Kurdistan is an area rich in history as one of oldest regions of the world, located in one of its most important crossroads. Historians and scientists from many nations, including the United States, believe that Kurdistanis where humans first domesticated animals and planted crops. Recent archaeological finds place the beginning of agriculture before 7000 B.C. and animal domestication (mostly dogs used as hunting aids) thousands of years before that. There is some evidence that the people of Shanidar, in Kurdistan, were domesticating sheep and planting wheat as long ago as 9800 B.C. Kurdistan is also a region that is rich in history and includes such archeological sites as the Sumerian-built citadel known as ‘Qalat’ in Erbil, the infamous Shanidar cave where Neanderthals first buried their dead with flowers, the Zoroastrian and Assyrian sites in Dohuk, what is believed to be the home of the biblical ‘Three Wise Men’ in Amadiyah, and the Delal bridge from the Roman Era in Zakho.


The first mention of the Kurds in historical records was in cuneiform writings from the Sumerians (3,000 B.C.), who talked of the “land of the Karda.” It would appear that from the earliest times the Kurds were generally unaffected by shifts in the empires around them, as they tended their flocks and obeyed their tribal leaders with a minimum of interference from outsiders. This lack of interference was very probably due to the inaccessibility of the area in which they lived, although they early on gained a reputation for being excellent fighters. At one time or another in their early history, some or all of them came under the dominance of the Sumerians, the Akkadians, the Babylonians, the Assyrians, the Parthians, the Persians, the Romans, and the Armenians. In the 7th century A.D., the Arabs conquered the area and in time converted everyone in it including the Kurds to Islam. The Kurdish area became a border area between the Muslim Caliphate and the Christian Byzantine Empire, and the Caliphate utilized Kurdish troops in securing the frontier area against the Byzantines based in Istanbul. In the centuries that followed, the Kurds withstood the invasions from Central Asia which brought the Turkic peoples as far west as Asia Minor (now Turkey), again probably because they occupied an area too difficult for outsiders to reach.


As the Ottoman Empire rose to power in the 13th through 15th centuries; it extended its territory to what is roughly now the border between Iran and Iraq. From then until World War I, the area inhabited by the Kurds was about three-fourths subject to the Ottomans and one-fourth subject to the Persians. Under both, the Kurds enjoyed a considerable amount of autonomy: The Kurdish princes who had allied themselves with the Ottoman Sultan, for example, were set up as vassals of the Ottoman Empire, and the areas under their command became autonomous principalities. Both empires made extensive use of Kurdish military prowess, and as a consequence Kurd often fought Kurd on behalf of the Ottoman or Persian government. The Kurdish areas in present-day Turkmenistan and Khorasan in northeastern Iran were originally settled as military colonies to protect border areas of the Persian Empire. The Kurdish principalities in both empires cultivated literature and arts to a considerable extent, and small educated Kurdish elite gradually developed. In the 19th century, the same drive toward national identity that was spreading among the Arabs also influenced the Kurdish elite, but for the most part the several small Kurdish rebellions against the Ottomans were prompted by a sense of injustice on the part of local tribal leaders. These rebellions were promptly suppressed by the Ottoman government, and, as they threatened the weakening empire, led to the imposition of direct Turkish rule on the previously autonomous Kurdish principalities.


During the years between the formation of Iraq and its independence in 1931, limited steps were taken in support of Kurdish demands. However, in 1926, the initial Iraqi local-language law provided for the teaching of Kurdish in schools in Kurdish-speaking areas, and for the publication of Kurdish-language books. In addition, there was Kurdish representation in the government. By 1960, however, concessions to the Kurds had been withdrawn, and for the next 15 years, the Iraqi government carried out an extended campaign of “Arabization” of the Kurdish areas, which included such tactics as armed warfare, destruction of villages and deportation of Kurds, relocation of Arabs into Kurdish areas, and other measures designed to weaken and demoralize the Kurds.


