Overseas Dispatch Report by Keiko Sakai:
"Research Project on Borders and Nations in the Islamic World: Comparative Research Focusing on Kurds and Caucasians"


SAKAI Keiko (in cooperation with the Project Management Unit) conducted an overseas survey in Egypt and Syria entitled "Research Project on Borders and Nations in the Islamic World: Comparative Research Focusing on Kurds and Caucasians" as part of the Pilot Research Program. A report on the survey follows.


Researcher: SAKAI Keiko ( Institute of Developing Economies, Research Project Division)

Purpose: To conduct an oral survey and collect materials concerning Kurdish anti-establishment activities in Iraq.

Location: Cairo, Egypt and Damascus, Syria

Period: February 5-27,1999


Outline of on-site activities:

During this overseas dispatch, in order to conduct an oral survey concerning the organizations and activities of the Iraqi-Kurdish movement conducted from foreign bases of activity, interviews with the Chief of the branch office in Cairo of the PUK, the Chief of the branch office in Damascus of the KDP, the Chief of the branch office in Damascus of the IMIK and members of the Kadihi Party were conducted. Written materials, etc. published by these Kurdish organizations were collected as well as other written materials concerning Kurdish issues.


In particular, the Cairo International Bookfair was held from the end of January until February 13. In addition to publishers and booksellers from Egypt, important publishers from other Arab countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, etc. participated. This was an excellent chance to obtain a large number of publications on a wide variety of subjects in a short time. In addition, I was able to obtain reports from publishers on the symposium entitled, "A Dialogue Between Kurds and Arabs" held in Cairo in May of 1998.


Almost all anti-Iraqi factions have branch offices in Damascus. Although the main work of this visit was to conduct an oral survey concerning the influence of the Kurds, I was also able to conduct interviews with Islamic political parties such as the Dawa Party, SCIRI and Islamic organizations as well as anti-government organizations with long, active histories such as the Bath Party and the Iraqi Communist Party.


Particularly since the "Iraq Liberation Act" was promulgated in the United States in the Autumn of last year, the U.S. government has greatly strengthened its support system for anti-Iraqi factions. Because what actions these organizations are taking under the present conditions has become a point of interest, I pursued this point in my interviews.


Also, during the time I was in the area, it was learned that Mr. Ojkalfan of the PKK had been arrested and I interviewed Kurdish political parties on what influence this would have on Iraqi and Kurdish societies and political movements.


Content of the Oral Surveys:

The results of the oral surveys showed that almost none of the organizations view the U.S. anti-government support policies in a very positive light. In fact, with the exception of the anti-government organizations based in London (where I did not go during this dispatch) which are making positive use of the media (such as the Iraqi National Congress), there seems to be a negative reaction typified by the feeling that the U.S. support policies are only factionalizing the resistance. In particular, the Dawa Party and the Iraqi Communist Party which are not recipients of support are increasingly critical of U.S. policies and state that political revolution in Iraq should come from within its borders. The Kurd influenced SCIRI, PUK and KDP, which are beneficiaries of U.S. support, while praising the U.S.'s clear anti-Saddam stance, have opposed the U.S. interfering in internal affairs through monetary assistance. There are also differences in the evaluation of U.S. policy between the KDP and the PUK. In particular, the PUK indicated that they believe that the U.S. stance is purely rhetorical and that they have seen no concrete plans to overthrow Saddam's government.


With regard to the status of cooperation and degree of amicability between the two kurdish parties which benefit from U.S. support (the PUK and the KDP), both parties acknowledge that the pace of progress toward the reestablishment of an independent government is slow. According to the agreement reached in Washington in September of last year by the two parties, they were to hold the first provisional meeting on January 1, 1999 and draw up a selection plan for the provisional government on April 1. Independent government elections were to have been held on July 1. However, the provisional meeting has yet to be held and there have only been a few meetings between party leaders. Therefore, it is impossible for either party to hold elections in July, so they have stated that they must postpone them until autumn.


As for the reaction of the Iraqi Kurdish groups to the arrest of Ocjalfan , because the PUK and the PKK have a history of cooperation, the reaction from the PUK is especially strong and they are organizing a large demonstration in Sulfaimaniya . On the other hand, the KDP, which can be said to have cooperated with the government of Turkey to sweep out the PKK has focused on gaining the public condemnation of the act by the Turkish government. It is taking the more cautious approach of using the dissatisfaction caused in Kurdish societies in many countries caused by the arrest.

An interesting aspect which came out of the interviews with anti-Iraqi government factions is the recent increase in the number of bases of action of Islamic influence. This made us reconsider the primacy of Teheran in this area. The Dawa Party held a meeting last year while some of their members were away in Syria between Asifi of the Teheran branch office and the London branch office in order to unify their stances and resolve their differences. Both groups explained that it had been resolved that the role of Asifi's group had been reconsidered and that his importance was greater than before. It was also recognized that the number of followers of Asifi within the party is very small. In addition, SCIRI has, in recent years, been making a series of visits to Arab gulf states, especially Kuwait. This is seen as reducing dependence on outside influences through forming many bases of action.




Institute of Developing Economies
Research Project Division
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