Destination Iraqi Kurdistan: Manoyan Talks about ARF Suleimanieh Trip

YEREVAN (A.W.)—A delegation representing the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) attended the third convention of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party (PUK), which kicked off on June 1 in the Suleimanieh area of Iraqi Kurdistan.

Giro Manoyan

Attending the opening session of the conference were Jalal Talabani, Iraq’s president and PUK secretary general; Masoud Barzani, a Iraqi Kurdistan leader and chairman of the Kurdistan Democratic Party; Nouri al Malaki, Iraq’s prime minister; as well as representatives of political parties, diplomats, and delegations to the convention.

Dr. Mikirdits Mikirditsian and ARF political director Giro Manoyan represented the ARF.

In his remarks, Talabani welcomed the ARF’s participation in the meeting. In turn, Mikirditsian said, “The common experience of our two nations indicates clearly that each time we were opposing each other we have both suffered severely, and each time we have cooperated we have been able to defend our rights at least partially.”

“The lack of continuity in a common policy has had catastrophic consequences; Armenians have been subjected to genocide, which is until this date denied recognition by its main perpetrator, whereas Kurds have postponed indefinitely the realization of their right to statehood. This very autonomous region of Kurdistan within Iraq has given at last a hope for real self-government,” Mikirditsian said.

He stressed that “the tragic lessons taught by modern history have to guide us in our future relations. Unity is in fact a precondition for strength. Strength is an instrument of war but at the same time an instrument of peace. On the other side peace is a stable condition only if it is based on justice. Let us agree, that our common space has been and is an arena where social, political, and historical injustices are still awaiting a solution.”

Manoyan: Iraqi Kurdistan will be a catalyst

Armenian Weekly editor Khatchig Mouradian asked Manoyan about his impressions of Iraqi Kurdistan and the visit. Excerpts:

“We were one of the four or five international party delegations, along with the delegations from the Social Democratic Party of Sweden, the Socialist Party of France, the Democratic Society Party from Turkey, and the president of the Socialist International Women,” Manoyan said. “At the opening session of the Congress, there were many diplomats representing diverse countries, from Iran to the United States. The 3rd Congress coincided with the 35th anniversary of the founding of the PUK. The congress was held in Suleimanieh, a city of over 750,000 people and the power base of the PUK. There is only one Armenian family left there. All during our visit, the PUK treated us and the other delegations as VIPs. For example, at the dinner of the first evening, we were seated at President Talabani’s table.”

Erbil and oil diplomacy

“To visit the region we had flown to Erbil (or Hewler, in Kurdish), the booming capital of the Kurdistan region. Here is the seat of the region’s government, which is led by Prime Minister Barham Salih, one of the leaders of the PUK. However, the president of the Kurdistan region is Massoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (Iraq), which holds the majority in the region’s legislature. Because there are Armenians living in different parts of the Kurdistan region, they have a member of the regional legislature. Those who saw Dubai 25-30 years ago say that is how Erbil looks now: expanding horizontally and vertically, with very many foreign companies investing in the region or taking up the offers by the region’s government for massive construction and development, thanks to the oil that is the main—if not the only—revenue of the region. Turkey is used as the only transportation route for oil. So, it is not surprising that, when we were in Erbil, President Barzani paid a five-day official visit to Turkey and met with the president, the prime minister, and the foreign minister, as well as Turkish business circles.”

The Armenian connection

“Ankawa is a growing suburb of Erbil. Ankawa’s population is predominantly Assyrian/Chaldean. Ankawa is becoming the home of Armenian families moving there from other parts of Iraq. Now there are around 150 Armenian families there and they have started organizing community life. We, along with the Iraqi Armenian community leaders visiting Baghdad, met with some of them.

I think the Kurdistan autonomous region of Iraq is a region not to be disregarded by Armenians and Armenia, because besides the business opportunities it represents, I believe it will be one of the catalysts in the region, which really is in Armenia’s neighborhood.

