Deputy Minister of Interior Outlines Merger of Kurdish Forces
Last week, the Ministry of Interior announced the unification of both former ministries of Sulaimani and Erbil along with various structural changes, including the merging of security forces and exchange of mayoral positions. Jalal Karim, deputy minister of the interior, sat down with Rudaw to outline the changes in more detail and explain what to expect of the ministry’s new organization.
Rudaw: The unification of the Ministry of Interior that was announced last week. Was this initiated during the term of the sixth Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) cabinet or it is a new initiative of the seventh cabinet?
Jalal Karim: The Ministry of Interior has technically been unified since 2009. We have dissolved the Ministry of Interior in Sulaimani and moved to Erbil. There are recently 30 to 40 employees of the Ministry of Interior in the Ministry Divan who are members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). There are general directors, a general director of interior Asayish (security), security advisors, military advisors, auditing managers and IT directors who are all members of the PUK, including me, the deputy minister of interior. So the ministry is unified.
“They will have authority and the political parties must not interfere in their work.”
But there were some institutions and issues inside the ministry that were not unified, such as the Ministry of Interior having two kind of forces, the Zeravani in Erbil and Defense Emergency Forces in Sulaimani. There were also differences in the financial instructions between Sulaimani and Erbil in addition to differences in mechanisms that we could not unify until now due to the earlier civil war. There were also other outstanding issues such as the existence of many employees from Erbil working in Sulaimani, others from Sulaimani working in Erbil and some were left without a job but still received their salaries as a consequence of the civil war.
After the announcement of unification, we called upon all those employees, 80 individuals, and told them to start working in their field of specialty or retire if they desired. Many of them are from the Kurdistan Democratic Union (KDP) and located in Erbil.
Rudaw: Can we say that the Ministry of Interior in Sulaimani has ceased to exist?
Jalal Karim: It technically has not existed for two years. I have been working in Erbil for two years now. We had a building in Sulaimani and that building keeps archives.
Rudaw: What archives?
Jalal Karim: There are documents that have been stored there since its foundation in 1996. They include issues related to Sulaimani province and are kept in some 20 to 30 lockers. We did not find a need to bring them to Erbil while the building is still a property of the Ministry of Interior.
Rudaw: How will the Zeravani and the Defense Emergency Forces be unified?
Jalal Karim: Zervani was under the command of and receiving directives from KDP and the Peshmerga forces and the Emergency Defense Forces were under the command of the PUK. There were differences in their salaries and uniforms. The forces of Sulaimani were more integrated into the Ministry of Interior because it was turned into a general administration of defense and emergency, while Zeravani was different and they only received their salaries from the Interior Ministry.
After the unification, the two forces merged and became the Task Force Police of the Kurdistan Region and divided into first and second command in Erbil and Sulaimani. They now have one uniform, the same salary scales and receive directives from the Ministry of Interior. Even their promotions are decided by the Ministry of Interior. After two months, these two commands will be completely unified.
Rudaw: You also have decided to exchange some mayors and district administrators between Erbil, Sulaimani and Duhok. When will this take place?
Jalal Karim: Three mayors from Sulaimani and Garmiyan will be transferred to Erbil and Duhok this week and three from Erbil to Sulaimani and Garmiyan.
Rudaw: Does this transfer to Erbil include only PUK mayors?
Jalal Karim: Yes, the mayors will be PUK members only, but the exchange of administrators might include members of other parties. This process shall be completed within a month.
Rudaw: We know that the border between the PUK and KDP is in Degala. After the unification of the Ministry of Interior, how can the citizens tell whether the minister of interior, who is a member of the KDP, has any authority within PUK territories?
Jalal Karim: In addition to the exchange of mayors and district administrators, we have also transferred some powers to the general directorates of police, traffic police and citizenship. About the distribution of the general directorates between PUK and KDP, the Ministry of Interior gave a list of the general directorates and asked me to select the ones I desired.
“I have not heard about any foreign intelligence agencies working officially in Kurdistan.”
Rudaw: Is this just an exchange of employees or will the transferred officials be given some authority as well?
Jalal Karim: Yes, they will have authority and the political parties must not interfere in their work. The mayors and the district administrators are under the authority of the Ministry of Interior and must not listen to the political parties. The political parties can communicate their demands through the Council of Ministers, because now there is a general rule that says no political party should write any directives to any government institution and the mayors must not receive instructions from political parties.
Rudaw: How much authority do you have as a deputy minister?