On March 1970 an agreement was signed between the Kurdish opposition and the Iraqi government on Autonomy for Kurdistan within Iraq. This agreement regrettably failed and led to more oppression by the central government inIraq. Throughout the Iran-Iraq war, and during the 1980s, the Iraqi army devastated the population and nature ofKurdistan, and inflicted upon its people a devastating genocide, called the Anfal. The Anfal campaign, resulted in the destruction of 4500 villages, and the deaths or disappearance of over 180,000 innocent men women and children. Chemical and Biological weapons were used against civilian targets in over 250 instances, the most notable and horrific were the attacks against the town of Halabja on March 16th 1988. This cemented the tragedy of the Kurds and the area remained a scene of devastation until in 1991. At the end of the Gulf War, with the encouragement of the then U.S. President, George H.W. Bush, the Kurdish people rose up against Saddam Hussein. However, the uprising was allowed to be quashed when Kurdish forces began to liberate territory from Saddam’s forces, and the Iraqi military reached an accord with theUSand allied powers. This led to retaliation by the Iraqi army which forced a mass exodus of the Kurds to the bordering regions of Iran and Turkey. The subsequent creation of the northern no-fly zone by the U.N Security Council following this atrocity facilitated the return of Kurdish refugees to their towns and villages. As a result, Kurdistan held regional elections in 1992, and began a bumpy ride in self governance within a de-facto autonomous Kurdistan region. The 2003 liberation of Iraq by joint coalition and Kurdish forces and the subsequent political changes in post-Saddam Iraq led to the ratification of the new Iraqi constitution in 2005. The new Iraqi constitution stipulates that Iraqi Kurdistan is a federal entity recognized by Iraq and the United Nations. Kurdistan is a parliamentary democracy with a national assembly that consists of 111 seats. The current president is Masoud Barzani who was elected during the Iraqi Kurdistan 2005 elections that are held every four years. The three governorates of Dohuk, Erbil and Suleimani accumulate a territory of around 40,000 square kilometers and a population between 5 and 6 million.


asoud Barzani was elected President of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq by the Kurdistan National Assembly in June 2005. He was born on the day that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was founded, 16 August 1946. In his words, “I was born in the shadow of the Kurdistan flag in Mahabad (Iran) and I am ready to serve and die for that same flag.” At the time of his birth, President Barzani’s father, the late Mustafa Barzani, was head of the military of the short-lived Kurdish Republic of Mahabad that was declared in Kurdistan inIran. When the Republic fell, Mustafa Barzani fled to the USSR with five hundred devoted followers. When he returned toIraq12 years later, he, the rest of his family and thousands of members of the Barzani clan were promptly deported to the southern parts of the country. An avid pupil, Masoud Barzani began his primary education at an early age and developed a love of books and learning. With the overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy in 1958, the new Republic of General Abdulkarim Qasim welcomed Mustafa Barzani and his followers back toIraq. Masoud Barzani was 12 years old when he was finally reunited with his father. The family moved back to their home village of Barzan, where they found their homes in ruins. Soon afterwards the Iraqi government resumed its repression against the people of Kurdistan. With no alternative, in 1961 the KDP, under the leadership of Mustafa Barzani, launched an armed struggle to defend the rights of the people of the Region. At the age of 16, Masoud Barzani sacrificed his education and joined the Peshmerga forces. The young Barzani was deeply influenced by the valor, leadership skills and compassion of his father. President Barzani’s experiences in the mountains of Kurdistan were to provide him with the skills that were to later propel him to the leadership ofKurdistan’s movement. It was not long before the KDP leadership noticed the younger Barzani’s qualities, and he, together with his late, elder brother Idris, took part in the delegation that signed an autonomy agreement with Baghdad in March 1970. When the Iraqi government once again reneged on its pledges, the Kurdistan armed struggle resumed. Once again, Masoud Barzani took part at the side of his father. After the death of Mustafa Barzani in March 1979, Masoud was elected as the new president of the KDP at the party’s 9th congress. Since then he has been re-elected as the KDP’s President in each successive congress. He is married with eight children. He speaks Kurdish, Arabic and Persian and has an understanding of English.


