The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), backed by its internal regulations, is forcibly collecting donations from its supporters within the Peshmerga forces in the name of partisan contributions to the Regional Guard Brigades formed and armed by the International Coalition Forces. The act is considered illegal according to the laws of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG}’s ministry of Peshmarga.
The PUK’s violations began three months within the joint brigades, in contradiction to many decisions and instructions of the three presidencies in the Kurdistan Region and the late PUK Secretary General, who had rejected party interference in the security Forces.
Hemn Nuri, member of the Peshmarga’s First Brigade was forced to pay 3,000 dinars for a third successive month. “The commander of our regiment sent someone to collect the donations from all those Peshmargas who were recruited by the PUK, and took 3,000 dinars from each one of those he had their names in a list” he told KirkukNow.
I didn’t want to pay, but it was my only option to evade penalty
Hemn who declined to reveal his real name says, “I paid 3,000 dinars lest I should be dismissed from the Brigade.”
“I didn’t want to pay, but it was my only option to evade penalty.”
When the salaries of the Peshmarga forces were distributed in early September, dozens of Peshmargas from the 1st and 2nd Brigades –all associated with the PUK- contacted KirkukNow to express resentment for being forced to pay donations.
These were previously members of the PUK’s so-called 70 unit who were later integrated with members of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)’s 80 Unit forming two brigades with the efforts of the coalition forces, namely the US and Germany.
Peshraw Nuri, a member of the 2nd Brigade, speaking to KirkukNow, said, “Even if I was a supporter of the PUK, I never had interest in partisan business. I asked the commander of the regiment who ordered the collection of the donations he said it was from the PUK’s Peshmarga Organizational Center.”
The PUK’s Peshmerga Organizational Center confirmed that the donations are being collected; however he denied that it was taken forcibly.
“We collect donations from our members in the Peshmarga forces in accordance with the PUK’s internal regulations but it is not a compulsory procedure,” Mustafa Chawrash, commander of the PUK’s 70 Unit told KirkukNow.
According to two high-ranking sources in the Ministry of Peshmerga a number of PUK Peshmargas have filed a complaint with the ministry regarding the collection of the donations.
According to the political parties’ law of the Kurdistan region “Political activity may not exist inside the Ministry of Peshmarga Affairs and internal security forces.”
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs stresses that the the duty of the Peshmarga firces is “to protect the political entity of the region and its democratic system of governance and defend its constitutional institutions.”
The ministry of Peshmarga has decided to investigate the allegations and punish those involved in the violations, according to Jamal Eminiki, the Peshmerga’s Joint Chief of Staff.
We collect donations from our members in the Peshmarga forces in accordance with the PUK’s internal regulations
Contrary to what Mustafa Chawrash’s statement, the Peshmerga ministry official emphasized that the law prohibits the collection of donations or grants from the Peshmerga and considers the act illegal.
Prior to the Islamic State (IS) group’s attacks in 2014, the majority of the political parties were collecting donations as part of contributions from their associates in the Peshmerga forces. According to information obtained by KirkukNow, the KDP suspended the procedure with the start of the war against IS.
The violations occur at a time three teams from the US, Britain and Germany in coordination wit the Ministry of Peshmerga Affair are setting the ground for the unification of all Kurdish Peshmarga forces, according to Sheikh Jafar Sheikh Mustafa, Kurdistan Region’s vice President and former commander of the PUK’s 70 Unit.
In 2014, the then President of the Kurdistan Region and former commander-in-chief of the armed forces, Massoud Barzani, issued a set of instructions prohibiting party organizational business within the Ministry of Peshmerga and stressed that “whoever wanted to involve party matters into the Ministry of Peshmerga, should quit and return to his party.”
In 2010, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) began the process integrating and organizing the Peshmerga forces, which led to the formation of 14 joint brigades; however the process was brought to a halt due to political disputes, the war against IS and the financial crisis, according to Jabar Yawar, secretary general of the ministry of Peshmerga.
The unification of the Peshmerga forces did not prevent party interference, and this was culminated during the October 16, 2017 events, when the KDP-backed forces withdrew its personnel from the joint brigades towards Erbil, while the PUK forces pulled back to Sulaimaniyah fulfilling the orders of their commanders.