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The Kurdistan Region: Future Prospects

UK parliamentary fact-finding visit to the Kurdistan Region in Iraq 9 ­ 15 February 2008

By Sarah McCarthy-Fry MP David Anderson MP Eric Joyce MP Gary Kent, APPG Kurdistan Region Administrator

Published June 2008

Contents

Introduction ..............................................................................................................4 Findings ....................................................................................................................4

New Iraq, new flag............................................................................................................................................ 4 A bloody history ............................................................................................................................................... 4 Opportunities and renewal ................................................................................................................................ 6 Education .......................................................................................................................................................... 6 Limbo and transition ......................................................................................................................................... 6 Turkey............................................................................................................................................................... 7 Planes, plains and mountains ............................................................................................................................ 8 Transition from ravages of the past................................................................................................................... 8 Women's rights............................................................................................................................................... 10 Tough love ...................................................................................................................................................... 10 Rural revival ................................................................................................................................................... 11 Warts and all ................................................................................................................................................... 12 Media freedom................................................................................................................................................ 12 Past, present and future ................................................................................................................................... 13

Recommendations .................................................................................................14 APPENDIX: Meeting records .................................................................................19 Domestic and international relations ...................................................................19

Mr Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region ................................................................................ 19 Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations ...................................... 21 Mr Omer Fattah, Deputy Prime Minister ........................................................................................................ 22 Mr Adnan Mufti, Speaker of the Kurdistan National Assembly, Deputy Speaker Dr Kamal Kirkuki and several MPs..................................................................................................................................................... 22 Mr Fazil Mirani, Secretary General of the KDP Politburo ............................................................................. 23

Security ...................................................................................................................24

Two members of Kurdistan's Security Protection Agency (Parastin) ............................................................ 24

Article 140 and Kirkuk............................................................................................25

Dr Mohammad Ihsan, Minister for Extra-Regional Affairs............................................................................ 25

Anfal survivors and their families.........................................................................27

Ms Chnar Saad Abdullah, Minister for Martyrs and Anfal Affairs ................................................................ 27

The economy and reconstruction.........................................................................28

Mr Muhammad Rauf, Minister for Trade, Member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union party ........................... 28 Mr Abdul Aziz Tayeb, Minister for Agriculture............................................................................................. 29

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Mr Eamad Ahmad, Housing and Reconstruction Minister, Politburo member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) ............................................................................................................................................. 30 Mrs Nazaneen Waso, Minister for Municipalities .......................................................................................... 31 Mr Jotyar Noori, Deputy Governor of Suleimaniah ....................................................................................... 32

Education................................................................................................................33

Dr Mohammad Sadik, President of Salahaddin University, Erbil................................................................... 33 Suleimaniah University Department of English, John Waters, English literature lecturer, Prof Abbas Mustafa, Head of English Department............................................................................................................ 34 American University of Iraq ­ Suleimani, Professor Owen Francis Cargol, Chancellor and CEO, Dr John Agresto, Provost and Chief Academic Officer................................................................................................ 34 Suleimaniah Governorate Teacher Training and Development Institute, Mr Simko, Director...................... 35

Civil society, unions and the media......................................................................36

Mrs Chilura Hardi, Head of Khatuzeen Women's Centre and NGO, Erbil .................................................... 36 Mr Hangaw A. Khan, General Secretary of Kurdistan Workers' Unions....................................................... 37 Independent journalists: Hawlati, Leveen, Radio Nawa, Rojname, IWPR..................................................... 38 Institute for War & Peace Reporting, Suzanne Fischer, Middle East Programme Manager.......................... 39

Other visits and meetings .....................................................................................40

Residents of Kani Khan village ...................................................................................................................... 40 Residents of Banislawa `collective town' ....................................................................................................... 40 Kurdistan-UK Friendship Association............................................................................................................ 40 Erbil Citadel .................................................................................................................................................... 40 The Red House................................................................................................................................................ 40 Erbil International Airport's new terminal, currently under construction....................................................... 40 Sami Abdul Rahman Park, Erbil..................................................................................................................... 40

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Kani Khan

A resident of Kani Khan village tells the delegation of rural life.

Women making waves

Mrs Chilura Hardi runs Khatuzeen, a local women's rights NGO & radio station.

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Introduction

From 9th ­ 15th February 2008 a British parliamentary delegation conducted a fact-finding mission to the Kurdistan Region in Iraq. They were: Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Labour MP for Portsmouth North and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for the Kurdistan Region in Iraq; David Anderson, Labour MP for Blaydon and Secretary of the APPG; and Eric Joyce, Labour MP for Falkirk. This was the first visit by the recently formed APPG. Although the three MPs are Labour Party members, the delegation represented all parties in the APPG. The purpose of the visit was to hear the views and concerns of the Kurdistan Region's people and government, and to get a true `warts and all' understanding of the political, economic and social situation. The delegation spoke with ordinary people, journalists, civil society groups and trade unionists, as well as politicians and government officials. The delegation was accompanied by Gary Kent, Director of Labour Friends of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) UK Representation's Parliamentary Adviser; Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, the KRG High Representative to the UK; and Vian Rahman of the KRG UK Representation.

Findings

New Iraq, new flag

The Iraqi flag was flying over the Kurdistan National Assembly when we arrived to meet the Speaker, Mr Adnan Mufti, the Deputy Speaker Dr Kamal Kirkuki and MPs from several different parties. This may seem unexceptional but it was a major symbolic advance to a functioning federal and democratic Iraq. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had previously refused to fly the Iraqi flag because it contained Ba'athist insignia and represented the legacy of Saddam Hussein's toxic and totalitarian regime. The flag was redesigned and now flies alongside KRG colours. Refusing to fly the old flag was a legitimate reaction to the tragic experience of the Kurds in the old Iraq. It's impossible to spend any time in Iraqi Kurdistan without coming to understand the scale of the terrible physical and psychological violence that was long inflicted on its people.

A bloody history

The Iraqi Kurds, who are not Arabs but are closer to the Persians, were corralled into Iraq in the 1920s, were phosphorous bombed by the RAF in 1925 and were one of the main victims of the Ba'ath regime for nearly four decades. In the late 1980s, nearly 200,000 men, women and children were slaughtered in Saddam's genocidal "Anfal" campaign. Most notoriously, 5,000 people were gassed in one attack by "the bombs without voices" at Halabja. In 1983, 8,000 men and boys as young as 10 or 12 from the Barzani clan were rounded up and disappeared. After decades of war and repression, the Region has to contend with large quantities of unexploded mines. The Iraqi Kurdistan Mine Action Agency in Erbil and Dohuk, and the General Directorate of

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Mine Action in Suleimaniah work closely with the Mines Advisory Group, a leading international NGO, the National Mine Action Authority (NMAA) in Baghdad, and with UN agencies. These agencies also work on mine-risk education and support for victims with the KRG Health and Education ministries. A small portion of the estimated minefields has been demined but there is a lack of military maps detailing the location of the mines which are often in difficult mountainous areas. The Region also needs qualified and skilled deminers. Over 4,000 villages were razed to the ground and people herded into detention camps, called Obligatory Collective Villages. Here they built homes whilst Iraqi security thugs raided these ghettoes to pick off victims for execution. Mass graves are still being uncovered. We visited one such camp, Banislawa, on the outskirts of Erbil. It has become a permanent settlement with rudimentary facilities and private electricity generators. We spoke to a number of residents. One woman, like so many, is still waiting for her husband to return. It is very likely that he is buried in an undiscovered mass grave. We toured the notorious Ba'athist "Red House" torture centre in Suleimaniah where thousands were tortured and died. There was also a dedicated rape room. Many survivors of the secret prison, now a museum on the Anfal genocide, are now KRG leaders. Despite this, the Martyrs and Anfal Minister, Ms Chnar Saad Abdullah, insisted on "no revenge" and that Chemical Ali, the Iraqi General responsible for repressing the Kurds and the bombing of Halabja, should not be hung there. The Anfal is a key part of the politics and economics of the region. The Minister explained that her ministry finds it difficult to cope since it remains responsible for 70,000 people affected by Anfal operations, and for 46,000 widows and families without breadwinners ­ about 200,000 people receiving support from the ministry. We accept her argument that the UN and international community should assist with a) exhuming the mass graves in Iraq to help the families to grieve, b) archiving documents, c) funding psycho-social support centres and d) formally marking Anfal every year. The Anfal and Saddam's bloody legacy loom large but, despite this and because of geopolitical realities, KRG leaders play a large and honourable role in seeking to make Iraq work as a federal entity, whilst seeking the maximum autonomy for their region. The Kurds have long opted for democracy in Iraq and autonomy for the Kurds ­ figuring the two go together. Kurds occupy key offices of the Iraqi state: President, Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, for example. The Kurdistan Region is much safer than the rest of Iraq. Their security and intelligence services command popular support and there have been far fewer terrorist outrages since what is commonly called "liberation" in 2003. We met representatives of the security service who were commendably candid in outlining their role and views. They pointed out that there are 56 routes in and out of Erbil, which could not be kept safe without public co-operation and tip-offs. The Iraqi Kurds secured some freedom from Saddam after the first Gulf War, thanks to their own uprising and the armed protection of the US and the UK. That freedom was precarious but gave the region a head-start in rebuilding its shattered society, although they suffered the results of UN and Saddam's sanctions as well as a bitter civil war.

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This home-grown rivalry is now being overcome through merging separate administrations and a national unity government since 2006, composed primarily of the two key contenders, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) as well as several smaller parties, including Islamic parties.

Opportunities and renewal

Two of the delegation had spent a week in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2006 and noted many new housing, hotel and retail developments. It is impossible for a visitor to miss the tremendous economic and social opportunities, especially when greater stability is established. The region is rich in natural resources and beauty. It has large reserves of oil, natural gas, minerals, possibly uranium and boasts fertile lowlands and stunning mountains, with powerful rivers and waterfalls. Mr Abdul Aziz Tayeb, the Minister for Agriculture, told us that up to the 1960s, over 67% of Kurds depended on agriculture for their livelihoods. With the potential for agribusiness on its seven large plains and smaller-scale and largely organic agriculture on its lowlands, it could be self-sufficient in food and export its surpluses. Greater self-sufficiency would also increase its economic leverage with countries which supply food. Rural Kurdistan could attract a specialist market of tourists to enjoy the solitude of its unspoilt and largely unpolluted scenery as well as thousands of historic and archaeological sites. The Citadel in the capital, Erbil is itself the site of the longest continuous human habitation in the world (800 years old) and is being conserved with the help of Unesco.

