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More Alleged Kurdish Spies Exposed

Kurdish parties unlikely to punish members accused of spying for Saddam.
By Frman Abdul-Rahman
Kurds have been shocked by fresh press revelations about alleged Kurdish collaboration with the former Ba’ath regime.



The Awene and Hawlati newspapers, two private weeklies published in Iraqi Kurdistan, have recently published official documents naming people who allegedly spied on Kurdish parties during the Saddam era.



The titles claim they have evidence that around 300 Kurds from various political factions worked as agents for the Ba’ath regime before it fell in 2003.



An official committee was established earlier this year to investigate the claims but has so far yielded no results.



After Saddam was toppled, the two Kurdish newspapers managed to get hold of much of the mountain of confidential documentation looted from the offices of the intelligence service, the Mukhabarat.



Not long after the US-led Coalition defeat of the Iraqi army, Hawlati published the names of some alleged Ba’ath collaborators, all members of Kurdistan Democratic Party, KDP, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, the major political parties in the region.



After a public outcry, both parties agreed to address the issue, but were slow to do so.



KDP officials insisted that the party had sanctioned its members to work for the Ba’ath regime, presumably as double agents. While the PUK launched an internal inquiry and suspended some implicated officials - but most were subsequently reinstated.



In August 2006, Hawlati published more names and documents of alleged spies in an attempt to spark a debate about collaboration. The new revelations came as Saddam and his aides were being tried for the Anfal operation in which thousands of Kurds were killed and displaced.



Asos Hardi, editor-in-chief of Awene, said the Mukhabarat documents the two titles have acquired reveal the extent of intelligence service operations across the region.



He defended the publication of the names of alleged collaborators, saying ordinary people had a right to know about what had been going on in their country.



The latest revelations have again provoked a strong reaction from the public.



Avan Mohammad, 24, a teacher, said he couldn’t believe what he’d read in the newspapers. "I'm totally disappointed with Kurdish politicians; it never occurred to me that Kurdish officials would spy for the Saddam regime," she said, reflecting the public mood.



She says that those suspected of espionage should be tried and denounced as traitors if found guilty.



According to the published intelligence service documents, the alleged collaborators gathered information on their own parties and leaders for the Ba’ath regime; and sought to widen the network of informers.



Judge Rizgar Amin, who was the first judge to try Saddam Hussein and his aides for their role in the Dujail massacre, has been appointed to head the committee looking into the press allegations of collaboration.



The task of the committee, set up in February 2007, is to verify the credibility of the published documents, by inspecting original copies, which the newspapers will be asked to provide, said Amin.



However, his committee has no authority to take the matter any further as, he says, “it only investigates to verify the facts and prove or disapprove documents".



Hardi insists that the intelligence service documents his newspaper published were authentic, but concedes that some of their contents may be incorrect.



In January 2007, the PUK held a meeting at which it was agreed to forgive all party members and officials who had been accused of spying for the Ba’ath regime.



Mustafa Chawrash, member of the PUK’s executive committee, was one of the alleged collaborators who was pardoned.



Hawlati had published a letter, which he allegedly sent in 1987 to the Ba’ath party, via Kurdish Ba’ath agents, asking the regime not to harm his wife and children who had been arrested.



But Chawrash denies that he ever worked for the Ba’ath party. "We were poisoned by government agents and my mother died as a result. Why [would] the Ba’ath regime poison me if I was working for them?" he said.



Another politician alleged to have worked for Saddam was Suham Anwar Weli, a Kurdistan Alliance parliamentary deputy, who like Chawrash vehemently denies the claims. "I have always been loyal to the Kurds,” he maintained.



Of the alleged collaborators IWPR approached, only Chawrash and the Weli were prepared to comment.



Given that the committee charged with investigating the press revelations has no teeth and the PUK has pardoned members implicated in the scandal, the prospects of anyone being brought to justice over the affair are growing more and more remote.



Sarmand Rauf, a Sulaimaniyah civil servant, is convinced that the two ruling Kurdish parties, who have been critical of the press revelations,

have no intention of punishing any of the collaborators. “I'm sure they will put an end to this affair," he said, suspecting that the KDP will join the PUK in declaring an amnesty for collaborators.



This will not go down well with many Kurds. Ahmed Mira, editor-in-chief of Livin, a monthly independent magazine in Sulaimaniyah, expresses a widely held view that Kurdish agents should be tried and punished "to send a message that (collaborating with oppressive regimes) must not happen again".



Frman Abdul-Rahman is an IWPR contributor in Sulaimaniyah. Zanko Ahmed contributed to this report.



This article has been produced with support from the International Republican Institute (IRI).