The democratically elected Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) exercises executive power according to the Kurdistan Region’s laws, as enacted by the Kurdistan Parliament. The current government, led by Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani, assumed office on 5 April 2012. His Deputy is Mr. Imad Ahmad Sayfour. The government coalition consists of several political parties, reflecting the ethnic and religious diversity of the Region’s people, who are Kurds, Turkmen, Chaldeans, Assyrians, Syriac, Yazidis and others living together in harmony and tolerance. The cabinet is made up of members of the Kurdistani List coalition, which won the region’s parliamentary elections in July 2009, together with other parties. The coalition government consists of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Kurdistan Islamic Movement, the Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council, Turkmen representatives, Communists and Socialists. The government has 19 ministries. The KRG is based in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Region. It administers the governorates of Erbil, Suleimani and Dohuk.
The KRG will not stand still upon its achievements, it will work for change, revival and reform. The seventh cabinet has the responsibility to:
protect and expand upon the achievements of the previous cabinet,
maintain several critical initiatives of the previous cabinet in terms of administrative and financial reform, and
resolve the shortcomings that we have not yet been able to tackle.


The seventh cabinet will fight against corruption, through the rule of law and transparency in government activity. The Minister of Justice will also shoulder the duty of Public Prosecutor; ensuring that dossiers of corruption and mismanagement of public funds will be sent to court. The KRG will put an end to political party interference in governmental affairs. It will also work to create the necessary atmosphere for political activity and the development of multi-party traditions, by amending the laws pertaining to parties and communities, and also by issuing a law regarding political party funding.


The KRG plans to unify the Erbil/Dohuk and Suleimani institutions of the Asayish (intelligence and security), Peshmerga forces and finance; to complete the process of unification started in 2006; and to end once and for all the legacy of the era of dual administrations.

The KRG will build on the Kurdistan Region’s considerable economic progress and improved living standards by further developing education and higher education, health, agriculture, irrigation and roads, and by resolving the housing problems for low-income citizens, increasing the income level of the individual and the living standards of the lower class. The public budget will be allocated according to the principles of balance and fairness, to meet the needs and requirements of the entire Kurdistan Region without prejudice. The KRG will work for precise transparent monitoring through the Parliament Audit Committees, and will strive to diversify the sources of income and disclose its expenditure. The KRG aims to establish an integrity commission for monitoring and investigation, and to pass a law requiring properties of officials to be made public. This will improve financial policy, help to tackle corruption and establish better transparency in government activity.


The KRG remains committed to the democratically approved Iraqi Constitution, which guarantees coexistence among the Iraqi factions. The issues of Kirkuk, Khanaqin, Sinjar and other disputed areas; federal oil and gas and revenue sharing laws; and power sharing can only be resolved through commitment to the Constitution. The political situation in Iraq and the challenges that the Kurdistan Regions demand that we all work hand in hand, both government and opposition, to protect our experience, development and progress. We must work together to regain unachieved rights for the people of Kurdistan and to guarantee a bright future for the democratic and constitutional experience in Iraq.


The KRG will continue its policy of having good stable relationships with its neighbors, based on the principles of mutual interest. Faithful to the Kurdistan Region’s friends and supporters, the KRG will strengthen its already strong ties with our allies in Operation Iraqi Freedom as well as the wider international community, with the aim of achieving our mutual goals.



The victims of the Anfal genocide and the Halabja bombardment should never be forgotten. The KRG will lobby international decision makers for officially recognition of the Iraqi Special Tribunal’s ruling that these crimes were acts of genocide. We will also endeavor to implement the decision to compensate the victims of the Anfal campaign and those who were affected by chemical weapons. The KRG will continue to bring back to Kurdistan the remains of the Anfal victims found in the mass graves in the middle and the south of Iraq, and to build deserved monuments of remembrance to them.


The government will promote political freedom and public determination. We will encourage civil society and the media to play a greater and more constructive role in promoting public opinion and expanding the circle of democracy. Young people and women will be given the encouragement and space to participate in the Kurdistan Region’s political decisions. The KRG sees young people as valuable assets. The future of Kurdistan will be guaranteed through their development and provision of opportunities for them, whether within government or within society. The KRG will create space for capable and qualified youth. See also the fact sheets, PDF files: The Kurdistan Region in brief About the Kurdistan Regional Government


The Kurdistan Parliament (formerly known as the Kurdistan National Assembly) is the highest legislative authority in the Kurdistan Region. According the Iraq’s constitution, in case of a contradiction between regional and national legislation in respect to a matter outside the exclusive powers of the federal government, the regional authority shall have the right to amend the application of the national legislation within that region. The Kurdistan Parliament is the Kurdistan Region’s democratically elected legislature. The parliament consists of one elected chamber. The three main functions of the parliament are:
Examine proposals for new laws;
Scrutinize government policy and administration;
Debate the major issues of the day.
The founding principles of the Kurdistan Parliament are liberty, pluralism, accountability, openness and the representation of all peoples in the Kurdistan Region.