Education

The KRG sets great store by the power of education to lift productivity and improve the quality of life. The APPG will encourage stronger ties with UK academic institutions and experts, to support future much-needed reforms of Kurdistan's education system and to improve the standard of English, which is the second language in education from an early age. We have already organised a meeting between several University leaders and the UK Minister for Higher Education and Lifelong Learning, Bill Rammell. We will also encourage the British Council in Iraq to be more active in meeting the demand for English-language education.

Limbo and transition

However, the region is in both limbo and transition. A stable federal Iraq is still being negotiated. Whilst we were there, the Iraqi Parliament eventually agreed a national budget of 48 billion US dollars, from which the KRG receives a per capita portion of 17%. Ministers told us that the central allocation of resources from Baghdad is somewhat unreliable with, for example, deliveries of medicines and food so old that they have to be burnt and with fewer invitations to participate in externally-funded training and other schemes administered through Baghdad. Ministers and others complain of the continuing hold of chauvinist attitudes by some in the Arab community in Iraq towards the Kurds.

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The Iraqi Parliament has yet to agree a new hydrocarbon law although in April the KRG Prime Minister Nechrivan Barzani said there had been a breakthrough in talks with Baghdad. In the meantime, foreign investors are nervous that if they invest in the region they will be punished by Baghdad. Large oil companies are waiting for the ink to dry on such a law before they sink their drills in the North. However, some small companies have agreed production-sharing with the KRG and, whilst we were there, the KRG Prime Minister signed a preliminary multi-billion dollar deal with the South Koreans, which has troops stationed in the region. The major outstanding question is the status of certain disputed territories including troubled Kirkuk, which is the historic capital of Iraqi Kurdistan but which was forcibly settled by Saddam's "10,000 Dinar Arabs" in the 1970s. The Iraqi Constitution, agreed by 80% of the people, agreed that there should have been a referendum on whether the city should revert to the KRG by the end of 2007. A referendum may take place this year but no one is holding their breath. The UN is now involved in seeking fair ways of establishing who should vote in this referendum or whether there is another fair and just way of finding a lasting settlement. The APPG will ask the UK government to provide its data and archives on Kirkuk (referring to UK rule and influence in Iraq up to 1932), which would help to show the forced demographic changes made to Kirkuk after that time. The UK can also support UNAMI's (UN Assistance Mission in Iraq) idea to use the 2005 election results to determine which disputed territories should be part of the Kurdistan Region, and which should remain in other Iraqi provinces. Although KRG would probably lose its claim to some territories that it considers to be Kurdish, it would accept this in order to settle the matter. It's often asserted that the Kirkuk question is about oil ­ we were told that 40% of Iraq's proven oil reserves are in the Kirkuk area - but this analysis is over-simplified. Whether Kirkuk is part of the region or not, the Kurds will still only receive a per capita share of the proceeds, albeit an increased one. But their neighbours fear that it could provide the material basis for an independent Kurdistan which could boost separatism. Most Kurds live in Turkey, then Iran, then Iraq and then Syria. The Kurds remain the one people in the world without their own state as a result of betrayal by the great powers after the destruction of the Ottoman Empire in the First World War. We further accept the point made by President Barzani that "The Kurdish leadership understands that it has to live with the realities on the ground in all countries where there are Kurds."

Turkey

Kurdish ministers argue that Turkish incursions into Iraq in hot pursuit of the Turkish-Kurdish separatist terrorist group, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) which is mainly based within Turkey or in an inaccessible mountain range on the border ­ is a pretext to sap the strength of the Kurdish north. Mr Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region, told us that the PKK, which his forces have opposed militarily, is the result of and not the reason for Turkish actions. A more liberal regime for Turkish Kurds, as part of the reform of the Ataturk legacy, which may be presaged by the recent decision to lift the ban on Hijabs in higher education, could undercut the appeal of the extreme-left PKK and lead to a political solution. We also hope that the burgeoning trade between Turkey and the KRG could lay the basis for a better political relationship. After all, these two secular and moderate Sunni entities have a great deal in common, in principle.

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Mr Muhammad Rauf, the Minister for Trade (and a member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union) told us that the region aims to increase trade with Turkey from 1 billion US dollars in 2007 to 15 billion dollars in three years. He also said that the KRG is discussing with British and US firms the possible construction of a railway from the Kurdistan Region to Istanbul. Some fear that the PKK could be replaced by Al Qaeda forces. And the region shares a 400 km border with Iran which remains hostile to this part of Iraq, not least as the dominant Farsi minority feels threatened by a Kurdish minority in Iran and seeks to bog down US and UK forces. We believe that Turkey should recognise the KRG and its federal status as set out in the Iraqi Constitution. The APPG will seek a meeting with the Turkish Ambassador and officials in the UK and promote the case for a diplomatic solution to the PKK problem.

Planes, plains and mountains

It's impossible to stay for any time in this landlocked country without coming to understand that this small sliver of territory, slightly bigger than the Netherlands, is in a tough neighbourhood. It explains the powerfully felt and experienced Kurdish saying that they have "no friends but the mountains." And, one could add, airplanes. Many but not all Kurds fleeing from Saddam's tanks were saved from an icy death in these mountains and refugee camps in the early 90s by the airlifting of vital food supplies and blankets under the protection of US and UK jets operating from their base in eastern Turkey. So it is easy to understand the strategic importance of the new £500 million airport being built by Turkish contractors to a British design in Erbil. The price tag would be much higher in western countries with their higher wages. We visited the construction site and saw what will be the fifth largest runway in the world, started in 2005 and due to open in the near future for up to 3 million passengers a year. It will allow the KRG a bridge to the rest of the world for the largest freight carriers and could parallel Dubai, significantly further south-east, as a more convenient east-west hub for international travel, not least if it can provide cheaper refuelling and landing permits. There are already direct flights between Austria, Germany, Holland, Sweden and Greece but sadly not the UK. We hope this will be remedied as soon as possible.

Transition from ravages of the past

Uncertainty over its future as part of Iraq and the hostility of its neighbours would be enough for most countries to cope with. But the region, like the rest of Iraq, also faces a potentially painful transition from a war-ravaged, isolated and Soviet-style command economy to an open market economy with, we hope, safeguards for working people. The Kurdistan Region was cruelly disfigured by Saddam. People fear and suspect that the chemical weapons used in the Anfal still cause miscarriages and genetic deformities in new born children. Couples affected by chemicals face heart-rending decisions about starting families. The deliberate destruction of the rural economy through capping its water wells and a scorched earth policy continues to deprive the region of its own food, although production is increasing. After generations of crushing free thought, many students still feel unable to express their own opinions rather than what they think their teachers want to hear.

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Suleimaniah University English students

The government provides free university education to all, and knows that reforms are needed to improve standards.

Home time

With the economy improving, more children are completing high school.

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Women's rights

Women's rights are more advanced here than cultural norms in the rest of the Middle East but socalled "honour" killings ­ which were pardonable or given light punishment under Saddam ­ still persist in addition to reports of daily suicide attempts by kerosene of women rejected by their families. There is still some female genital mutilation (FGM). We understand that this increased in the 1990s due to the influence of Islamists and has probably declined as more women learn that it is not necessarily prescribed by the Koran. A law against FGM is being discussed at the moment by the Kurdistan National Assembly. A prominent women's rights activist, Mrs Chilura Hardi, Head of Khatuzeen Women's Centre in Erbil, notes the positive changes since returning home seven years ago after 14 years teaching in Hammersmith. Then, she said, women wearing trousers stood a good chance of having acid thrown over them. That is no longer the case. Women, she says, are "almost equal." We were very impressed with the work of this organisation which broadcasts to half of Erbil. Radio is the single most important medium in Kurdistan and reaches 60% of the people. The organisation's radio show broadcasts music and runs phone-ins as well as a hotline and outreach work to assist women facing domestic abuse and other problems. They could extend their broadcasting to the whole of Erbil for 100,000 US dollars and the rest of the region for 300,000 dollars. We aim to seek funding for this vital capacity-building work. There is also a 25% quota for female representation in the National Assembly and three very prominent women ministers. Whilst there is a growing professional female workforce it is highly noticeable that most women don't work outside the home ­ all waiters, cleaners and cooks we saw were men. It seems that women tend to work as teachers or doctors, professions where they are more likely to be in contact with women and children (rather than men). We agree with the Khatuzeen Women's Organisation that microcredit facilities could enable individual women and collectives to establish, for instance, dress-making businesses which could be run from their own homes.

Tough love

Ministers enjoy very close relations with the trade unions which were forged by fighting together against Saddam. We met Hangaw Khan, the leader of the Kurdistan Trade Union movement and his colleagues and applaud the close links that they enjoy with the British trade union movement, particularly Unison which has played a very positive role in practical solidarity efforts in Iraq. However, with nearly two-thirds of the state budget going on salaries, including the families of the martyrs of the Kurdish liberation movement and the surviving victims of genocide as well as food rations, the dependency culture is a major obstacle to reviving the economy. We hope that the unions will remain long-term social partners with a progressive government. The Government, for instance, has approved the construction of 10,000 new homes across the region and there are ambitious plans for urban renewal in the main cities. There will be tough decisions to face in the reform of public services as people will increasingly need to pay taxes and contribute to the funding of public services. Such "tough love" will inevitably be painful but is vital to diversify the economy and prepare an economic future when oil and gas reserves run out.

