Azad Arman, a socialist from the Kurdish region of northern Iraq who fled his homeland in 1991 and is now living in Australia, said life in Iraqi Kurdistan today is "miserable".
Arman, who recently returned from six months in northern Iraq, addressed a public meeting on February 14. He said that living standards for most people have declined markedly, while the gap between rich and poor is growing. There is virtually no spending on health and education, there is a housing crisis and 50% of the population are unemployed. The US is preparing to use Iraqi Kurdistan as a base for an attack on Iran.
The Kurdish region of Iraq is controlled by two US-backed militias. There have been numerous protests against the corruption of the Kurdish regional government, some of which have been violently repressed.
Arman said that opinion on the US occupation had shifted among the people of Kurdistan. Previously the majority of Kurds had supported the US, but now less than half do so.
Arman argued that the occupation is the main cause of the violence in Iraq, and the withdrawal of US troops is the only solution. When some audience members talked of the threat of civil war if the US leaves, Arman argued that the US had created this threat by following a "divide and rule" policy and that violence would begin to decline once the US occupiers left.