The Kurdish Globe
Kurdistan Islamic Union has elected Mohammad Faraj as its new leader. The election took place as the sixth congress of the party concluded last Friday in Erbil. KIU's former leader, Salahaddin Bahaddin, retired from office after 18 years in power. Party officials said Bahaddin will have no official position in the new elected leadership and will most likely dedicate himself to non-political work.
KIU officials said the party program will for the first time include and recognize the Kurdish right for self rule and independence as enshrined in the country's charter.
The party was formed in mid 80s as an offshoot of the Egyptian Islamic Brotherhood or Al-Ikhwan, with a strictly religious agenda. Prior to the congress, critics within the KIU argued the party was moving away from a Kurdistani organization towards a more disciplined religious club. Powerful KIU leaders such as Abubakir Karwani argued the party's official name should get rid of its signifier "Islamic." The request was officially turned down.
KIU, which was officially announced in 1994 in Erbil, has historically enjoyed good relations with other Kurdish factions in the region. Although, at times the party was part of the Kurdish Civil War of the mid 90s, still it was able to maintain peaceful relations with ruling organizations of Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
It has served as both opposition and in the government.
Last year's riots in the northern city of Zaxo and the reported clashes between KIU and KDP supporters resulted in worsening of relations between the two parties whose leaders have not met so far since. Commentators say, with the election of Mohammad Faraj, relations between the two parties will enter a new phase ahead of the provincial elections in September this year.
Three Islamic parties of KIU, Kurdistan Islamic Society and Kurdistan Islamic Movement, are all represented in both the Kurdish and Iraqi parliaments.