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Rural revival

The government aims to revive the rural economy. Many Kurds hanker after traditional village life and farming but people were forcibly urbanised by Saddam and lack farming skills. The Government has roughly reconstructed most ruined villages but town-country movement also requires investment in basic water and sewage services as well as roads, hospitals and schools. We visited a randomly selected village, Kani Khan, between Suleimaniah and Erbil where we were greeted very warmly. The village was located in the foothills of the Zagros mountains near to the main road and was rough and muddy but cheerful. It was reconstructed in the early 1990s with British Government aid. Its school has recently been moved and we agreed that our best contribution would be to raise funds for an English Language classroom. A strict economic approach might suggest that rural revival is illusory because it is cheaper to import food and that such investment would be at the expense of manufacturing and extraction. However, this ignores the social benefits of reconstructing communities as well as the longer-term benefits of cultivating agricultural and tourism assets. At the very least, the KRG could have a flourishing niche market for its specialities: scores of grape varieties, honey, truffles in their oak forests and pomegranates. And Kurdistan's drive for greater self-sufficiency in food is a geopolitical necessity. There is also scope for co-operative farms and we understand that initial connections have been made to the Co-Operative College. But the economy has to be sharpened if it is to attract foreign investment, seen as the key to exploiting oil and mineral extraction as well as agribusiness. There are generous concessions for external investors. The APPG will do its utmost to encourage external investment by British companies. We accept the point made by President Barzani that outsiders often do not differentiate between the better security situation in the Kurdistan Region and the more difficult situation in the rest of Iraq. We were struck by the comment of Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations, that "the Kurds are not the squeaky wheel, so they don't need the grease," which reflects a widespread worry that the region is the victim of its own success, although we note recent morale-boosting visits to the region by the UK Middle East Minister, the Defence Secretary and the Foreign Secretary. We seek to work with the FCO and other UK Departments to increase understanding of the region's concerns and interests, as part of helping foster a wider federal solution in Iraq. We have already secured a meeting with the UK Trade Minister, Lord Jones and we would encourage a minister-led trade delegation to the region. We also believe that trade, investment and mutually beneficial exchange programmes could be facilitated if the UK Consulate in Erbil, which we also visited, had the facilities to issue visas. Currently, visa applications have to be made from either Amman, Ankara or Baghdad, which is expensive, dangerous and time-consuming for the applicant. We understand that there are costs in equipping the Consulate for this purpose but visas are self-financing and could foster relations. The return of skilled Kurdish professionals from exile will also be a powerful force for change. Many will have to give up higher salaries and quality of life but for many a deep sense of patriotism will overcome that. Many of the Ministers we met were British passport holders who had trained at university here and lived here for many years whilst Saddam was in power. Returning exiles will bring much needed skills and understanding but one downside is that this will accentuate divisions between town and village, the middle class and working people.

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Warts and all

Our group were guests of the KRG on a fact-finding and friendship mission but we insisted from the beginning that we didn't want to merely praise the region's achievements and plans but had to see the region warts and all. The KRG facilitated this in full. Falah Mustafa Bakir told us that "true friends are the ones who make you cry." We strongly believe that the best friendship isn't blind. One critique concerns corruption, which we raised with several ministers. Its scale is impossible to quantify although we heard anecdotal evidence that it is a major factor for some investors. A reform of the banking law would help. The introduction of mortgages can help reduce the temptation to skim money to buy property. The degree of corruption may be less than elsewhere but it blocks some investment and needs to be rooted out, as part of what one academic there called "clearing out the viruses" of the past. The commercial and judicial systems need modernisation because Capital is a Coward and investors require transparent banking systems, a stock exchange (which has subsequently been announced) and comprehensive postal, phone and Internet networks.

Media freedom

There is also growing criticism of the treatment of the media. We met a journalist who told us that he was arbitrarily arrested by the military and held overnight in solitary confinement for criticising Iraqi President Talabani. Before visiting the region, we had heard of a new media law being refused by the KRG President and raised the issue with him. President Barzani explained that he had sent a draft media law back to the Kurdistan National Assembly for reconsideration because its proposed penalties for defamation were too draconian. We sympathise with critics of the draft media law who say that its sanctions are too severe. We will also seek to encourage the KRG to be more open and transparent. We met representatives of the "independent media" in Suleimaniah. Independent means outlets not connected to the political parties. One editor explained that he had reprinted an article accusing leading figures of corruption merely "to convey information." However, no newspaper can publish unsubstantiated allegations without consequences for victims who are innocent until proven guilty. A free media is vital to the flourishing of open debate and democracy but there must be a distinction between liberty and licence with robust procedures for releasing information as well as for individuals to defend their reputations. There is great scope for a code of ethics and training of journalists. We recommend that the Department for International Development consider a further grant to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) which plays a positive role in helping to establish improved media standards and training journalists. Our meeting with the journalists took part in a Turkish restaurant in Suleimaniah with other interesting symbols: the restaurant was part of a new development on the site of a vast former military garrison with a children's playground nearby and a Speakers' Corner to boot.

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Past, present and future

Whilst there is a sense of purpose in many ministries and in the unions, the Kurds have been dealt a very difficult hand by history and geography. They do not want to remain victims of their past but understandably fear more betrayals in the future. There was palpably greater suspicion of American actions and intentions than before. Could the Americans sacrifice the Kurds to placating Turkey and appeasing the Sunni minority in the rest of Iraq is the question that torments many Kurds. Could the KRG be crushed militarily or squeezed financially? It seems unlikely but complacency is not an option for the Kurds which is a major reason for establishing the APPG to provide a political bridge between the UK and the Kurdistan Region. With external support, however, the Region could become a model for the rest of Iraq and the wider Middle East. The Kurdistan Region, as part of the wider federal Iraq, deserves a far higher degree of international attention and support to enable its people to finally fashion a peaceful, democratic and secular future. Its success is in the interests of all those who want a peaceful and stable Middle East. The new Iraqi flag will be replaced by a further new design in a year's time. We hope that this will coincide with the consolidation of Iraqi democracy, Kurdish autonomy and a fully-functioning federal framework. As we heard so often as we rushed from one appointment to another: Ba broin ­ let's go. This report was prepared by Gary Kent

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Recommendations

The parliamentary delegation recommends that the British parliament, government and people consider the following positions and actions. Support the federal, decentralised system in Iraq, which is already set out in the Iraqi Constitution that was democratically approved in 2005. Support Iraq's democracy. The leadership of the Kurdistan Region believe that they cannot separate their own rights from the right of all Iraqis to live in a democracy. Advocate the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution to be completed by the new June 2008 deadline. This would allow forcibly expelled Kurds to return to Kirkuk and other towns (such as Sinjar and Khaneqin), and for the residents of Kirkuk to decide the status of the city in a referendum. Article 140 sets out a process for doing this in a legal, orderly and just manner. The KRG and the Kurdish population have waited since 2003 for this issue to be resolved. The KRG is concerned the frustration and anger of the expelled Kurds will come to the fore if this is not resolved by the new deadline. (NOTE: As of 12 June 2008, it is now clear the referendum will not take place by the extended deadline of June 2008 set by the KRG and Baghdad. Therefore the APPG recommends that the issue of the disputed territories should be resolved in line with the Iraqi Constitution and within a time frame that shows clear progress is being made towards a lasting solution.) Support UNAMI's (UN Assistance Mission in Iraq) backed idea of using the 2005 election results to determine which disputed territories should be part of the Kurdistan Region, and which should remain in other Iraqi provinces. If this idea is adopted, even though KRG would probably lose its claim to some territories that it considers to be Kurdish, it would accept the outcome in order to have the matter settled. The KRG has welcomed the UN's new role since December 2007 of giving technical assistance to implement Article 140.

Press Turkey to cease aerial bombings and ground operations against the PKK inside the Kurdistan Region, and to engage in four-party talks between Ankara, Erbil, Washington and Baghdad to find a lasting political solution to the PKK problem. US officials, including Defence Secretary Robert Gates, have told Turkey that it needs to adopt a comprehensive, not just military, approach to its Kurdish problem. Encourage Turkey to officially recognise the KRG, and to hold more talks building on the first meeting between Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and Turkish officials in May 2008. Turkey has not yet recognised the Kurdistan Region and its federal status as set out in the Iraqi Constitution. Turkey's actions risk destabilising the most secure and calm part of Iraq, and are very unlikely to dislodge the PKK. The same tactics, which were supported militarily by KDP troops, failed in the 1990s in the remote border areas. Turkey's air raids have damaged civilian infrastructure unconnected to the PKK, such as villages and bridges. The KRG has taken steps to restrict the PKK's ability to act inside Iraq, and has shown goodwill towards Turkey. Support the KRG in its central aim of having good relations with all its neighbours.

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Raise awareness among the British public and parliament of the genocide against the Kurds, including the 1988 Anfal campaign and chemical weapons attacks. Although the Anfal operations and the chemical weapons attacks on Kurdish towns and villages took place 20 years ago, for the survivors and their families it is still fresh and painful. The delegation was struck by the `Anfalised' families' need for international recognition of their experiences. The genocide against the Kurds dates back to the 1970s when the Faili-Kurds were attacked and expelled to Iran. In 1983, more than 8,000 boys, men and elderly men were rounded up and have never been seen since. MPs with Kurdish constituents will find many of them to be politically aware and hoping for the UK's recognition of the Anfal campaign, which they feel was largely ignored in the West. Local remembrance services and memorials such as tree plantings will help to raise awareness of the genocide among the British public, and will be appreciated by Kurds living in the UK.

Encourage British investment in banking and insurance, tourism, light industry, oil and gas, and English-language education. Encourage British investment in the agricultural sector, which the KRG believes must be revived to improve food security, create private-sector jobs and rehabilitate life in the villages, which were the traditional social structure before the Ba'ath party's operations. The Agriculture Ministry believes that the Kurdistan Region could become a source of organic produce, but Kurdistan's farmers lack the latest technology and know-how to make farming profitable. The KRG is concerned about food security, as it relies very heavily on imports. Support efforts by women's rights activists, NGOs, Kurdish parliamentarians and the KRG to protect and empower women in the Kurdistan Region. DFID should support the work already being undertaken by local NGOs to reduce violence against women and to protect those who have been threatened. For example, DFID should consider funding a more powerful radio mast for Zeen Radio, a women's radio station that broadcasts programmes and phone-ins about women's issues, problems and rights. The radio station is run by Khatuzeen, a women's NGO in Erbil. Ask the UK to remove its bureaucracy that is preventing the KRG from extraditing Kurds suspected of committing honour killings in the UK. The KRG has been fully cooperative on this matter, and is waiting for British authorities to proceed. Support the KRG's efforts and policies to eliminate honour killings and violence against women, for example, can the British police and the KRG's police forces cooperate in sharing best practice and knowledge?

Support the development of a free and professional media and the establishment of a fair and balanced media law. Support the demands of journalists and unions for more reasonable sanctions against defamation and slander than those adopted in a recent draft media law. President Barzani did not sign the new law and has returned it to parliament for reconsideration of the sanctions, which he considered too severe. Support the development of journalistic professionalism, standards and ethics by making a case for UK funding for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, which trains Iraqi journalists incountry. Also involve the Reuters Foundation and the Reuters Institute. Encourage the KRG to be more open and transparent, which will help to build trust and greater understanding between the government and the media.

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Support and encourage links between Kurdistan and UK academic institutions. Encourage stronger ties with UK academic institutions and experts, to support future muchneeded reforms of Kurdistan's education system and to improve the standard of English. Encourage the British Council to be more active in the most stable part of Iraq. Although there is considerable demand for English-language education and the security situation is secure and stable, Kurdistan's education practitioners and universities have found the British Council representation in Erbil to be largely inactive.

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The Red House

The delegation visited a notorious Saddam era interrogation centre that has been turned into a museum of the Anfal genocide.

Brought home

Some victims of Saddam's genocidal Anfal campaign finally laid to rest in Kurdistan. Their bodies were found in mass graves far from their homes.

