They were out in the streets burning down the local offices of the Goran (Change) Movement and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Dohuk and Irbil. They attacked opposition deputies in the makeshift Iraqi Kurdish parliament in Irbil with guns, knives and sticks after Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Masoud Barzani announced he will step down as president of the regional administration.
So who are they? They are mobs of the Kurdistan Democracy Party (KDP), which in essence is the political toy of the Barzani tribe that is dominant in Irbil and Dohuk and which is detested in Sulaimaniyah.
In 2003, when Saddam Hussein was deposed with the U.S. and British occupation of Iraq, there were hopes that the Iraqi Kurdistan in the country's north could become a role model for the Middle East with an autonomous area where democracy, freedom and liberties could thrive. Why? Because the region was free of the violence and bloodshed that many Iraqi regions suffered, it was secure and peaceful and thus had the means to create democratic institutions and even create a small state.
But in 2014, when Daesh terrorists also attacked Iraqi Kurdistan and threatened the well-being of the Kurds there, the region was nowhere near even being run by a modest democratic system.
The parties, especially the KDP and PUK, dominated their own areas, corruption, cronyism, nepotism, favoritism and irregularities were rampant and no one bothered to establish true and functioning democratic institutions. People started to mumble that they had gotten rid of one Saddam and landed with 1,000 other Saddams.
The U.S., which was supposed to bring democracy to Iraq and failed badly, could have at least achieved some success in Iraqi Kurdistan, and yet it did not bother to push Barzani and late PUK leader Jalal Talabani to introduce a viable democratic system in the region. On the contrary, it paid lip service to Barzani, who turned his rule into a one-man show.
The internal dynamics of Iraqi Kurdish politics produced an opposition movement, especially in Sulaimaniyah, and those who defected from the PUK established the Goran Movement, which did extremely well in relative terms in elections.
However, a fight between the PUK, Goran and Barzani put an end to the KRG parliament. In 2015, the parliament refused to re-elect Barzani as president so Barzani expelled the parliament speaker who was from Goran. Parliament had not been functioning since then, yet now many Iraqi Kurds say they did not miss the parliament for the past two years, which means it was always dysfunctional. Barzani was forced to re-open parliament recently to legitimize his independence referendum by having it approved by the chamber.
Elections in the KRG have always been fraudulent. Iraqi Kurds have missed a golden opportunity to create a thriving democracy in the Middle East.
Now we are seeing hordes attack opposition political groups and the political violence and instability inborn in the Iraqi Kurdish system.
It is good that Barzani held the fatal referendum for independence last month, as it showed the world the true face of the Iraqi Kurdish administration and the huge defects in the Iraqi Kurdish political system. Let us hope it is an eye opener for the romantics in the West who have been promoting the Iraqi Kurds as an achievement of our times.