I previously posted an opinion on the Iraq's federalism "On Iraq Integrity" represents the Sunni stance and criticizes adopting federalism in the new Iraq. Here is an opinion of different viewpoint:
Iraq's federalism ensures justice
By Ali al-Awsi
13 October 2005
Since the establishment of the Iraqi state in 1921, there has been little improvement in democratic conditions for ordinary Iraqi citizens.
Successive regimes have failed to get to grips with many issues, the main one being the discrimination among Iraq's regions, and this underlines the need for federalism as a solution to these persistent problems which have left Iraqis living under injustice and discrimination.
Iraqis and Arabs alike have been living with values inherited from successive tyrannical regimes which left behind suffocating legacies and robbed the people of their will.
That legacy has been based on consolidating the one-man-rule and establishing a climate of fear in which the public is unwilling to accept anything other than the centralised regime.
We now have an opportunity to change direction and Iraq needs a new culture that would stop the old values from continuing to flourish.
The autocratic rule which started in 1968 - the year the Baath Party assumed power in Iraq - was based on a monopolisation of power to the extent that even local municipalities could not make decisions without the permission of the absolute leader and his ruling party in Baghdad.
This bureaucracy prevented progress in many aspects of life; Saddam Hussein's regime had introduced horrific discrimination through classifying Iraqis into black and white governorates. It sorted citizens into two types; those who would be suppressed and left in mass graves and those who enjoyed influence and power.
Just the name of a person was enough to prevent him from getting a decent job, if it indicated the person belonged to a certain sect or was not Arab, and these practices endangered the Iraqi social fabric.
Iraqis will not forget Saddam's tanks entering Nasiriya in southern Iraq to kill Iraqis with the phrase "no Shia from now on" written on them.
The Arab regimes and even Arab pan-nationalists are watching the current crimes being committed in Iraq on a daily basis with glee. This has deepened Iraqis' fears and increased their concerns about their future.
The problem Iraq is facing is represented in those who are interfering in its affairs under the guise of goodwill, but in fact they are after influence and domination of Iraq's riches.
It is sad that there are still some Arabs who think they are able to keep the old formula, and continue to milk Iraq. These include individuals who benefited from the black era in Iraq, and they consist of Iraqis and non-Iraqis.
Their savage crimes in Iraq after the fall of dictatorship proved they were plotting fiercely and savagely against Iraq, after they stole Iraq's money and arms worth an estimated $100 billion.
These circumstances motivate Iraqis to establish a system that guarantees the future of coming generations.
We can divide fears regarding federalism into two kinds: intentional false fear and naive fear.
The first hides certain agendas, ideologies and interests. It uses pompous slogans, but in fact those who promote this fear are in contact with their alleged enemies and engaging them in discussions. Eventually, they will accept the constitution as it is.
The second kind of fear is held by those who are naive and deceived, who have fallen into the trap of those who promote the false fear.
Then there are those who have been deceived by a theory that says the safety of Iraq lies in a strong ruler and centralised regime.
Iraq was once a federal state under Islamic rule. It was divided into three provinces: Basra, Kufa, and Sharazor – later known as Mosul.
The following articles of the constitution demonstrate that its authors have tried to recognise and answer all the concerns raised by different parties:
- No law that contradicts this constitution shall be passed; any passage in the regional constitutions and any other legal passages that contradict this constitution shall be considered null.
- The constitution approves the new provinces established according to its rulings.
Other articles support this view, so if we ignore political games and media exaggeration, we can demonstrate that federalism is a proper chance for fair wealth and power distribution.
Federalism is applicable in Iraq. The need to get rid of dark memories so makes it the proper choice for Iraqis.
Federalism exists in several countries around the world such as Germany, Switzerland and the US among others. All these countries adopted federalism after taking the views of the people into account.
The federal government keeps the key ministries such as defence, interior, and foreign affairs. Also, there are elected federal councils and these are counted as one of the guarantees provided by the constitution.
As for the right of self-determination, we it would be damaging to allow each province the right to declare its independence. We want all the provinces to continue to exist under the umbrella of the federal state, and this is achievable.
Guarantee for democracy
Federalism represents a guarantee against the return of authoritarian regimes and suppression by centralised government. This could be achieved through establishing a stable democratic government.
Federalism should not be the victim of the fear that it is somehow breaking up the country. That would be legitimate if there was the will for division but that would not be imposed under a democratic system which believes in multi-party rule and peaceful rotation of power.
We could turn the tables and say that centralised rule is what will eventually break Iraq up?
The call for federalism in southern Iraq is not sectarian. We believe in seeking the opportunity to achieve justice in wealth distribution and fairness in all aspects of life.
The constitution must stipulate that federalism is an adopted system in Iraq. We are against the view that says only Kurds should enjoy a federal province just because they are a special case.
Federalism must be secured for all Iraq. Even if it is not applied on the ground right now, the constitution must say clearly that federalism is to be adopted for the sake of Iraq’s future.
Ali al-Awsi is the director of the Centre for Southern Iraq Studies - London, UK
The article has been translated from the Arabic.