Jalal Karim: I am deputy interior minister and oversee financial and administrative affairs. My authority has been outlined by the law, as have the powers of the minister. The minister will also transfer some of his powers to me and the general directors.
Rudaw: It is said that the Asayish forces are carrying out the duties of police and that the police do not enjoy the same authority as the Asayish in dealing with people. Do you feel the same?
Jalal Karim: The duty of the police is to execute orders of the court. The Ministry of Interior has some forces for emergencies and dealing with protests, while the duties of the Asayish include dealing with forgery, embezzlement, terror, explosions, narcotics, human trafficking and money laundering. So the Asayish cannot do the work of the police. In Sulaimani, the Asayish and the police have fully separate duties, while in Erbil there is still work that needs to be done to reach that level. The interior minister has acknowledged several times that the police in Sulaimani are more disciplined but the police in Kalar and Chamchamal are similar to the ones in Erbil.
Erbil is different from other places because most of the political party headquarters, government institutions and officials are located here and the police are not used to executing laws against ministers, deputies and general directors. There are cases where the police have resorted to the Asayish and people trust the Asayish more. Now we are working on proving the need for police in order to restore their prestige.
Rudaw: Do you get any support from the United States in training the forces of the Ministry of Interior?
Jalal Karim: Yes, the U.S. is helping us train our forces in Erbil and Sulaimani. They are training our forces in a modern way and constantly provide us with training courses. We also receive help from them training the traffic police, citizenship police and with civil activities like dealing with protests and journalists.
Rudaw: There were some protests in Erbil recently where they attacked the parliament compound, liquor stores and some social clubs. Have you identified the culprits behind these attacks?
Jalal Karim: It was not a protest, but a riot. Protests are regulated by law and need a permit from the government. The protest that took place in Erbil was organized by Islamists and they did not have a permit.
Rudaw: Do you mean the Islamic parties in Kurdistan when you say "the Islamists"?
Jalal Karim: Yes, the Islamic parties and the Salafis were all participating in the protests. These protests did not have an official permit and without the precautions of the government they would have attacked the Marxist parties as well. These were not protests, but an organized and well-calculated riot. They only manipulated the issue of the Chirpa newspaper.
Rudaw: What steps have you taken so far in order to bring back members of the Change Movement (Gorran) who were dismissed from the Ministry of Interior?
I said to him why kill yourself? It is better to go to court and defend yourself if you think that you are innocent and we will support you.”
Jalal Karim: All the dismissed individuals have returned to their previous posts in the Ministry of Interior, but there are some officials who were sacked from their posts who do not find it proper and were not willing to come back to their previous places.
Rudaw: It is said that there are some foreign intelligence agencies active in the Kurdistan Region. Are these agencies functioning here under your auspices?
Jalal Karim: I have not heard about any foreign intelligence agencies working officially in Kurdistan. They might work under different names but then it is not the business of the Interior Ministry. The Asayish deals with such matters.
Rudaw: A few days ago, the committee investigating the death of Sulamani's former mayor Zana Hama Salih released a report claiming that his death was a suicide and that he had hanged himself. Do you believe that?
Jalal Karim: Yes, because as the governor of Sulaimani said, Hama Salih had previously attempted to commit suicide inside the governorate building. He called me before going to the court and said 'I am going to kill myself because what is happening to me is unfair, I better end my life.' I said to him why kill yourself? It is better to go to court and defend yourself if you think that you are innocent and we will support you.’ But he did not go to court for two or three days. The court had no choice but to arrest him after the riots in front of the court.
Rudaw: Was it his fault?
Jalal Karim: It is might be his fault and the fault of his relatives that the case ended this way.
Rudaw: But according to a statement of an MP, there was one bucket in the room on which he committed suicide and that bucket was still full of stuff, not empty. So how could he have stepped on the bucket to hang himself as claimed, while the bucket was full?
Jalal Karim: It is not true. The bucket contained some stuff but was not full. I believe 100 percent, that it was an act of suicide as I have seen the room myself. The Sulaimani forensic team videotaped the room before the Asayish entered. He hanged himself. How did he hang himself? There was a pair of scissors inside his cell and his wife visited him everyday. He also had two mobile phones. He hanged himself inside the bath of the cell.
Rudaw: Is it true that Hama Salih had joined the Gorran Movement?
Jalal Karim: No, it is not true. His ties with the PUK and its members were very good. I was still in touch with him when they said he joined Gorran. I always defended him and said that he was not a Gorran member. On Feb. 17, he was the head of a security committee and was loyal to his work.