The three main functions of the parliament are:
to examine proposals for new laws;
to scrutinize government policy and administration;
to debate the major issues of the day.


The founding principles of the Kurdistan Parliament are liberty, pluralism, accountability, openness and the representation of all peoples in the Kurdistan Region.


The parliament was established in 1992, in the first free and fair elections ever held in the Kurdistan Region or in any part of Iraq. To protect civilians from attacks by Iraqi military forces following the 1991 Gulf War, the US, UK and France initiated a no-fly zone above the 36th line of latitude which cuts across Kurdistan. On the ground, a security zone was established by military forces from eleven countries. These no-fly and security zones strongly supported and encouraged refugees, including those who had left in the 1970s, to return to their homes. Later in 1991, Saddam Hussein withdrew his forces and his administration, including the national flag, from parts of the Kurdistan Region. Compounding the hardship caused by an international UN embargo on Iraq, Saddam Hussein enforced an additional internal embargo on the region that stopped food and fuel supplies, disconnected electrical power and prevented the movement of people to other parts of the country. Faced with the administrative vacuum and double embargo, the Kurdistan Front, an alliance of diverse political groups in the Kurdistan Region, decided to hold a general election. Their goal was to establish an administration to provide for essential public services and to meet the basic needs of the people. The population also expressed a strong desire to choose its representatives. The election, held on 19 May 1992, was the first free and fair parliamentary election in the history of Iraq. A minimum 7% threshold was set for representation in the Assembly. Voter turnout was very high and the elections were deemed to be free, fair, and democratic by international observers. After decades of dictatorship, the people inKurdistanwere able to vote for their representatives for the first time in their history. This regional election led to the formation of the first Kurdistan National Assembly and the establishment of the Kurdistan Regional Government. The leadership and the people of the Kurdistan Region decided to remain part ofIraq, and to adopt and abide by all national laws except for those that violated human and universal rights. By 15 July 1992, the Kurdistan National Assembly had convened. Law No. 1, the first law passed by the assembly, establishing it as the Region’s legislature. To date there have been three parliaments, following elections in 1992, 2005 and in July 2009. In 2009 the Kurdistan National Assembly was renamed the Kurdistan Parliament.


Elections for the Kurdistan Parliament are held at least every four calendar years, (as stipulated in Article 8 of the Kurdistan Electoral Law). The last parliamentary elections were held on 25 July 2009. Anyone aged 18 or over who is a citizen of the Kurdistan Region and is on the electoral register is eligible to vote in a direct, universal and secret ballot. Elections for the Kurdistan Parliament are based on a closed party-list proportional representation system. Electors vote for a party’s list of candidates, rather than for an individual candidate. After the election results are announced, each party is allocated seats in proportion to the number of votes it received, using the ranking order of candidates on its list.


There are 111 seats in the Assembly (as stipulated in Law No. 1 passed in 1992). The Kurdistan Parliament is lead by the Speaker, Dr. Arsalan Bayeez who is assisted in his duties by the Deputy Speaker, Dr Hasan Muhammed Sura. In February 2009 several amendments were made to theKurdistanelection law to increase inclusiveness of all groups. The minimum age of parliamentary candidates was lowered from 30 to 25. While seats had already been reserved in previous elections for minority communities, for the Christian and Turkmen communities this was increased to five seats each. The legal minimum quota of women MPs was increased from 25 percent to 30 percent of the legislature. In the current parliament, 36 of the 111 MPs are women.


As provided in the federal constitution of Iraq [1], parliament has considerable power to debate and legislate on policy in a wide range of areas:
health services
education and training
policing and security
the environment
natural resources
trade, industry and investment
social services and social affairs
transport and roads
culture and tourism
sport and leisure
ancient monuments and historic buildings
The Kurdistan Parliament shares legislative power with the federal authorities in these areas, but priority is given to the Kurdistan Parliament’s laws:
electric energy and its distribution
general planning
internal water resources
In addition, under Article 121 of the Iraqi federal constitution the Kurdistan Parliament has the right to amend the application of Iraq-wide legislation that falls outside of the federal authorities’ exclusive powers.


