very well understand that we must remain vigilant; terrorism has no boundaries and has the potential to affect all of us.

Ladies and Gentlemen:
After the fall of the Iraqi regime in 2003, all Iraqis were jubilant because they were freed from the oppression and cruelty of the dictatorship. We were presented with a chance to try an alternative—to build a new system based on democracy, in which freedom is assured for all, power and government are based on participation, and dictatorship is never allowed to return.

Dictatorship is in principle inhumane and in opposition to freedom and progress. The former Iraqi regime shared all these characteristics. The regime followed destructive policies; it was oppressive to the Iraqi people and sought to destabilise the region.

The Iraqi people articulated their dream by adopting a new constitution which was voted by the majority of the Iraqi people and which ensures the rights of all the Iraqi people. The Iraqi people also adopted a federal system as the foundation for the new Iraqi state. This beneficial federal system, which respects the multiplicity of ethnic groups, religions, and religious groups, represents a commitment to democracy and democratic principles. This federal system is the wish of all the ethnic and religious groups of Iraq and adheres to democratic principles.

As soon as the opportunity arose after 2003, the Iraqi people embraced democracy and federalism as their system of government. But with the birth of this new political landscape and its attempts to build democracy, Iraq faced enormous and dangerous challenges. Some of these challenges were internal, some regional and some international. The biggest challenge was the fight waged by foreign terrorists who came from outside Iraq.

The new political system in Iraq was the main target of terrorists. The danger posed by terrorism in Iraq, which overtime became part of international terrorism, eventually threatened regional and international peace.

Terrorism is an international phenomenon and according to the terrorists’ philosophy, the world is divided into two fronts. They give themselves the right to destroy anyone who does not agree with their ideology. Hence the danger posed by terrorism is not only limited to their terrorist actions but also extends to their inhumane philosophy.

Confronting this dangerous phenomenon should be an international effort. It needs:

1- The gathering and sharing of intelligence data between democratic states and societies to monitor the activities and movements of terrorist networks at an international level.

2- Cooperation between political parties and democratic movements to respect and strengthen human rights in order to counter the ideology of terrorists and their bloody and destructive philosophy.

3- Decisive military and security measures to be taken when confronting terrorists. There should be no bargaining with terrorists.

4- Terrorists should not be left alone to grow anywhere; in Iraq for example, if a full withdrawal of the Multi-National Forces were to take place without the proper preparation of the Iraqi military and intelligence services, this would consequently constitute a victory for the terrorists. A victory for terrorists in Iraq would amount to allowing permanent terrorist bases in Iraq; terrorists could use these bases to stage future attacks into other countries, including Western countries.

5- The application of pressure on countries to prevent them from allowing terrorists to cross their borders, or on those that export terrorists to other countries. These policies of sponsoring and assisting terrorists should stop, because it is tantamount to playing with fire and could consequently be detrimental to all, including countries that support terrorism.

6- Diligent actions to dry up and close down the sources of funding for terrorists. Organisations and financial institutions that fund terrorism should be held accountable.

We in the Kurdistan Region have been a target for terrorists. We have been on the front lines against terrorism and we have been fully cooperating with the Iraqi government and with the Multi-National Forces on the fight against terrorism. We have made great progress on this war. But this does not mean that terrorism has stopped. Terrorists are continuously flowing into Iraq and some neighbouring countries are still facilitating this flow, directly or indirectly.

Terrorism should not be used by countries as a tool for settling scores in Iraq.

We believe that we will be victorious against the terrorists. But this bitter struggle needs joint and lasting cooperation and planning, especially between those who believe in democracy and human rights. This global fight can only be fought with international cooperation and this is the duty of us all.

Once again, I thank you for your invitation and I wish success for your conference.