Ending the recent violence in the Kurdistan Region in Iraq and ensuring that valid and peaceful protest is fairly and respectfully policed are vital.
Public servants are feeling the squeeze on their salaries which have been stopped and cut so many times in the last six years.
Baghdad’s Government insists that Kurds are Iraqi, but its past treatment of them was inequitable and neither delivered on the Iraqi Government’s constitutional responsibilities to the region nor its rhetoric on the matter.
Punitive actions and insufficient funding for many years by Baghdad are largely responsible for salary arrears and cuts and for increasing the scale and costs of borrowing.
But corruption in Kurdistan is also corroding social cohesion and confidence. The amount of money being skimmed by vested interests is significant, but not enough by itself to plug the fiscal gap between falling revenues and excessive spending.
Further and faster action to curb corruption, eliminate illegitimate and fake salaries, and gain full state control of the borders is urgently needed. Such actions can increase non-oil revenues, reduce public anger and discontent, undermine external exploitation of discontent, deprive sworn sectarian foes in Baghdad of malign narratives, bolster agreement with the Iraqi Prime Minister, and help put the KRG on the front foot.
We fear that the fiscal crisis caused by the diktats of previous governments in Baghdad, the nosedive in oil prices on which Kurdistan had become dangerously reliant, and continuing corruption are sapping the morale of our dear friends.
We call on the Kurdistan Regional Government to establish a one-off solidarity fund to provide swift material support to hard-pressed public sector employees.
Kurdistan’s economic woes are deep-rooted, and it will take time and common purpose to diversify the economy, encourage small businesses to blossom, and allow Kurdistan to embrace all it can be.
We say to our dear friends in Kurdistan that disunity can only benefit your enemies and undermine the continuing fight against Daesh and extremism.
As long-term friends and admirers of the many positive aspects of the Kurdistan Region, we wish you the very best and urge every effort to be focused on swift and visible reform, and ensuring that the voices of peaceful demonstrators are heard, respected, and acted on.
APPG Kurdistan Region in Iraq Chair Robert Halfon MP and officers Feryal Clark MP and Alicia Kearns MP.