Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Monday, June 18, 2007

The need for a holistic approach to modernization in Iraqi Kurdistan

While central and southern Iraq have certainly not fared well over the past few years, northern Iraq’s Kurdistan region has bolstered its economy and pursued democracy. However, if the region is truly to progress and become “modern”, social, political, and economic development must all be given equal priority, according to an article by Dr. Denise Natali that was printed recently in Soma, an Iraqi-Kurdish Digest.

Natali notes the economic gains that began in Iraqi Kurdistan in 2003 when the region received a huge budget increase from Baghdad. Modeled after Dubai, Kurdistan has been able to build new infrastructure through attracting foreign investment and moving towards privatization. The society is driven by consumer tastes and demands, and is moving towards a western, modernized way of life. Additionally, Kurds from outside the region have contributed both financially and ideologically, pooling together their resources to influence the fast-growing region

However, economic gains have not been matched by social and political reform, according to Natali. Old social structures are hindering the progress of women, educational institutions and new thinkers, she says. Moreover, according to Natali, suspicion among the older, more traditional members of society does much to prevent the contributions of the younger, modernizing generations. Also, Natali writes that “there has been no positive correlation between economic development and changes in social attitudes. UN indicators reveal that the level of education remains one of the lowest in the region… nor have women found any respite in the honor killing law.”

Finally, Natali argues that if there is to be true reform, there must be a shift in power. Job opportunities, social welfare reform, political party reform and furthering women’s rights are all changes that must be made soon if modernization will last in the region.

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