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President Masoud Barzani

President Barzani has to balance the Kurdistan Region's's commitment to the new democratic Iraq with Kurd's demands for greater autonomy.

Natural wealth and beauty

The Kurdistan Region wants to revive agriculture and develop tourism.

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APPENDIX: Meeting records

By Vian Rahman, KRG UK Representation Extra notes in parentheses added for clarification by Vian Rahman. The following are records of comments made to the parliamentary delegation during its fact-finding visit to the Kurdistan Region in Iraq from 9th to 15th February 2008.

Domestic and international relations

Mr Masoud Barzani, President of the Kurdistan Region

Mr Barzani is head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and plays a central role in Iraq as well as in the Kurdistan Region. (NOTE: Much of the executive power is held by the Prime Minister under Kurdistan's system. The President can return a law to parliament once for reconsideration. He is head of Kurdistan's regional army, the Peshmerga forces, and has the power to mobilise the army and declare war. This power was negotiated with Baghdad after 2003 because of the difficult history between the Baghdad-controlled Iraqi army and Kurdistan in the Ba'athist and previous eras.) The President asked the APPG to raise the Kurdish question in the UK parliament and to increase understanding of the Kurdistan Region. Democratisation, institution-building and economic development The Kurdistan Region wants to learn from the UK's long history of democracy and its parliamentary system. There is no life in a country if it is not democratic. For decades, the Kurds have been saying that all of Iraq needs a democratic ruling system to solve its problems. The Kurdistan Region is trying to develop its institutions, it has shortcomings but it is learning and improving. It should be taken into account that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) started 17 years ago with a completely devastated region, where even the land and the environment itself was destroyed, and is still facing fuel and electricity problems. Now it has an opportunity to solve those problems because of its rich natural resources and the right environment for agriculture. What it needs is know-how and technology. The UK and other countries can help the Kurdistan Region to rebuild its infrastructure and institutions. The investment obstacles are that foreign governments often do not differentiate between the better security situation in the Kurdistan Region and the more difficult situation in the rest of Iraq. The KRG's priority is to provide more electricity. The KRG needs an integrated plan to revive agriculture: electricity, access roads, municipal services, schools, etc. (NOTE: Not only the Kurdistan Region but also many other parts of Iraq, including Baghdad, lack electricity. Kurdistan is part of Iraq's national grid). Relations with Baghdad, and with other Iraqi communities The Kurdish leadership has protected Iraq's unity and prevented all-out war between the Sunni and Shia Arab communities. The Kurds expect all the main players in Iraq to remain committed to the Constitution. When the Kurdistan Region has talks or negotiations with Baghdad, the President himself participates or sometimes sends his representatives.

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Kirkuk and Article 140 When asked how long the KRG would wait for Article 140 to be implemented, President Barzani said that a failure to implement the Article would call into question Iraq's unity. (NOTE: The December 2007 deadline set out in the Iraqi Constitution for returning expelled people, holding a census and a referendum, was missed and pushed back to June 2008. At the time of writing this report, it appears highly unlikely that the new June 2008 deadline will be met either). Relations with Iran, Turkey. The PKK The Kurdish leadership understands that it has to live with the realities on the ground in all countries where there are Kurds. Iraq's neighbours sometimes want to create problems, even though the Kurdistan Region never interferes in their internal affairs. The problem is that the rights of 40 million people who live in all parts of Kurdistan cannot be denied, and this problem has to be solved democratically and peacefully. The PKK was born out of Turkey's policies towards the Kurds. After 23 years of armed conflict, Turkey has got nowhere with the PKK. The Kurdish political parties in the Kurdistan Region have nothing in common with the PKK, and have a totally different approach. The PKK hurt the KDP (the party President Barzani leads) and the Kurds in Iraq considerably in the 1990s. The KRG and the Kurdistan Region in Iraq will not take part in a military operation because it will not work. In 1992, `95, `97 and `98, the KDP fought alongside Turkey to root out the PKK. The PKK fled to Iran, regrouped and kept coming back. No one can control the very difficult territory where the PKK hide. (NOTE: the PKK are said to hide in the rugged and remote mountainous terrain along Iraq's northern border with Turkey and Iran.) The President said allegations that the KRG or Kurdish parties in Iraq support the PKK are false and believes that Turkey would not be able to give even one example of the Kurdistan Region's support for the PKK. The PKK hides in very difficult mountainous terrain, and if it decides to join other terrorist groups, this would be disastrous for everyone. The KRG has some unofficial contacts with the Turkey. The President would welcome initiatives by British MPs to discuss the PKK issue with Turkey. (NOTE: Three months after the MPs' visit, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani met Turkish officials in Baghdad in May 2008. This was a breakthrough for the KRG which for some time had been asking Turkey for dialogue.) Independence The challenge the Kurdish leadership faces is that a whole generation of Kurds has lived free from Ba'athist rule (since 1991), and therefore have high expectations. Whatever the Kurdish leadership does and asks for that is less than independence disappoints the people. The Kurdish people made great sacrifices over several decades and many people feel that what the Kurdish leadership has achieved today (i.e. federalism) is not enough compared with that sacrifice. (NOTE: Iraqi Kurds suffered genocide under Ba'athist rule.) Kurdistan media law The media law that was recently passed by the parliament, but not signed by the president, is progressive in many respects but the sanctions placed on journalists for defamation are too severe. The journalists' unions lobbied President Barzani, who decided to send it back to parliament.

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APPENDIX Minister Falah Mustafa Bakir, Head of the KRG Department of Foreign Relations

Democracy is not a panacea but it provides the right environment for tackling Iraq's and the Kurdistan Region's problems. Education Both President Barzani and Prime Minister Barzani have emphasised the importance of education in the KRG's policies. Under the Ba'ath regime there was no place for argument or discussion in education. Agriculture The Ba'ath regime had a scorched earth policy, totally razing villages to the ground, moving the villagers to collective towns (or concentration camps) and dynamiting or cementing water wells. The KRG wants to reactivate the agricultural sector and wants an active hard-working population that is not only reliant on an oil dollar economy. He believes that if Kurdistan Region does not develop its agricultural base, it cannot develop its other industries. Federalism Iraqis are not accustomed to federalism, and some in Baghdad still want everything to be decided by the centre. The UK and US are trying to help Iraqis reach agreement, but "the Kurds are not the squeaky wheel, so they don't need the grease". Minister Bakir's personal view is that five federal regions would be the best solution for Iraq. KRG's share of the Iraqi budget The KRG receives 17% of the total Iraqi budget from Baghdad, which comes almost entirely from oil revenues. The Kurdistan Region's population has increased, which is also partly due to many Iraqi Kurdish refugees returning from Iran. The KRG needs and deserves its 17% allocation. (NOTE: Some politicians in Baghdad have called for cutting the KRG's budget to 12%-13%. When Ayad Allawi was Iraq's interim Prime Minister in 2004, the KRG signed an agreement with him that until a census is conducted the Kurdistan Region would continue to receive 17%. Over the past year the KRG has sensed that Iraqi politicians who were its allies in the opposition movement may be changing their attitude towards the Kurdistan Region.) Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki Many politicians in Iraq are unhappy with Prime Minister Al-Maliki's performance. Prime Minister Al-Maliki says that he has started to change. Difficulties with Baghdad The KRG is sometimes excluded from training and other programmes offered to the Federal government by other countries. Religious and cultural tolerance The long-standing Christian communities in the Kurdistan Region, for example in Ankawa (near Erbil) and Shaklawa (about one hour north of Erbil), have good relations with Muslims. Their religious, linguistic and cultural rights are fully respected and protected by the KRG. They have their own political parties, schools, TV stations and cultural organisations.

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Turkey The KRG does not want to interfere in any neighbour's internal affairs and always encourages Kurds in those countries to advance their rights peacefully and democratically. The KRG is against the PKK and has taken measures against it at airports, check points, supply routes and hospitals. President Barzani has asked for four-way talks between Ankara, the US, Baghdad and Erbil.

Mr Omer Fattah, Deputy Prime Minister

The economy, bureaucracy and corruption When asked about the layers of bureaucracy in the Kurdistan Region, the Deputy PM said that the KRG is trying to reduce bureaucracy, and the investment law (passed in 2006) should help cut bureaucracy in business and investment. The KRG needs to train civil servants about this and try to change the mentality. The KRG plans to establish a website for government tenders to increase transparency and help solve these problems. Most private investment has been in real estate, but Kurdistan needs more. The KRG wants investment in other sectors as well, for example in oil. The drivers of the economy will be all types of manufacturing, minerals, metals and cement factories. Kirkuk and Article 140 The APPG can help Kurdistan by asking the UK government to provide its data and archives on Kirkuk (referring to the UK's past rule and influence in Iraq up to 1932), which would help to show the forced demographic changes made to Kirkuk after that time. The UK can also support UNAMI's (UN Assistance Mission in Iraq) idea to use the 2005 election results to determine which disputed territories should be part of the Kurdistan Region, and which should remain in other Iraqi provinces. Using the 2005 election results, even though KRG would probably lose its claim to some territories that it considers to be Kurdish, it would accept this in order to have the matter settled. Iraq oil law During his visit to the Kurdistan Region in early February 2007 (just before the APPG delegation), Minister Kim Howells told the KRG that an Iraq hydrocarbons law should be passed, and that the KRG should show some flexibility about the law.

Mr Adnan Mufti, Speaker of the Kurdistan National Assembly, Deputy Speaker Dr Kamal Kirkuki and several MPs

Political parties in the KNA In 1992 the electoral threshold was 7%. Only the KDP and PUK passed the threshold and each won 50% of the votes, with five seats reserved for Chaldo-Assyrian (Christian) representatives. After 2003 the 7% threshold was removed, leading to more smaller parties entering the parliament. Parliamentary blocks: 78 are held by the KDP and PUK, 15 by the two Kurdish Islamic parties, 5 by Chaldo-Assyrian parties, 4 by Turkmen, 3 by the Communist Party of Kurdistan, 2 by independent MPs, and a few by others. There are a total of 111 seats in parliament, 25% of which are for women according to the KNA's quota system. The parliament has 15 committees.

