The Corner

Is Jalal Talabani expelling IDPs for profit?

Many internally displaced people–refugees from Saddam’s ethnic cleansing of Kirkuk in the 1980s and 1990s–relocated to Sulaymaniyah, Jalal Talabani’s home town. They have lived there for over twenty years, in some cases, on public land. As Sulaymaniyah has grown, one of the ways top PUK officials including Iraqi President Jalal Talabani have made money is by privatizing public land and bestowing it upon friends, family, and political allies to develop for profit. This is starting to hit home for many refugees. They have just been notified by the “Qubad Company,” a branch of the “Nokan Company,” that they must evacuate their homes. Their land has been privatized by Talabani for development by the PUK. The director of the “Nokan Company,” manages much of Talabani’s money.

I only cite this example both because it impacts former students of mine from when I taught in Sulaymaniyah seven years ago, and because it’s a good example of how corruption and the blurring of state and personal property among the Iraqi Kurdish leadership breeds anti-Americanism when Washington turns a blind-eye to such things. That Talabani forced a vocational college to close to give the property to the U.S. government in Sulaymani has not helped things.

Michael Rubin is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Civil-Military Relations, and a senior editor of the Middle East Quarterly.

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