4 Comments on Destination Iraqi Kurdistan: Manoyan Talks about ARF Suleimanieh Trip

  1. we are the same in the past we were faced gineocide thousands of our people still not found and they were buries in massgraves mostly childern,in the same time we are going to get benfit from the past and bulid our future .make bilatral eforts in all the fiellds ,
    Barez-kurdistan -Sulaimani

  2. The Kurds always love Armenian and Armenian & Kurds lived together for thousands years

  3. avatar Ara Sarian // June 17, 2010 at 6:07 pm // Reply

    Despite our historical differences with the Kurds and the atrocities committed by some of their tribes against our population, I welcome and encourage the progressive steps of rapprochement taken by the ARF. In my capacity as a US Senior Legal Advisor in 2003 and later in 2008-09 as Advisor to Talabani’s Chief Legal Advisor among others, I often dealt with Kurdish colleagues and Kurdish officials and have on each occasion found them to be yearning for friendship the moment my Armenian ethnicity was revealed to them. In the current geopolitical environment, genuine or not, our friendly relationship would be a necessary marriage of convenience to say the least. Foreign relations know neither friend nor foe -only national security interests. In 2003 while visiting Erbil on assignment, I had asked my Kurdish body guards the whereabouts of Armenians and they immediately offered to take me to the Kurdish town of Zakho on the border of Turkey. Friday being the Muslim Sabbath and a day off for me, I accepted the offer and asked my Jewish/American colleague, a California Judge, if he wanted to accompany me. He jumped at the opportunity. Upon reaching Zakho, unbeknownst to me and to my surprise the Kurds had arranged for a lavish private meal at a Kurdish restaurant just for us. After the meal they drove us to the Armenian Church where Der Hayr was expecting us. Of the five guards two had whispered in my ear the fact that they were part Armenian. I had many other opportunities to observe the general attitude of Kurds toward Armenians. Short of formal apology, I have yet to find one who denies the participation of some of their tribes in the genocide. It will not come as a surprise to most that as Armenians we have deep roots in the Middle East. The international relations paradigm in the Middle East is shifting and not so much in our favor. We need to be vigilant and proactive. We need to carve new paths, build coalitions and create new alliances. It behooves us to develop and maintain relations with all parties Kurdish or otherwise who could even remotely touch our national interest. I cannot forget the time I was introduce to President Talabani’s Chief Legal Advisor to be his Advisor. The moment he heard of my ethnicity he began telling me of his mixed ancestry -Arab/Armenian. He then called the Vice President’s Chief Legal Advisor to whom I was also assigned as a legal advisor and confirmed that he also was of mixed Arab/Armenian ancestry. The short of it is that both were from the “Shammar” tribe that, among other regions, inhabits the northern territory between Syria and Iraq. Both were Sunni Muslims. During the genocide, they recounted, their tribe found close to 10 thousand Armenian orphans, whose parents had been slaughtered, roaming the nearby desert without food or water. The tribe took in the children, fed them and raised them as their own. They were both descendants of these Armenian orphans. The rest is history.

  4. To Ara Sarian,
    Your words so touched my heart and thoughts.  In particular, they give me pause to remember an event back in 2002 when my mother and I, along with other Armenians on a tour, traveled to the town of Hussenig in the Kharpert region of historical Western Armenia (eastern Turkey).  This is the town where my grandfather had grown up and from which his mother and father, younger brother and younger sister, perished in the Armenian Genocide.
    Upon entering the town, the local Kurds greeted our tour group with gracious hospitality.  They especially made great efforts to help my mother and I to find the house of my grandfather.  When we arrived at the house we were greeted by an elderly Kurdish woman who immediately drew a connection to my mother.  To see them there, in front of the house of my grandfather, as friends, it was a truly wonderful experience.  As we left, the Kurdish woman spoke through a translator, the precious words, “I’m sorry that we are in your home.”  At that moment, I believe my mother and I, and I like to think by extension my grandfather, experienced a measure of reconciliation between the Kurdish and Armenian peoples, an experience that gives me real hope in the future not only for Kurds and Armenians, but for all of humanity.

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