The Middle East Peace and Security Forum, or MEPS, is being held in Duhok in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Nobody but those directly involved report about it because it is void of any actual content or profound analysis of ‘peace and security’ in the Middle East. It would be plain laughable if it wasn’t so utterly toe curling. Especially when the pomegranates came in.
Of course, we could just remain silent about the MEPS, a total non-event where 99.9% men – they always make sure the one of two women who are present are in their videos so they can refute criticism of it being a full male event, which it still is – spend a few days congratulating each other on their immense importance to Kurdistan and the Middle East, or, why not, to the world. But the ‘forum’ is not harmless. It is an obscene waste of money that is outright humiliating the people of Kurdistan.
I knew it for sure when the pomegranates entered the scene.
But before we get to those, let me sketch the image the MEPS is trying to convey. The event is organised at the American University of Kurdistan, in the KDP run governorate of Duhok. The KDP is run by the Barzani family, and Masrour Barzani, the prime minister of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, is the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the university. He also founded the university in 2014, and a main building was opened in 2016 by his father, Masoud Barzani, and the hall was named after his father, the late legendary Mullah Mustafa Barzani. Masoud was the president of the Kurdistan Region at the time, Masrour was in charge of the security council.
Cousin Nechirvan was prime minister at the time, and he is now the Kurdistan Region’s president. Both Nechirvan and Masrour are among the speakers of the ‘highest calibre’ at MEPS this year but it is mainly online news portal Kurdistan24 and not Rudaw that is reporting on the event. After all, Kurdistan24 is under Masrour’s control, while Rudaw is under Nechirvan’s. The cousins are fierce rivals of each other. That rivalry is always simmering beneath the surface and not erupting due to the fact that Masoud Barzani, who has no official position in the government anymore but leads the KDP, strictly pulls all the strings.
Just so you know the setting
Of course, KDP has its marketing in order with a good budget, able to make slick videos of all kinds of meetings, people arriving in convention halls and speaking on stage about subjects revolving around this year’s theme: ‘Renewal, revision, and resilience: the future of the Middle East’. There was budget to fly in several speakers ‘of the highest calibre’, notably… drum roll… former UK prime ministers Boris Johnson and Tony Blair. I don’t know for which amount of money they get out of bed, but tens of thousands of pounds for sure.
How many teachers salaries in the Kurdistan Region could that money have paid? Teachers in Kurdistan have been protesting to demand their salaries since forever, and the problem never gets solved. It affects public education, which is already weak. Rich kids are not affected by that, they are taken care of, but common Kurds in the Kurdistan Region have been suffering from detrimental economic circumstances for many years now.
It may sound simplistic to equate the costs of an obsolete forum to teachers salaries, but how infuriating must it be for teachers and other hard working civil servants not to get paid or to get paid only half a salary, while the party that is supposed to govern you is handing money to Johnson and Blair?
What’s the ‘calibre’ of these former UK prime ministers anyway? Tony Blair went down into history as an accomplice in the Iraq war, while Boris Johnson is a racist clown and perpetual liar. Kurds from the Kurdistan Region drowned in the English Channel during Johnson’s reign. As one of Europe’s leaders he is also co-responsible for the tens of thousands of refugees, including young men and women from the Kurdistan Region, who drowned in the Mediterranean Sea trying to reach European shores.
Remember in the last couple of years how many Kurds tried to leave the Kurdistan Region because they just saw no future whatsoever in the lands where they were born and which they love so dearly? No education, no jobs, nothing to build a life on, nothing to raise a family with, nothing to improve your life or the lives of your children with. No hope. While the men who call themselves the leaders of your land enrich themselves and hand over bags of money to truly disgusting neo-colonial western leaders.
And if that’s all not disturbing enough, Masrour Barzani decided to hand over a crate of freshly harvested local pomegranates to Johnson, after he delivered a speech in which he called the Kurdistan Region an ’oasis of freedom and democracy’. An oasis of freedom and democracy with a declining press freedom, with a lack of elections let alone fair ones, with a nepotism that is outright obscene and robbing many Kurds of opportunities.
Pomegranates for Johnson, and no doubt pomegranates for Blair after he will have delivered his undoubtedly irrelevant speech. Pomegranates with their countless deep red, shiny seeds, symbol of life and fertility and one of the best fruits that Kurdistan has to offer, right into the greedy hands of a filthy rich English clown with blood on his hands. MEPS is laughably irrelevant, but unfortunately also mind-blowingly offensive.