The Kurdistan Parliament has passed several laws that have contributed to the Region’s social and economic progress. These include:
passing a modern and open investment law;
passing a progressive hydrocarbons (oil and gas) law for the Kurdistan Region;
significantly increasing the prison sentence for those committing so-called honor killings, which were previously given minimum sentences.
strict limits on the practice of polygamy.
The Kurdistan Parliament approved by a large majority a constitution for the Kurdistan Region, and intends to put it to a referendum in the future.


The 111 MPs in theKurdistanparliament represent the following political lists and parties:
Kurdistan List: 59 MPs. (Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union ofKurdistan)
Change List: 25 MPs
Reform and Services List: 13 MPs (Kurdistan Islamic Union, Islamic Group in Kurdistan,KurdistanSocialist Democratic Party, Future Party)
Islamic Movement List: 2 MPs
Freedom and Social Justice List: 1 MP (Kurdistan Communist Party, Kurdistan Toilers Party, Kurdistan Independent Work Party, Kurdistan Pro-Democratic Party, Democratic Movement of KurdistanPeople).
Parliamentary seats reserved for minority groups:
Turkoman Democratic Movement: 3 MPs
Turkoman Reform List: 1 MP
TurkomanErbilList: 1 MP
Chaldean Assyrian Syriac Council: 3 MPs
Al-Rafidain List: 2 MPs

The Kurdistan Region has a burgeoning economy built upon progressive economic policies and growing government transparency. Investment opportunities span every sector, including oil and gas, electricity, energy, agricultural and the service industries. Since the liberation of Iraq from the rule of Saddam Hussein, the Kurdistan Region has undergone great economic growth as international sanctions were lifted, including UN-imposed international sanctions on Iraq and Iraqi sanctions on the Kurdistan Region. With an abundant amount of proven natural resources and a tremendous labor force, the Kurdistan Region has the potential to become a regional economic powerhouse. The Kurdistan Regional Government has been taking steps to facilitate opportunities, and has passed laws and regulations and promotes foreign venture by providing numerous incentives and legal guarantees to protect investment in the Kurdistan Region.


The data presented here deliberately draws primarily upon third-party sources, such as the IMF, UNDP, WFP, and WHO. A Kurdistan Statistical Authority has recently been created within the KRG’s Ministry of Planning to provide the public with credible and timely social and economic data. Its data will build on this foundation of research and statistics to more accurately analyze and track economics within the region.
GDP Per Capita: Nominal USD $2,200-$2,500 (2005 Est.); World Bank, 2006: 19. Because non-oil economic activity has been consistently stronger in the Kurdistan Region than in other Iraqi provinces, it is estimated that median income per capita in Kurdistan is 20-25 percent higher than the rest of Iraq (UNDP 2004; World Bank 2006).
In 2007, 36 percent of the Iraqi population rated their economic situation as “very good” or “quite good.” By comparison, 66 percent of the Kurdish population rated their economic condition as “very good” or “quite good” (ABC News 2007). The latter figure encompasses a sample that includes Kurds outside of the Kurdistan Region and therefore underestimates the higher subjective well-being of the Kurds of Kurdistan.
Exchange Rate: USD 1: 1,169 Iraqi Dinar. Since the end of 2003, the Iraqi Dinar has remained pegged to the US dollar. The Central Bank of Iraq (CBI) is committed to maintaining what has become a de facto peg to the dollar. The IMF reported in March 2007 that, “to contain inflation and counter dollarization, the CBI has tightened monetary policy and allowed the dinar to appreciate.” (IMF 2007).
Labor: Under the KRG’s 2006 Investment Law, there are no restrictions on the composition of labor or management. In 2007, 20 percent of the Iraqi population reported that jobs were available. By comparison, 57 percent of the Kurdish population reported that jobs were available (ABC News 2007). The latter figure encompasses a sample that includes Kurds outside of the Kurdistan Region and therefore underestimates the higher employment prospects of the Kurds of Kurdistan. In 2005, 94 percent of Kurdish firms expected employment to increase within six months. By comparison, only 38 percent of Iraqi firms expected employment to increase. (CIPE/Zogby International 2005).


