General Sirwan Barzani: “The Peshmerga did not seek fame.”
It was an utmost humbling visit to the Peshmerga military base where I met with General Sirwan Barzani. He speaks with confidence and calm befitting his rank, but also his family. Since the ISIS attack last August, General Barzani has been on the front lines with his soldiers; eating, sleeping, working, fighting. This significantly boosts the morale of his soldiers, as the General could easily spend his time in safer places in Kurdistan and maybe inspect the troops from time to time.
?My soldiers told me the other day, ?General Barzani, the Peshmerga is today famous in France! Yesterday, we were famous in Belgium too! Our heroic struggle is featured in their newspapers, General!? But I simply answer them: ?Good. And??
?To explain: the Peshmerga did not seek fame. We did not look for this war. We did not attack anyone, and we are forced to defend our land. My good friend, a good soldier, was killed yesterday in battle with ISIS. Why did he have to lose his life? Everybody knows we lack weapons, but we are not allowed to buy weapons to defend ourselves. But people write about our bravery. Better to get us guns to repel ISIS. And at the end of the day, I would much prefer for my soldiers and me to be at home, with our families now, than here and on the front lines. We welcomed everybody in Kurdistan regardless of their ethnicity, and we are beyond upset for all that is happening to us now,? the General said.
Refugee Crises ? A Daunting Security Problem
According to the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), the population in Iraqi Kurdistan has increased 28 percent due to the influx of refugees fleeing ISIS. Many more are expected when the battle for Mosul begins. Hundreds of thousands of youngsters in refugee camps have no access to education, potentially creating a new generation of extremists and radicals that will grow up with no education and nothing left to lose. ?This vicious cycle, seen over and over again, has to come to an end. New, fresh, and different solutions for this crisis are needed. Insisting on the same formulas with different personalities simply won?t do. How come this is not clear by now to the international community?? the General said.
Assistance to Kurdistan is coming from every corner of the world, yet it is not nearly enough. Maintaining basic hygiene is becoming a challenge. In some camps, eight families are using one toilet, and with summer approaching and with very high temperatures, cooling equipment will be needed to avoid disease.
General Barzani is proud of his own invention. He designed the upgraded front of the vehicle (in the above photo) captured from ISIS by Peshmerga soldiers and now converted into a much needed demining vehicle. ?I financed this project myself,? he said proudly.
ISIS recent car bomb attack in front of the U.S. Consulate killing three and wounded several, is a bold reminder more training and arming of the security forces is needed. The proposed legislation in the U.S. Congress drafted by Congressmen Ed Royce (R-CA) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) authorizing the U.S. to directly arm the Peshmerga forces and issue end-user certificates through the KRG ? if the Congress enacts it ? is a step in the right direction. And with the President Massoud Barzani leaving the comforts of his office in Erbil to be constantly on the front lines with his Peshmerga soldiers, spirits of Peshmerga forces and of the Kurdish people remains very high. Such leadership is indeed admirable and does mobilize support well beyond the front lines and this conflict-ridden country.