The Blog

Kudos to the Iraqi Kurds

10:23 AM, Jul 16, 2014 • By STEPHEN SCHWARTZ
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

The battle against Wahhabi terrorism is nothing new for the Iraqi Kurds. As the KRG official website points out, “Not a single coalition soldier died in Kurdistan during the Iraq war, nor has a single foreigner been kidnapped in the areas administered by the KRG. With the cooperation of citizens, the Kurdistan Region’s security forces have kept the area safe and stable.” Helped by U.S. Special Forces, the Iraqi Kurds defeated an al Qaeda affiliate, Ansar ul-Islam (Volunteers of Islam), made up of Arabs and Kurds. Ansar ul-Islam appeared in northeast Iraqi Kurdistan in 2001 and occupied villages in which it carried out a fundamentalist purge. The group devastated Sufi shrines and forced Kaka’is, a Kurdish group similar to the Turkish-Kurdish Alevis, to renounce their beliefs and “convert” or be killed. They imposed the Wahhabi beard on males and the face veil on females, banned music, television, and images of women in advertising, forbade women from schooling or employment, and carried out torture and beheadings, amputations, and similar acts.

Ansar ul-Islam was founded by a Wahhabi fanatic, Najmuddin Faraj Ahmad, who calls himself Mullah Krekar and has lived in Norway since 1991. Ansar ul-Islam was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government in 2004. Mullah Krekar was listed as an al Qaeda member or associate by the United Nations in 2006.

The KRG has demanded extradition of Mullah Krekar from his Norwegian exile, but the Oslo authorities have refused to hand him over, since he would face a probable death sentence for terrorism in Iraqi Kurdistan, and Norwegian law precludes surrender of accused criminals who might be subject to capital punishment. Nevertheless, Norway tried and sentenced Mullah Krekar to five years’ imprisonment in 2012 for threats to Norwegians and Kurds.

The KRG has significant problems with political and business cronyism—nothing unique in the Middle East or elsewhere—but is one of few Muslim-majority governments to conduct a serious campaign to eradicate the atrocity of female genital mutilation (FGM). In 2007, a law against FGM was introduced in the KRG parliament, and it was adopted in 2011 along with sanctions against child marriage, so-called “honor murders” and other abuses of women. A radical Kurdish Sunni cleric, Ismael Sussai, preached against elimination of FGM, but the legislation was passed. Meanwhile, a German-based charity, WADI—the Association for Crisis Assistance and Development Cooperation—had brought medical aid teams to Iraqi Kurdistan after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003. WADI was approached by Kurdish women villagers who, against considerable peer pressure, complained about the horrors of FGM.

Since then, WADI has supported a campaign against FGM in the KRG and in other Iraqi areas with large Kurdish communities. In 2010, the KRG Health Ministry released a plan to eradicate FGM and appealed to Islamic clergy to disallow the practice.

Once the 2011 law was passed, the German-based group observed that enforcement of it was difficult. KRG prime minister Nechirvan Barzani then condemned violence against women as a widespread social problem, and called for enforcement of the recent ordinances. He criticized religious leaders whose views he described as contrary both to Islam and to the principles of the KRG, and admitted that some judicial institutions had failed to implement the reforms.

Recent Blog Posts

The Weekly Standard Archives

Browse 19 Years of the Weekly Standard

Old covers