The Kurdistan Regional Government continues to take steps to facilitate business opportunities and to ease the process by which organizations can be establish—while simultaneously ensuring a level playing field and secure competitive environment. By law, the Investment Board is required to process applications within 30 days of submission. Detailed, professional proposals have the potentials to be processed more quickly, in approximately five to ten days.
Opinions of the Business Climate: Of Kurdish business leaders, 68 percent report that Iraqi commercial laws and regulations are easily available and understandable. By comparison, 39 percent of Iraqi business leaders are favorably inclined towards Iraqi commercial laws and regulations. (CIPE/Zogby International 2005); while 92 percent of Kurdish business owners and managers feel that it is possible for the business community to influence government policy. That compares to an Iraqi average of 62 percent.


Oil & Gas
The Kurdistan Oil and Gas Law was approved on August 6, 2007, by the Kurdistan National Assembly. The Kurdistan Region Oil and Gas Law is consistent with the Iraq Constitution and requires the Kurdistan Region to share revenues with the Federal Government and other areas in Iraq. In return, other regions share revenues with the Kurdistan Region. The Kurdistan Region receives 17% of all revenues from all oil production in all of Iraq.


The Kurdistan Regional Government’s achievements include the completion of two refineries; a project to transfer reservoir gas to electricity thereby solving a substantial part of the Kurdistan Region’s power needs; a constitutionally compliant Kurdistan Region Oil and Gas Law and a state-of-the art production sharing model contract for small blocks; three oil field discoveries so far, and more to come. Currently, more than 48 foreign oil companies are working in the region.


The Kurdistan Region sits on vast oil resources, estimated at 43.7 billion barrels of proven oil and 25.5 billion barrels of potential reserves. The region is capable of exporting over 100,000 barrels of oil per day. Investment opportunities are vast, including: oil and gas drilling and production equipment; turbines, compressors and pumps for pipeline applications; measurement and process control equipment for pipeline applications; industrial automation, control and monitoring systems for refineries, gas processing and petrochemical plants; seismic processing and interpretation; petroleum software development; sulfur removal and disposal technologies; well stimulation; and field abandonment services.


The Kurdistan Regional Government is increasing electrical energy output through foreign assistance and private investment projects and as a result, electricity capacity continues to grow. The Kurdish provinces of Suleimani, Erbil, and Basra are the highest rated provinces for supplying electricity inIraq. The provinces meet anywhere from 83% to 99% of demand. The KRG also opened two new private plants and imports electricity fromIranandTurkey. In 2009, the Dutch companyMainwind BVinstalled two windmills in the Kurdistan Region to gather wind data, marking the first company to invest in wind energy inIraq. The windmills are located in Karadaq and Haroota, and after evaluation, the Kurdish government will consider further windmill purchases.


The Dana Gas project in the Kurdistan Region supplies, processes and transports natural gas to fuel local electricity generation, with the ultimate goal of supplying 300 million cubic feet per day. The project includes upstream development and production, processing with state-of-the-art LPG plants, and the transportation of natural gas through a new 180km pipeline. The gas supplies power plants near Erbil and Suleimani, which in turn provide 1,250 MW of electricity for over 4 million Iraqi citizens. The project also provides job opportunities for more than 2,000 Iraqi nationals and comprehensive training in oil & gas operations for Iraq’s citizens. The project is a part of “Kurdistan Gas City” – a major new gas-utilization industrial complex to be built over a 461 million square foot site, a joint venture between Dana Gas PJSC, the Middle East’s first and largest regional private-sector natural gas company, and its partner Crescent Petroleum. The project is designed to promote private sector investment in a variety of gas-related industries to further benefit the country’s citizens through training, job creation, and to spark general economic activity.


In February 2010, GE signed a $200 million contract to supply power generation equipment and services for two independent power projects in the Kurdistan region. The two projects are designed to meet growing energy demands and advance the overall infrastructure in the area. Located in the Dohuk and Suleimani provinces of Kurdistan, both projects are being developed by Mass Global Investment Company, a developer of independent power plants.

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