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APPENDIX

The KNA's powers and achievements The KNA often amends Ba'athist era laws, for example it amended the law that allowed those committing honour crimes to receive very light or no prison sentences. The KNA also passed a law stating that violence against women will be punished and treated equally with other violent crimes. The KRG issued a general amnesty, excluding those who had committed terrorism, honour killings or drug-related crimes. Pressure from the KNA was one of the reasons why the two separate administrations (KDP administration in Erbil and Dohuk, and the PUK administration in Suleimaniah) united in 2006 to form a unified KRG. The KNA is pushing the KRG to reduce its high number of ministries. There are 42 ministries, which are expected to be cut by about half. The KNA has not been able to properly scrutinise the KRG and ask ministers to come to parliament for questions as much as it would like, because defining and strengthening relations with Baghdad have taken priority. However, ministers do face questions in parliament and this is a key part of the KNA's work. The new Kurdistan media law This was passed by a majority of the KNA on 11 December 2007, but President Barzani sent it back to parliament for reconsideration (he has the power to do this once only for each law). After speaking with the journalists' unions, the President took into account their views and thought that the punishments for defamation/slander were too harsh. The KNA is expected to review and debate the law again. One article of the law states that newspapers do not need permission to be established. Currently journalists need to either apply to the culture ministry, or be a member of a journalists' union, to establish a media outlet. Some newspaper editors do not want to join unions, but Adnan Mufti believes that they should do so in order to maintain professionalism and minimum standards. Defamation is widespread in the Kurdish press, and currently there is no law forcing the media to prove that their information is factual. The punishments in the new media law are fines or 6-month closure of the newspaper. Adnan Mufti personally agrees with the president that these measures are too harsh, but he respects the views of the majority of the KNA who voted in favour of the law.

Mr Fazil Mirani, Secretary General of the KDP Politburo

Also present were KDP politburo members Mr Mohammad Mahmoud and Mr Azad Barwari, the Head of KDP's international relations Mr Safeen Dizayee. The politburo is the KDP's highest leadership group, followed by a larger Central Committee. The KDP's leader is President Masoud Barzani. Mr Mirani thanked Dave Anderson for supporting the `Show Racism the Red Card' campaign. KDP's ideology He gave a brief history of the KDP since its establishment in 1946. The KDP's policy has always been autonomy (or today federalism) for Kurdistan, and democracy for all of Iraq because the KDP does not separate the issue of Kurdish national rights from the issue of democracy in all of Iraq.

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APPENDIX

Armed struggle was imposed on the KDP in previous decades because of successive Iraqi government policies, especially those of the Ba'ath which included genocide. When the KDP was formed in 1946, it had some communist-inspired ideas about party central control, but all its members were still elected. Federalism The United Arab Emirates is a good Middle Eastern example of the success of federalism. Some in the Iraqi opposition are making excuses against federalism. For some 37 years, Iraq was unitary in every sense with no room for pluralism, and Iraqis have known little beyond life under dictatorship. The Kurds have an important role to play in Iraq's unity, because Kurds can compromise and show flexibility. Federalism has not been fully implemented because of a lack of democratisation and outside interference. The Kurds will continue to help the political process move forward despite these problems. The UK can help the Kurdistan Region by supporting Iraq's democracy, which will in turn help Kurdistan. The UK and other allies should not wait for all of Iraq to be completely stable before having closer ties with the Kurdistan Region. Kurdistan's economic challenges Health and education are free throughout Iraq including the Kurdistan Region, which is a big burden for the KRG but which the KRG recognises is a must. In 2007 Kurdistan provided 52% of its own grain needs, but 2008 has been very dry so far, hence wheat and other grain production is likely to be poor this year. International finance is needed to develop Kurdistan's villages. (NOTE: 4,500 out of 5,000 Kurdish villages were destroyed by Saddam Hussein's regime. Most have been rebuilt by the KRG but only to a basic standard. They need further development.) 60% of the KRG's budget goes on government salaries, which makes it very hard to invest. Kurdistan cannot get access to loans, so it depends only on its budget from Iraqi revenues.

Security

Two members of Kurdistan's Security Protection Agency (Parastin)

Structure of the agency The head of the agency is Mr Masrour Barzani. The agency supervises five directorates: intelligence gathering; internal security and counter-terrorism; military intelligence; research & training; finance and administration. The counter-terrorism section was recently made into a separate independent directorate. The agency reports directly to the President of the Kurdistan Region and to the KRG Prime Minister. Since Decree 46 of November 2004, it has been recognised as an official legal agency. The agency follows legal procedures and obtains arrest warrants, and allows the Red Cross and other international organisations to visit prisons and detention centres. Human Rights Watch and UNAMI have identified some deficiencies, which the agency is trying to rectify. Role of the public in preventing terrorism The agency believes that the cooperation and support of ordinary people has been instrumental in keeping the region relatively secure. There are 56 routes into and out of Erbil, which could not be kept safe without the eyes and ears of the public. The agency gets a great deal of cooperation and tipoffs from them.

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APPENDIX

Security threats to the Kurdistan Region The last terrorist attack in the Kurdistan Region was in March 2008 in Suleimaniah, in which one person was killed and several injured. The Kurdistan Region faces external threats ­ Al Qaeda ­ and internal threats ­ remnants of the Ba'ath using Al Qaeda as a cover for their activities. Most of the latter were formerly Iraqi army captains or members of the Ba'athist security services. The security protection agency has excellent relations with the US and works with it to arrest or eliminate terrorists. The main source of terror threats for the Kurdistan Region is from Kirkuk and Mosul. The coalition forces want to launch large-scale anti-terrorist operations in Mosul, but they have announced their intentions far too publicly and weeks in advance. The Kurdistan Region also faces challenges from neighbouring countries, for example from their intelligence agencies' subversive activities. Agency's views about the UK The agency said that it considers the UK to be an excellent ally, and appreciated the recent British visitors (Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Defence Secretary Des Browne, Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells) and their stance towards the Kurdistan Region.

Article 140 and Kirkuk

Dr Mohammad Ihsan, Minister for Extra-Regional Affairs

The Ministry of Extra-Regional Affairs is responsible for the so-called disputed territories, a corridor of towns, villages and the city of Kirkuk which lie between the Kurdistan Region and the rest of Iraq. Most of these towns have majority Kurdish populations that wish to be part of the Kurdistan Region. Many of them are not in contention (hence the misnomer `disputed territories'), and should easily be able to join the Kurdistan Region. The city of Kirkuk is one of the `disputed' territories. Its population used to be majority Kurdish, followed by Turkmen, Sunni Arab and Chaldo-Assyrian. From 1968 until two days before the fall of the Ba'ath regime, Kurds, Turkmen and Christians were forcibly expelled, and mainly Shia Arabs were settled there with money, jobs and agricultural contracts. Kurds were usually given 24 hours notice before deportation. Kirkuk's borders were gerrymandered, to further ensure that Kurds would not be in the majority. Kirkuk's oil fields hold an estimated 40% of Iraq's proven reserves. The Kurds from Kirkuk who have returned often find settled Shia Arab families still living in their homes, properties or lands. The KRG does not allow Kurds to use force to expel them. Over 35,000 Kurdish families (not individuals) are living in dire conditions around Kirkuk, and over 700 families are living in a nearby sports stadium. The Kurds separated the issues of oil and property in Kirkuk in the Iraqi Constitution. The Constitutions stipulates that already producing oilfields (which therefore includes Kirkuk) shall be managed by the Federal government, while unexploited oilfields shall be managed by the Regional government. This means that even if Kirkuk becomes part of Kurdistan Region, Kirkuk's oilfields will be managed by the Federal government.

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APPENDIX

Also the Kurds are proposing an Iraqi revenue-sharing law under which all Iraqi oil revenues, regardless of which fields they come from (Kirkuk, Basra, etc), are pooled in one fund and shared across Iraq according to the population. How to implement Article 140 The Higher Committee on Kirkuk, which belongs to the office of the Iraqi Prime Minister, has three Arab, three Kurdish, two Turkmen and one Chaldo-Assyrian members. The normalisation process started in July 2007, but the committee never made any preparations for a referendum or a census. (NOTE: normalisation refers to the return of Kurds to their properties and homes in Kirkuk and the voluntary return of settler-Arabs brought in under Saddam Hussein's Arabisation programme to their place of origin.) The KRG's policy is that the committee should encourage the settler-Arabs to return to their original towns by offering them help and financial compensation. They were also victims of the Ba'ath's policies, and should be treated fairly. They receive 10 million Iraqi Dinars (about 8,000 US dollars) and some land in their places of origin, and are given compensation for cancelled agricultural contracts. So far 7,500 settler families (families, not individuals) have taken the compensation package, and 5,000 Kurdish families have moved back. The Kirkuk referendum Eligible voters are those who can prove through the 1957 Iraq census that they or their families were from Kirkuk. Iraqis are excellent at bureaucratic record keeping, and families' places of origin can be traced easily from Iraqi ID cards. From these sources the KRG has created and digitalised a list of eligible voters. Arab settlers who decide to remain in Kirkuk are not eligible to vote in the referendum. However, they keep all other voting rights and will have their own representative on the Kirkuk Governing Council and in the Kurdistan National Assembly. The KRG strives to be exemplar in its treatment of minorities in all parts of Kurdistan, including Kirkuk. UN involvement in Article 140 The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) and the KRG think that as a possible alternative to holding a referendum, the 2005 election results can be used to determine which disputed territories should be part of the Kurdistan Region, and which should remain in other Iraqi provinces. If this idea is adopted, even though the KRG would probably lose its claim to some territories that it considers to be Kurdish, it would accept the outcome in order to have the matter settled. Lack of political will Mr Ihsan believes that in reality the UN's technical assistance is not needed to organise the census and referendum, because this can be done relatively easily without the UN's help. The two elections and referendum held in 2005 show that it is possible. The real problem is a lack of political will by other Iraqi parties and leaders. There is no practical reason why the referendum has not been held. The real reason is the lack of leadership in Baghdad, and interference by neighbouring countries. If the Kirkuk problem is not resolved by the end of 2008, this may result in dire consequences. Under the Iraqi Constitution, the Kirkuk referendum should have taken place by December 2007, but was extended to June 2008. The minister believes that the less contentious territories, such as Makhmour, Sinjar and Khaneqin, can be resolved by June but Kirkuk may face difficulties. (NOTE: At the time of writing, it is highly unlikely that the referendum will take place by the June 2008 deadline). He also believes that one of the reasons former Iraqi prime ministers Ayad Allawi and Ibrahim Jaafari both fell from power was their lack of cooperation on Article 140.

