'Every Kurd's dream is to live in an independent sovereign Kurdistan'

'Every Kurd's dream is to live in an independent sovereign Kurdistan'

Nottingham Post, Tuesday, March 13, 2012

DURING his time in London furthering his training and education, Professor Dlawer Ala'Aldeen lost none of his passionate interest in Kurdistan and human rights. He became part of an influential lobbying group, meeting prime minister Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Official role: Professor Dlawer Ala'Aldeen is raising the academic standards of Kurdistan universities.

Kurdistan and its people were not to be forgotten on the world stage. Their plight must continually be brought to public attention. Del said: "Its roots go back to 1984 when I arrived in Britain. Kurdistan was isolated under the suppression of Saddam.

"By 1987/88, the Kurds faced an intense campaign of genocide and chemical weapons were used. "My own parents and siblings were among the survivors of chemical weapons. "As a refugee, a PhD student and someone born in Kurdistan, I became heavily involved in Kurdish human rights, lobbying the government, parliament and the media."

Del remains passionate about the country of his birth. "I had continued to be active in the Kurdish community, lobbying for human rights against the use of chemical weapons." Del recalls how two million Kurds fled across the borders into Iran and Turkey as a direct consequence of Saddam Hussain's invasion of Kuwait and the first Gulf War which ensued.

George Bush senior was not inclined to intervene in this man-made disaster, said Del. "I led a group to see ex-prime minister Margaret Thatcher." They asked her to press the British Prime Minister, John Major, and the US president, George Bush senior, to intervene.

She did, and as a result, the US, British and European governments created a safe haven for Kurds in northern Iraq so they could return to their homes. Protected by a no-fly zone, Kurds were able to hold free elections to a parliament in 1992 and their first elected government. Del said: "That part of Kurdistan became free of Saddam's control."

From a distance Del took an interest in Kurdistan's higher education system, its universities and healthcare systems, an early involvement in nation-building, helping put together institutions of government, parliament and democracy.

"We were developing everything from scratch," he said. "In a very short time, the Kurds found themselves building a full blown democratic country. "Every Kurd's dream is to live in an independent sovereign Kurdistan."

Its geographical borders extend into Iran, Turkey and Syria making any vision of a unified country politically and diplomatically ambitious. "The reality of politics is that Kurdistan is divided between four countries.

"Within Iraq, we had a chance to choose our own destiny. We chose a federal union with the rest of Iraq so long as it was committed to constitutional democracy and human rights, and that it did not pose a threat to the very existence of the Kurds within Iraq's boundaries."

During his time in London, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Del recalls how his friends and colleagues were "fellow lobbying companions" some of whom pursued full-time political careers.

The cleverest and most talented, Dr Barham Salih, won the election in Kurdistan in 2009 and became prime minister. "He was very committed to reform, particularly of higher education and invited me to become the minister and join his cabinet," said Del.

With his career firmly rooted in the Queen's Medical Centre and Nottingham University, he said he did not want to become a full-time politician in Kurdistan, choosing instead to be seconded.

As a cabinet minister, he flits between seeing patients, lecturing and supervising post graduates in Nottingham, and Arbil where the government is based. In Kurdistan he is working on raising the academic standards of its universities. "It isn't easy and this is where Skype and emails come in very handy," he said. Indeed, this interview was carried out talking down the internet to each other.

"I am very lucky to have excellent deputies and colleagues who keep me up to date and supervise my students." he added. "It has worked so far.