ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (The New Mail)-On Thursday 16th June, Kurdistan’s courts issued an arrest warrant for Nawshirwan Mustafa, the leader of the Change party, in connection with allegations of inciting his followers to attack foreign consulates and corporate headquarters within the region.
The arrest warrant came after the publication of audio recordings which appear to show the political leader instructing party members to assault the offices of oil companies currently operating within the region and kidnapping diplomats. If the allegations are true, then they would represent a substantial breach of both Kurdistan’s laws and its political norms, which have focussed on peaceful politics rather than the use of violence in recent years. They would also represent a serious challenge to the Change movement’s claims to political legitimacy, showing a willingness on its part to undermine the political process through association with criminal activities.
Representatives of the Change movement deny the allegations levelled at their leader, claiming that they are politically motivated. They have suggested that it will be impossible for Nawshirwan Mustafa to get a fair trial in Kurdistan, and that this is all part of a plot to discredit the movement as it begins to gain traction in Kurdistan’s political process. They have yet to provide evidence of this, however, and the recording in particular appears to be hard to refute.
It seems clear that Nawshirwan Mustafa must appear before Kurdistan’s courts to answer the charges, both for reasons of justice and for the good of Kurdistan’s politics as a whole. If, as he claims, the recording is a fake, this must be demonstrated in court so that normality can be restored to Kurdistan’s politics. If the recording is accurate, then he must return for trial either to explain his actions or accept responsibility for them.
Failing to do so will discredit the Change movement. It cannot play a meaningful part in the politics of Kurdistan while it has a leader who appears to be committed to violence. More than that, it cannot claim legitimacy within the politics of the region while its leader refuses to accept the structures and institutions that govern Kurdistan’s society. If Nawshirwan Mustafa refuses to appear, and his party cannot convince him to do so, then Change is showing contempt both for the laws of Kurdistan and the courts that apply them.
This is a situation where it must condemn its leader’s actions, or risk being seen as endorsing them. To do so would suggest that it is not a truly democratic movement at all, but a militant populist one, prepared to use any means to achieve power. It must avoid this, and the best way to do so is for Nawshirwan Mustafa to show much more trust in Kurdistan’s legal system than he has to date.
The New Mail
Editing by Davan Y Khalil