In the August 23 episode of the "Youth Talk" program on Deutsche Welle TV, Kurdish Iraqi MPs Sarwa Abd Al-Wahed and Renas Jano debated the question of the future of Kurdistan, with Abd Al-Wahed accusing the Kurdish authorities of not making serious efforts to achieve self-determination. Some of the youth participating in the show had reservations about Kurdish independence, with one saying that the Kurdish people was "economically bankrupt" and another complaining that the Assyrians were marginalized by the Kurdish government.
Following are excerpts
MP Sarwa Abd Al-Wahed: I was a journalist and I would report statements to the effect that we were heading towards an independent Kurdish state. Since then and to this day - and I represent the people of Kurdistan in Baghdad - the authorities here in Kurdistan have not engaged in a serious attempt to achieve Kurdish self-determination and to declare a Kurdish state. There is not a single Kurdish citizen or political party that doesn't want a state.
Moderator: Why do you think that happened?
MP Sarwa Abd Al-Wahed: When they have common interests with others, they keep silent about the state.
Moderator: Who are these "others"? For example, Baghdad, Iraqi political parties, Turkey, Iran...
MP Sarwa Abd Al-Wahed: They keep quiet about the internal Kurdish problems, and do not talk about a Kurdish state.
MP Sarwa Abd Al-Wahed: Since 1992, the Kurdish government has done nothing for the youth of Kurdistan. It does not even try to do something for them. The government wants the youth to be riffraff supporting the government - they want them to beg for aims from the Kurdish government and political parties, so that they will not develop an independent political identity, and stand up for themselves. This is the goal of the Kurdistan government, I'm sad to say.
Shadi Al-Ali: My name is Shadi Al-Ali. I have a question to MP Renas Jano: What's the point of declaring a Kurdish state, when the Kurdish people is economically bankrupt?
Moderator: Do you support Kurdish independence today?
Shadi Al-Ali: I am against Kurdish independence, because we are economically bankrupt. The central government has cut off our 17% of the budget, and the region would have collapsed if not for the aid of the UN and of NGOs. We would have gone bankrupt.
Moderator: You live in Sulaymaniyah?
Shadi Al-Ali: Yes.
Moderator: And you don't want an independent Kurdistan? There has been a long struggle...
Shadi Al-Ali: That's true, but we are now fighting ISIS. The Iraqi government is weary, and the Kurdish government is fighting ISIS on several fronts. We cannot declare a Kurdish state right now. Thank you.
Moderator: Thank you.
MP Renas Jano: It saddens me to hear this kind of talk from a young man from Sulaymaniyah, which we call "the city of sacrifices." Sulaymaniyah is indeed the city of sacrifices.
Moderator: Why does it sadden you?
MP Renas Jano: The cause of the Kurdish state...
Moderator: I'm asking why it saddens you.
MP Renas Jano: It saddens me to hear this kind of talk from a native of a city that sacrificed hundreds of thousands...
Moderator: He's free to say what he wants.
MP Renas Jano: I did not attack him. I'm sad for myself.
Moderator: Several young people in Sulaymaniyah as well as Erbil have said to me that many of Barzani's relatives hold high government positions. For example, his nephew Nechirvan Barzani is the prime minister. His son, Masrour Barzani, is the national security advisor. His nephew is a top commander in the Peshmerga. Does it upset the youth to see all the posts divided among a single family?
MP Renas Jano: The young man here talked about how one family rules and about the tribes... This is unfortunate, because the Barzanis are a fighting family. Nobody can deny that. But when they ascended the political throne, the example they set for the Kurdish people was a bad one.
William Benjamin Khalabil: I support the rights of the Kurdish people, but who says that these rights must be in the form of a Kurdish state? Most of the areas of Northern Kurdistan, from the Nineveh Plains to Dohuk and its villages, are not Kurdish lands - not historically, culturally, morally, or in terms of conscience.
Moderator: Whose lands are these, and where do you live?
William Benjamin Khalabil: I don't want to turn this from a general discussion into a sectarian one, but the Assyrian people have suffered greatly, especially following the Kurdish Revolution of September 1991.
Moderator: You say that the Assyrians suffer today as well. What do you mean?
William Benjamin Khalabil: They suffer from the loss of their lands, especially in the Kurdistan Region, and from their marginalization and exclusion...
Moderator: By whom?
William Benjamin Khalabil: The government.
Moderator: What happens exactly? Give me a tangible example so that I can understand. You are an Assyrian, and you live in Dohuk.
William Benjamin Khalabil: I will give you two examples - one pertaining to the government and another to the ruling family, the Barzanis. If a Christian wants to start a company in Dohuk, Sersink, or Amadiya... Let's say he wants to start a bottled water company on his own land...
Moderator: What happens?
William Benjamin Khalabil: Along comes Sheikh Barzani and takes 51% of the project, leaving 49% for the owner.
Moderator: If there is a referendum about independence tomorrow, will you, as an Assryian, vote yes or no?
William Benjamin Khalabil: Will they say "yes" for...
Moderator: What will you say?
William Benjamin Khalabil: I support the Kurdish people's right for self-determination.
Moderator: Something is stopping you from saying that you support it. What is it?
William Benjamin Khalabil: This state is built on lands that historically do not belong to it. This people is moving daily toward extinction.
Moderator: How many Christian churches were blown up in Kurdistan?
William Benjamin Khalabil: I am Christian by identity, but I am not a believer. I'm an atheist. How will it help me if I pray in a church for Mary or Jesus? I want to pursue my national identity just like you.