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APPENDIX

Anfal survivors and their families

Ms Chnar Saad Abdullah, Minister for Martyrs and Anfal Affairs

The ministry is responsible for giving financial and other support to widows and families of Peshmerga soldiers, and to survivors and families of those killed in the Anfal genocide campaign and other Ba'ath operations in the 1970s and 1980s. The ministry, established in 2006, and finds it difficult to cope with the large demands placed on it. It is responsible for 70,000 people affected by the Anfal operations, and for 46,000 widows and families without breadwinners. Assuming five people in an average Kurdish family, this comes to more than 200,000 people receiving support from the ministry. The KRG needs assistance with exhuming the many mass graves in Iraq to help the families to grieve and move on. The UN and international community should assist with recovering remains and archiving documents, as the KRG has virtually no expertise in this area. The ministry has also asked for psycho-social support centres to be opened, but nothing has been done due to the KRG's budgetary problems. The ministry is still working on this. Raising awareness of the Anfal in the UK and Europe The APPG can help by raising awareness of the Anfal genocide campaign, which is still not known by ordinary people in the West. The ministry would also like to have the Anfal remembered in the European calendars. 500,000 people in Kurdistan have signed a petition asking for the ministry to raise this with parliaments in Europe. The Iraqi High Tribunal has offices in Erbil and Suleimaniah. It prepared cases against the alleged perpetrators and has tried some of them. Sarah McCarthy-Fry MP suggested raising the Anfal issue in the UK parliament, with DFID and the FCO, and with MPs who have Kurdish constituents. Ms Saad would like the APPG to organise a meeting in parliament for her to discuss the Anfal there. She suggested the 18th March, and would bring written materials and a CD of specially composed music. (This meeting has since gone ahead.) Halabja The people of Halabja rejected the idea of hanging Ali Hassan Majid, Chemical Ali, in Halabja. He has been sentenced to death, but it has not been carried out yet. The sentence was the decision of the Tribunal, not of the Kurds or the KRG. (NOTE: About 5,000 civilians including children were killed in 1988 when Halabja suffered chemical bombardment.) In Halabja there is a high proportion of miscarriage and deformities, but the patients do not receive any specialist assistance.

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APPENDIX

The economy and reconstruction

Mr Muhammad Rauf, Minister for Trade, Member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union party

Trade with Turkey The minister believes that Kurdistan can increase trade (with Turkey) from 1 billion US dollars in 2007 to 15 billion dollars in three years. The KRG is discussing with British and US firms the possible construction of a railway from the Kurdistan Region to Istanbul. Another way for the KRG to have closer ties with Turkey is if the UK and US work with Turkey and the Kurdistan Region on resolving the status of Kirkuk. Obstacles to investment Foreign investment in the Kurdistan Region has been further encouraged by the investment law, which gives foreign investors tax breaks and allows them full ownership as well as giving other incentives. The obstacles to investment are lack of banking and insurance services; weak infrastructure; lack of differentiation by foreign companies between the Kurdistan Region's security and the rest of Iraq's; and some legal and constitutional problems with Baghdad. Company registration process The ministry registers both foreign and local companies in a very short time. 3,000 companies have been registered in 18 months. Most companies are in general trading and contracting, including many Turkish contractors, and some new oil and energy companies. Agricultural exports pilot project For the past five months the trade minister has been working on a project with the agriculture ministry to export agricultural products to the UAE. The trade minister visited Dubai to find a marketing partner, met the private and government sectors and laid the ground for future exports. Some US companies promised to send Kurdistan's food products to the UAE free of charge for three months. Alternatively it can be taken by road through southern Iraq. Another problem is that the Iraqi quality control certificate is not accepted internationally. Finance problems One of the problems with finance is that the Iraqi Central Bank and the Iraqi Finance Ministry have contradictory policies ­ the Central Bank tries to reduce inflation, while the finance ministry prints money. Last year the banks in Kurdistan were the clients of the Iraqi Central Bank in Baghdad and were therefore unable to use letters of credit or other necessary financial instruments, the Kurdish banks had to send their money to the Central Bank. People no longer trust it. The trade ministry suggested to the Economic Council, a government body, that the most profitable companies, such as Kurdistan's mobile phone operators and the oil exploration companies, should be listed on a future Kurdish stock exchange, to encourage people to invest. (NOTE: A few days after meeting the trade minister, the Kurdistan Federation of Chambers of Commerce announced that it would soon launch a stock exchange in Erbil).

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APPENDIX

Kurdistan Islamic Union, Kurdistan's third largest party The trade minister is a member of the Kurdistan Islamic Union, Kurdistan's third largest party. The minister believes that participation is better than opposition in order to maintain stability. A coalition government with a parliament is the current and best system for the Kurdistan Region.

Mr Abdul Aziz Tayeb, Minister for Agriculture

Destruction of Kurdistan's agricultural base and consequent urbanisation Up to the 1960s, over 67% of Kurds depended on agriculture for their livelihoods, sending their products to central and southern Iraq. Kurdistan was Iraq's bread basket. From the 1970s, the Ba'ath government destroyed the agricultural economy, and after 1975 village populations were deported. By 1991, the Ba'ath had completely destroyed 4,500 out of 5,000 villages and evacuated them. The KRG has rebuilt most of the villages to a basic level. It is trying to encourage people to return to their villages, but this is very difficult as some of them have now lived in towns or cities for over 30 years. Some villages have been rehabilited, but people are returning only in very small number because the KRG cannot provide many of them with services (sewage, health, etc). (NOTE: The UN Oil for Food programme further undermined the agriculture sector in the 1990s. Kurdish farmers were growing products such as wheat again but the UN, directed by Saddam Hussein, refused to buy their produce. Instead, produce was imported and distributed locally, totally discouraging local farmers from growing anything.) Goals for agriculture The KRG's goals are first, to become food self-sufficient, and then to export foodstuffs. Fuel prices/shortages and electricity shortages are big obstacles to achieving these goals. President Barzani and Prime Minister Barzani agree on strengthening agriculture because of the limited budget that Kurdistan receives from Baghdad. Agriculture policies Farmers have production contracts with the government. The KRG wants to remove those contracts and give them land instead. At present production units are too small and the KRG wants to make them larger. The KRG has started to implement its plan: the Kurdistan National Assembly is currently discussing legal reforms that would give land to farmers. Currently most land is owned by the KRG, and by law no one can own more than 75 hectares. One condition of the future law would be that those who receive land must keep it in production ­ it cannot be left unproductive. The agriculture ministry's other policies are to: Introduce new technology, such as mechanisation, greenhouses, drip irrigation. Encourage local and foreign investors. The ministry does not want to be a production unit, but rather encourage farmers by providing services such as water and electricity. The Kurdistan Region Investment Law passed in 2006 is positive for the agricultural sector because Kurdistan's farmer have very little or no experience of new technologies, and the ministry's experience is also limited. On the other hand, the advantage of the Kurdistan Region's products is that many of them are organic. Encourage the private sector to establish warehouses, canning factories, poultry farms, etc.

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Over the next five years, the KRG aims to be self-sufficient in wheat. In 2007 the KRG imposed import tariffs on wheat, but only 100 US dollars per tonne.

The KRG does not have an agriculture map of the Region, which makes it difficult to plan things scientifically. And one of the largest obstacles is lack of expertise and facilities for cold storing, packaging and marketing products. Kurdistan has a surplus of some products, such as peaches and grapes, but finds it hard to market them to its neighbours because of lack of refrigerated warehousing, logistics and packaging facilities. Kurdistan has many poultry farmers, but they face fuel and electricity shortages. So currently the ministry is giving them fuel subsidies. When the KRG has been able to give 50% transport subsidies to farmers, this has led to big increases in production. So fuel and electricity cost reductions are one of the keys to the success of the sector. The electricity minister says that by the end of 2008, 70% of the electricity problems will be solved, and in two years (by the end of 2009) the ministry believes that both the fuel and electricity problems will be largely resolved. The KRG hopes that foreign companies, such as Dutch and Spanish ones, will invest in Kurdistan's agricultural sector. For example, Kurdistan needs fertilizer factories. KRG is negotiating with Campina in the dairy sector. For animal vaccines, the KRG wants to follow European standards and methods. Another problem is the virtually non-existent banking sector. There used to be a cooperative movement in Iraq, but it was political rather than economic. The few that exist are very weak. The ministry hopes that it can encourage cooperatives for future olive growers, under-plastic growers and poultry farmers. Together with the federal agriculture ministry in Baghdad, the ministry hopes to have 100 agriculture scholarships for the Kurdistan Region's students. The KRG also has links with FAO (the UN's agriculture arm), Hawaii and Texas A&M universities in agricultural education. It has links with the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) for wheat. 16,000 people work as bee-keepers. The ministry plans to establish a honey canning/packaging factory with help from South Korea (the link being the South Korean army's Zaytoun Division which is based in Erbil). It also plans to plant 120,000 donums (30,000 hectares) of olive trees. Farmers living in border areas near Turkey and Iran face the problem of unexploded mines.

Mr Eamad Ahmad, Housing and Reconstruction Minister, Politburo member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)

Relations between the PUK and KDP Regarding the current unified or coalition government of the KDP, PUK and smaller parties, Mr Ahmad said that as the agreement to unify what used to be two separate PUK and KDP administrations was signed only in 2006, the KRG is at a sensitive stage in terms of forging its unity. However, within the KRG he saw no major differences between different party members, and said that within his own ministry PUK and KDP members worked well together. The minister said he had considerable autonomy in his ministerial work, perhaps because of his position as a PUK politburo member.

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KRG's housing strategy The Kurdistan Region faces a severe housing shortage, with more people moving to cities and from more dangerous parts of Iraq outside the Region. To solve this crisis, the Kurdistan Region will need more than 150,000 new homes over the next five to ten years. The KRG also wants to encourage people to return to their villages. The minister believes that the future of Kurdistan's economy lies in the villages. The KRG has approved the construction of 10,000 houses in the Kurdistan Region. The ministry has two policies: One is to give people grants and construction materials to build their own homes, and the other is to attract private sector investment. A 100 square metre home costs 30,000 US dollars to build. The Planning Ministry is making a housing survey of the Kurdistan Region to know exactly how many homes are needed. Habitat pilot project Habitat, the UN agency, has chosen Erbil and two other cities in Iraq for a housing pilot project. Contractors Most construction companies are Turkish. The minister welcomed the prospect of British companies participating. The KRG sometimes makes tenders and announcements, and sometimes invites certain companies for contracts. Standards The minister said that the KRG has an auditing department that looks at the ministry's accounts. Building standards are maintained by a supervision committee. Monthly payments to contractors are made only if each stage of the construction has been done correctly. 10% is deducted from each monthly payment, and this 10% is paid upon proper completion of the project.

