Senior Iraqi Kurdish official Masrour
Barzani offers help to impoverished former fighter
By Institute for War & Peace Reporting staff
Kurdistan region of 'Iraq', — An
elderly former guerilla in Iraqi Kurdistan has
received financial assistance from a top official in
the region’s government as a result of an IWPR story
that described his struggle to earn a living.
Kurdish Fighter’s Bittersweet
“Retirement”, followed Abdulla
Mohammed on his daily rounds selling sweets on the
streets of the regional capital, Erbil.
Mohammed said he was forced to work for money,
despite being nearly 70 years old and stricken with
painful illnesses. The veteran of the Kurds’ armed
struggle against Baghdad also said he was
disqualified from the pension enjoyed by former
comrades because he had already chosen a less
valuable government pension.
Following the publication of the story, the office
of Masrour Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Region
Security Protection Agency, contacted IWPR asking
for a meeting with Mohammed.
“We owe what we have today to the sacrifice made by
people like him,” a representative from the office
told IWPR, referring to the extensive autonomy
secured by the Kurds of northern Iraq after decades
of resistance against Arab-dominated governments in
During a meeting with Mohammed arranged by IWPR, the
official, who asked not to be named, took note of
his pension arrangements, health problems and his
record as a guerilla,www.ekurd.netor
peshmerga, who had fought Saddam Hussein’s Baathist
The representative later said Masrour Barzani’s
office had given Mohammed enough financial help to
“cover his needs for the next five years”. He added
that the office expected Mohammed to seek medical
attention for his ailments and would consider
assisting with further treatment, should it be
Abdulla Mohammed on the streets of Erbil, he had
continued working as a sweet-seller, as the money
would not “last forever” and he felt he needed to
remain active. But where he once worked a 12-hour
day, he said he now spent no more than four or five
hours touring Erbil’s streets selling sweets.
Masrour Barzani, the head of the Kurdistan Region
Security Protection Agency
Mohammed said he was
delighted with the assistance.
“I’m very thankful, I feel very happy that they
remembered me at last,” he said. “I will spend some
of the money on my family and use the rest to get
“I defended our rights in Kurdistan and I expected
it to be different from Iraq, in the sense that all
Kurds would benefit from it. I don’t regret
anything, I would do it again.”
Mohammed also thanked IWPR for its story.
“You said everything I wanted to say very
truthfully... IWPR is a good organisation. They
deserve thanks for remembering people who have been
forgotten,” he said.
The official from Masrour Barzani’s office also
praised IWPR’s report as “well-edited” and “very
balanced”. The story, he said, showed how the media
should “take a middle path and avoid political
He commended the report for having followed up
Mohammed’s statements with the ministry in charge of
Kurdish fighters, known as peshmerga.
“We welcome this responsible journalism,” he said.
“Journalists can act as positive mediators between
the public ... and the authorities .... They can
convey the suffering and grievances of the people.
“Without your story, we would not have been able to
find this gentleman within four or five million
The official confirmed the Kurdish Regional
Government, KRG, was hoping to improve pension
arrangements for former peshmerga, as reported in
However, he said, the budget for pensions and for
the compensation of Kurdish victims of the conflict
with Saddam Hussein’s military was allocated by the
federal government in Baghdad.
The size of this budget, he said, was among several
points of contention between the KRG and Baghdad.
Tensions between the two authorities are also
running high over the management of oil contracts
and revenues and the delineation of territory under
Under current legislation, Mohammed remains
ineligible to claim more than one government pension
or to change his pension plan.
Having once worked in a state-owned cigarette
factory, he chose that pension over the payout given
to peshmerga, which at the time was of lesser value.
While the payout for ex-fighters has since
has spent much of the last two decades working as a
sweet-seller to supplement his original pension.
Speaking two weeks after his meeting with Masrour
Barzani’s representative, Mohammed told IWPR he had
used the money to pay off debts and start treatment
for several chronic ailments.
He added that he had continued working as a
sweet-seller, as the money would not “last forever”
and he felt he needed to remain active. But where he
once worked a 12-hour day, he said he now spent no
more than four or five hours touring Erbil’s streets
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