Mrs Nazaneen Waso, Minister for Municipalities

Ministry's responsibilities The municipalities ministry is responsible for much of the infrastructure and basic services in 175 municipalities, such as clean water, sewage, solid waste management, parks and gardens, and interior town and city roads. It is also responsible for the city master plans and for allocating land for investment projects. It has a staff of some 30,000 persons. To improve efficiency and cost effectiveness, it has started to privatise some services, such as street cleaning. Refuse collection is free of charge, even for businesses. The KRG burns all refuse, and recognises that this can be very harmful. It has started a refuse recycling pilot project in Erbil. Financing problems The ministry is trying to obtain soft loans, for example from the World Bank and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC), and together with the private sector it is looking for Build-OperateTransfer project financing.

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The ministry faces budget shortages and massive competing needs. It is working with UN agencies to improve staff's skill levels, and is striving to improve its administrative systems. Contracting out services Most service companies are Turkish, and some are Iranian or Emirati. Some Kurdish companies have joint ventures with foreign companies, as local firms cannot handle all of the contracts by themselves. Most locals are not prepared to do work such as street cleaning, so the KRG uses foreign workers such as Bangladeshis. British firms The British firm Costain used to be in the Kurdistan Region but left. It used Turkish contractors. Scott Wilson, another British firm, designed the new airport in Erbil and is supervising its construction. Encouraging rural rehabilitation Some 15 years ago, the KRG rebuilt many of the destroyed villages, but could not provide services or jobs that would encourage people to return. Today some people do not want to return to rural life. If the KRG's financial capabilities improve so that it can build more colleges, universities and clinics in rural areas, then people will return. This has been seen in Soran and Zakho, which are becoming repopulated. Electricity power station A 500 Mega Watt power station will be completed in 2008 (electricity is the responsibility of a different ministry). The ministry plans to install household digital water and electricity meters, with a view to charging for these in the future. More wells need to be dug for ground water, as it is difficult to bring water from rivers. The Kurdistan Region has no proper sewage system, which would cost 600-700 million dollars. Local government officials are elected to municipal councils. The economic sectors that should be developed in the future are light industry, oil and tourism. (NOTE: After the meeting the delegation visited the new terminal at Erbil International Airport, which is under construction, alongside the currently used smaller terminal. It is due to be completed in 2008 or 2009. The new terminal will have one of the world's longest runways and the construction is costing about 300 million US dollars.)

Mr Jotyar Noori, Deputy Governor of Suleimaniah

Under Iraq's system, each province or governorate is led by a Governor who has his own budget, independent of the KRG Ministerial budgets. The city and the governorate Suleimaniah is Iraq's fourth largest city, and the governorate has a population of 1.8 million. Nearly all are ethnically Kurds, with some 250 Christian families. It has the largest number of NGOs, newspapers and independent media. The city, which is relatively new at 220 years old, has been a cultural centre since its foundations. The governorate has a very long border with Iran. It used to depend on agriculture, benefiting from at least two great fertile plains. Today they are hardly being cultivated, and the governorate would welcome large companies that can farm those plains in a costefficient and high-tech manner. The governorate also has excellent marble, but makes little use of this and other mineral resources. The region attracts mainly Iraqi tourists, for example from Mosul and

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Kirkuk. The current infrastructure is not strong enough to attract more of them or tourists from other countries. Capacity and infrastructure challenges The Deputy Governor said that the administration lacked expertise in administration and running large economic projects, and asked British and other foreign firms to participate in the economy. He said that basic problems such as electricity should have been solved by now. Mr Noori said that he was taking the British National School of Government's Quality Assurance training, which the KRG has instigated and funded for Director-Generals in the Kurdistan Region. This is part of the KRG's strategy of strengthening the civil service. He has found this beneficial. Since 2006 Suleimaniah provincial council has consulted people more carefully and frequently to give them a bigger say in projects and deepened their trust. It set up a committee including departmental government officials and NGOS for this consultation process. This has also been set up in the nearby towns of Halabja and Garmiyan. Difficulties with Baghdad Mr Noori was critical of the federal government in Baghdad for failing to adequately fulfil some basic functions. Currently the ministries in Baghdad are responsible for providing the Kurdistan Region's electricity, fuel, food provided through the ration card system, medicines and medical equipment. The outcome so far has been: electricity shortages; much of the food being poor quality, and very poor quality or expired medicines that the KRG has had to burn. If the KRG could put out the tender for the food rations contract, it would announce the tenders transparently and would make the transportation of the food easier and cheaper.

Education

Dr Mohammad Sadik, President of Salahaddin University, Erbil

Free university education Salahaddin University has 23,000 students and faces considerable pressure from very high demand to study there. Every high school graduate in the Kurdistan Region is entitled to a free place at university or a two-year technical institute. As well as free being free of charge, students also get a stipend for attending public higher education. About 46% of students are women and 54% are men. The student's union holds elections every year, and its representative sits on the university's council. Need for wholesale reform The gap between the high school baccalaureate and university courses is very large, meaning that often students are ill prepared. The KRG has never had a major wholesale reform of its education system, which is desperately needed. The KRG Education and Higher Education ministries decide the university curricula, which must be identical across all the institutions, and leave the universities with very little autonomy. This should be changed. Links with UK academic institutions On 25th February all the presidents of Iraq's universities are going on a two-week management course at Nottingham University. Salahaddin University has links with Glasgow, Nottingham,

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Westminster and Exeter universities. The British Universities Iraq Consortium (BUIC), which includes those and several other UK universities, is working with Kurdistan's and Iraqi universities on professional upgrading courses, sharing expertise and explaining the equivalence of Iraqi qualifications.

Suleimaniah University Department of English, John Waters, English literature lecturer, Prof Abbas Mustafa, Head of English Department

Views of a British lecturer living in Suleimaniah John Waters worked for an NGO in Erbil for six months, and after a gap moved to Suleimaniah to teach at the university. Most English degree graduates become secondary school teachers. The university's policy is to teach in English. There is little essay writing because the students' level is insufficient, instead students get assignments or group projects. Because of the centralised university entrance system, in which students do not choose what subject to study, staff are faced with students with very different levels of English, which makes the teaching experience similar to a UK mixed-ability secondary school. Historically and today in Iraq students learn by rote and memorisation. They are not used to being asked for their own views and seek the teachers' opinions. Students are reluctant to apply literature to their own situations. There is a need to build students' trust in the post-Saddam era. Some students are very active and ask many questions, others cannot keep up. Discipline in the department has improved. People in the UK have an exaggerated view of the security and other problems in Iraq. The Iraq War did not affect Suleimaniah at all, in John Waters' view. There is a small international community in the city, a few of whom are British. His children, aged 13 and 11, are home-schooled, and schooling is a problem for expatriates. The university has a new Education Development Institute for young adults who want to learn English. It is linked to Portsmouth University and a few other universities.

American University of Iraq ­ Suleimani, Professor Owen Francis Cargol, Chancellor and CEO, Dr John Agresto, Provost and Chief Academic Officer

The American University of Iraq ­ Suleimani (AUIS) is a private institution. Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih started to raise money for AUIS and established its board. Initially he wanted it to concentrate on IT, business and economics. The university may add accounting, finance and petroleum engineering degrees in the future. Its purpose is to train Iraq's future leaders. The goal is to have 5,000 students in about 20 years. It received a 10.5 million dollar grant from the US, funds from the KRG and the Iraq government, and 20 million dollars from individual donors. Fees for students are 10,000 dollars a year. Scholarships are available, some of which are available only to women. About 90% of students get some sort of scholarship, though not necessarily a full one. AUIS follows the US system of four-year degrees, but with one or two years of preparatory English foundation courses beforehand.

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Admissions are based on exam results and interviews. The admissions committee does not look at financial need when assessing candidates, which is done by a separate financial committee that provides a maximum scholarship of 50,000 to 60,000 dollars to cover five or six years of study. AUIS also offers MBAs and MPAs, with 20 students currently taking them. The male-to-female ratio so far is 60-40 for undergraduates, and 90-10 for postgraduates. Half of the students said that they wanted to leave Iraq after graduating, for example to go to graduate school, and a quarter said that they would probably never return to Iraq if they left. AUIS has agreements with the University of Abu Dhabi and the German International University for assistance with its academic programmes. It is working on agreements with other universities. It also has an MOU with Nature Iraq, which rehabilitates the marshes in southern Iraq and is funded by the Italian government. The board of trustees reviews and approves policy, and the board of governors is a subgroup within this board. There is also an honorary board, which includes Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani and US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad. Its main role is to help raise funds. AUIS offers English language evening classes to the community at large. It hopes to open a management training institute to provide short courses in accounting, management, report writing, etc.

Suleimaniah Governorate Teacher Training and Development Institute, Mr Simko, Director

The institute provides short intensive teacher training, from Kindergarten upwards, whenever there is a change to part of the school curriculum. It also trains social researchers. All teachers have to take teaching diplomas to qualify after getting their high-school baccalaureate. The courses that the institute provide are additional and complementary to the teaching diplomas. Since July 2007 the institute has carried out 50 courses and trained 9,600 teachers, with most courses taking a week. It is responsible for teachers in the area spanning from Koya to Khaneqin. One of the training courses it provides is for English teaching in 1st and 2nd year primary school and 7th and 8th year secondary school. Previously English was taught from year 5, now it starts in year 1. Macmillan, the UK-based publishing company, re-wrote the curriculum for English lessons, published the textbooks called Sunrise and trains teachers to adopt the new approach. In six months, 9,256 teachers were trained on the Sunrise textbooks and lessons. The institute also provides teacher training for specialised needs such as teaching IT and teaching children with disabilities. Most villages have a primary school, even if they do not necessarily have secondary schools. The KRG wants to change primary school teaching so that teachers specialise in a subject rather than not needing a specialisation. Schools are inspected three or four times a year, with 100 inspectors covering 1,000 schools. On starting their careers, teachers automatically become members of the Teachers' Union. Women outnumber men in the profession. In the Ba'athist era before 1991, teachers were an instrument of the state. Today the problems faced by teachers are not political, but practical and economic. The lack of school buildings forces them to run two or more shifts, and there may be 50 or more students in a class which makes it impossible to implement small-group teaching methods and forces teachers to stand next to the blackboard.

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With the economy improving, more pupils are staying on at school. However, some work as well as go to school, for example in the bazaars, and some are under-age. The KRG changed the legal school leaving age from year 6 to year 9. Night schools, for people who did not complete their education or who want to fill the gaps in their knowledge, have increased from just two to more than 15. Mr Simko said that he believed that in Suleimaniah governorate there was one religious school, which started from year 5 and was under the authority of the Religious Affairs Ministry.

Civil society, unions and the media

Mrs Chilura Hardi, Head of Khatuzeen Women's Centre and NGO, Erbil

Khatuzeen's work Mrs Hardi for many years was a secondary school teacher in the UK before returning to the Kurdistan Region. Khatuzeen was established seven years ago, and today has 20 staff. Initially it helped children, but today most of its work is on women's issues. It publishes a monthly women's and children's magazine, it has a women's radio station called Zeen that broadcasts daily from 8.30am to 5pm, and a telephone hotline for women seeking help or advice. This is necessary due to the chronic shortage of social workers and psychologists in the Kurdistan Region. Thanks to mobile phones women feel able to call the radio phone-in programme, usually using aliases. The NGO has a website: http://www.khatuzeen.org/english/default.asp Mrs Hardi would like to buy a more powerful radio mast, so that the station can reach a wider area. Perhaps the APPG could help her to secure that funding. Mrs Hardi and Khatuzeen's staff act as mediators for women threatened with `honour' killing. They also go to secondary schools to speak about female empowerment and equality. It is very difficult to educate boys about this because they are conditioned in their family environment to feel superior to girls. Other NGOs provide shelters, for example Nawa in Erbil, and others in Suleimaniah. The KRG pays Khatuzeen's rent and salaries, and it also receives some funding from Holland's Mama Cash, UNDP, SCF and US AID. Mrs Hardi wants to strengthen the radio station, which would require more funding. Practical and legal environment for women During the civil war in the 1990s between the KDP and PUK, Islamists became strong and paid women to wear headscarves. Today the Islamists are weaker and have less influence. The personal status law is not bad and largely provides for gender equality, but some of it should be changed. Many jobs are still closed to women, mainly jobs in which they would come into contact with many people, such as in bazaars. But more and more women are working in indoor shopping malls, for example, and can now wear trousers.

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Compared to the Kurdistan Region, the situation for women is worse in other parts of Iraq. Women's organisations are seeking the right to press charges against those suspected of honour killings or of inciting kerosene suicides. The families of the victims are nearly always very reluctant to press charges because either they agreed with the killing or they are reluctant to convict their own fathers and brothers. Statistics used to be collected (by whom) from the emergency hospital on violence against women. Eric Joyce MP suggested that the International Red Cross may have survey samples that could be used. Media campaign against `honour' killings Mrs Hardi was critical of the television and media campaign against `honour' killings, because it dwelled far too much on women's victimisation and failed to portray positive, empowering images and messages. It has only `normalised' violence against women, in her view. She also fears copycat killings. After the stoning of a Yazidi girl in 2007 was viewed around the world through mobile phone/Internet footage, there was a short-term spike in murders of women, in an alarming trend. She believes the media campaign needs to be more positive and empowering, rather than normalising victimhood. She also criticised the women working in the KRG's honour killings prevention unit, as they are not trained to provide proper effective support. Mrs Hardi says they reprimand and scold the women seeking their help, telling them that they have brought the threats upon themselves. International Women's Day on 8th March is celebrated and televised every year in the Kurdistan Region. FGM Female genital mutilation (FGM) is shrouded in secrecy, but Mrs Hardi believes that FGM increased in the 1990s due to the influence of Islamists and has probably declined as more women learn that it is not necessarily prescribed by the Koran. A law against FGM is being discussed at the moment by the Kurdistan National Assembly.

Mr Hangaw A. Khan, General Secretary of Kurdistan Workers' Unions

Mr Hangaw was very pleased that two members of the delegation, Dave Anderson MP and Gary Kent, were on a second visit to the Kurdistan Region. He saw this and recent visits by the UK foreign and defence secretaries as a strengthening of Kurdistan-UK relations, and a big change in UK policy towards Kurdistan. He also thanked Dave Anderson and Gary Kent for supporting Kurdish unionists' visits to UK conferences and meetings. Unions and their relations with the KRG The federation consists of seven unions: transport, food and agriculture, mechanical, weaving and textiles, builders, general services, and oil. It has five branches in the Kurdistan Region, and geographical sub-districts have their own committees. The unions have relations with the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry and the Interior Ministry, and the unions' subcommittees have relations with the provincial governors. When the unions have problems they send memoranda to the KRG, which usually takes their views into consideration. Lack of vocational training provision for union members The unions do not appear to provide training to their members. However, training is offered by the Korean Army's Zaytoun Division, which has a base in Erbil, in cooperation with the Labour and

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Social Affairs Ministry, in computing, carpentry, welding, baking, electrics, etc. To date 13 such training sessions have been held for 150 men and women at a time, each lasting three months. After training, many of them get jobs with the government. One woman attending the meeting said that she offered private paid training in sewing and tailoring. Wages and unemployment Pay is market-driven and also depends on the foreign exchange rate, so pay rates fluctuate. A standard working day is eight hours. Unemployed people can register as job seekers at the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry. Mr Hangaw's view on reviving agriculture is that it would be very difficult for people to make a living from farming due to high fuel costs and the difficulty of selling products at profitable prices. Unions' views on federalism and relations with Baghdad Kurdistan's unions want a federal, democratic and pluralistic Iraq, and Mr Hangaw said he believed that Baghdad denies some of the rights that Kurdistan and the unions are granted in the Constitution. Former Iraqi prime minister Ibrahim Jaafari froze unions' assets in Baghdad. Unions' activities are limited in Kirkuk (NOTE: It was not clear whether this is because they cannot gain access to official government departments as Kirkuk is not part of the Kurdistan Region, or because of security concerns).

Independent journalists: Hawlati, Leveen, Radio Nawa, Rojname, IWPR

Mr Abid Arif, Hawlati newspaper Mr Ahmed Mira, Leveen magazine Mr Kurda Hassan, Radio Nawa Mr Adnan Osman, Rojname Ms Suzanne Fischer, Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR) (NOTE: by independent, the journalists mean that their publication or radio station is not affiliated to a political party.) Mr Abid Arif, Hawlati newspaper There is a free media to some extent, but there is also censorship. There is no border between legalised journalism and chaos, and Kurdistan's leaders do not want journalists to affect or hurt them. Democracy is only a façade. Journalists are faced with laws that were made under Saddam in the Ba'athist era, such as Articles 433 and 434, which have some annexes about imprisonment for criticising the leadership and their family. It is not certain that the Kurdistan National Assembly (KNA) will pass a fair and democratic media law, even though President Barzani has sent the law back to parliament for further discussion. If the press publishes a falsehood, it is up to the subject to correct the lie, rather than the onus being on the press to print the truth. Mr Ahmed Mira, Laveen magazine Mr Mira said he was arrested and put in solitary confinement for one night, because he wrote about Iraqi President Jalal Talabani on 17 April 2007. He did not believe in being a member of the journalists' unions because their members are affiliated to and controlled by the KDP and PUK. The KRG Culture Ministry drafted a media law that was worse than the law recently passed by the KNA, Mr Ahmed said. Independent journalists checked the accuracy of their reports, but usually chose not to reveal their sources.

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Mr Adnan Osman, Rojname The TV channels and newspapers affiliated to the KDP and PUK, such as KTV, Kurdsat, Zagros, Xebat and Kurdistani Nwe, are effectively government employees as the KRG pays their costs and salaries. Journalists make mistakes, but often this is because they do not get access to information, a right that journalists do not have in Kurdistan, he said. Mr Kurda Hassan, Radio Nawa The independent press has improved, for example in 2000 there was only one Kurdish newspaper not affiliated to a political party, while today there are many. But there is still no independent TV channel. Most people read the independent press. It takes time for any country to develop a free media. The authorities are beginning to understand that the independent journalists play an important role, and is more willing to meet them. Compared to a few years ago, it's now much easier to publicly debate problems. A lot also depends on how much individual officials are willing to defend the free press. Independent media's sources of financing Each journalist stated the following regarding his publication's source of financing. Hawlati and Laveen: circulation and advertising. Circulation of free press is much higher than the party-affiliated press. Radio Nawa: 15-20% from advertising and the owner's capital. In January 2008 the radio station nearly closed due to its debts. The manager met Prime Minister Barzani who is providing six months' funding. The station has asked for a share of the government's media budget. Suzanne Fischer, IWPR's programme manager, said that it is very difficult to know how the media is funded, especially the independent media so she was not sure that they are truly independent. As far as she knows, the only independent newspaper is Awena, as the Editor-in-Chief has clearly explained his business model. Many newspapers do not have a commercial department or the commercial know-how, and are thought to be backed by an individual or organisation.

Institute for War & Peace Reporting, Suzanne Fischer, Middle East Programme Manager

Journalists' unions in Kurdistan are very old-fashioned. Having said that, they drafted the law but Kurdish MPs amended it. IWPR is the only NGO that provides in-country media training for journalists from all parts of Iraq. It trains 120 students a year. IWPR has been working in Iraq since 2004 and has an office in Suleimaniah. As well as the funding problem (see paragraph above), there are no real professional working relations between the government and the media. There is a very large need for training for both the KRG and for the media: The KRG fears the media and believes it doesn't have to provide information, and journalists are not trained or were trained very badly under the Ba'ath system. KRG officials who have been misquoted are reluctant to then speak to the media again, exacerbating the situation. Both the government and the media are realising they need each other. Funding is problematic, DFID used to give funding but stopped in 2004. Currently IWPR gets funding from various sources such as the State Department, the Soros Foundation and the UN, and would like to get funding from European sources as well.

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Other visits and meetings

Residents of Kani Khan village

The village is near Dokan dam in Suleimaniah governorate. It had been destroyed by the Iraqi government ten times prior to 1991, according to one of the village elders.

Residents of Banislawa `collective town'

Banislawa was created by the Ba'ath government in the 1980s as a temporary internment camp after villages were destroyed and people forcibly moved. The people have remained in Banislawa and built homes, some with the help of NGOs or the government. Many residents expressed a wish to return to their orginal towns or villages, even though they cannot make a living from farming.

Kurdistan-UK Friendship Association

KUKFA invited the delegation for tea. Discussions ranged from UK-Kurdistan relations to the role of the media and the need for a code of journalists' ethics.

Erbil Citadel

One of the world's oldest continuously inhabited settlements (contested by Damascus and Aleppo in Syria). The KRG has signed an MOU with UNESCO for its conservation, and a recently formed committee is preparing a plan for this.

The Red House

A former Ba'athist-era interrogation and torture centre in Suleimaniah, now a museum.

Erbil International Airport's new terminal, currently under construction

This is expected to open in 2008-9. The British firm Scott Wilson designed and is overseeing the construction, which is by Turkish contractor Makyol. It has one of the world's longest runways, long enough for the new Airbus and for large cargo. The new terminal has 16 gates.

Sami Abdul Rahman Park, Erbil

The lush green park, which is open year-round with a children's play area, a restaurant, kiosks and a boat-ride, was built on the site of one of the Ba'ath party's largest military bases.

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