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Iraqi Opposition

Under Saddam Hussein's rule, new political parties were required to be based in Baghdad and were prohibited from having any ethnic or religious character. The Government did not recognise political organisations that had been formed by Shi'a Muslims or Assyrian Christians.

Iraqi National Accord Party - Wifaq
Harakat Wifaq al-Watani

This opposition movement has its origins in Central Iraq and consists chiefly of Iraqis who still adhere to the doctrine of the Ba'ath Party, but have distanced themselves from Saddam Hussein. The INA had a few offices in Dohuk, Suleimaniyya, Zakho. Salahuddin and Arbil, but its activities in Iraq diminished after August 1996 as a result of the underlying struggle between the KDP and the PUK. The INA used the Kurdish offices among other things as a base for mobilising people and making contacts with INA followers who were carrying out underground activities in Iraq. Since February 1996 the INA has had an office in Amman.

Iraqi National Congress (INC)
al-Mu'tamar al-Watani al-Iraqi

The Iraqi National Congress (INC) was launched in June 1992 aiming to unite the various Kurdish, Sunni and Shi'a factions of the opposition and consists of a Presidential Council of 3 members. Although launched initially by Kurdish exiles, 170 representatives from a wide spectrum of Iraqi opposition groups attended the INC's conference held in Iraqi Kurdistan in October 1992. Participants committed themselves to the non-violent overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the establishment of a federal system that would permit a substantial degree of ethnic autonomy without partition of the country. However, the INC's unification efforts encountered some obstacles, for example, the INC has neglected to provide an essential place for the Shi'a religious movement. The triumvirate presidency of the INC acknowledges the three principal Iraqi communities but does not offer a framework for communal existence.

Iraqi National Forces

A new alliance of mainly leftist and smaller ethnic opposition groups formed in London in July 2002. Members say they want to overthrow Saddam without foreign intervention. Leading members of the INF include the Iraqi Communist Party and Kurdistan Communist Party, the Islamic Action Party, the Turkomen Democratic Party and the Assyrian Ethnic Organization. Although it has not received support from Washington, many of its members, including the Communists, are said to have strong local organizations operating within Iraq or in certain ethnic enclaves. Its National Action Charter stresses that "the process of overthrowing the regime should be the missin of the Iraqis themselves and stem from an independent will".

Association of Iraqi Democrats

Grouping of Iraqi's who share the same national, democratic and liberal views.

Iraqi Communist Party (ICP)
Parti Communisti Iraq, al-Hizb al Shuyu'i al-Iraqi

The Iraqi Communist Party was founded in 1934, becoming legally recognised in in July 1973 on formation of National Progressive Front; left National Progressive Front March 1979 and was proscribed as a result of its support for Iran during the Iran-Iraq war. Aziz Muhammad holds the position of First Secretary of the party. The ICP's influence and activities in Northern Iraq have declined since the attack on Arbil in August 1996. Many Arab ICP members have left Northern Iraq. The ICP has a few offices in Northern Iraq in places such as Shaqlawa and Sulaymaniyah. The party publishes a few periodicals in the region, including "Tariq al-Sha'b" . It maintain normal relations with the KDP and the PUK and has close links with its fellow communist party, the KCP.

Iraqi Democratic Liberation Movement (IDLM)

This is an Arab tribal party, led by the reputedly very wealthy Jebouri family. The party is reported to be on good terms with the KDP and the PUK, but to engage in little activity in Northern Iraq

Iraqi Free Officers

Connected to Iraqi Independent Alliance. The group appears to have support in Iraq and has attempted to poison Saddam Hussein at least once.

Iraqi Workers' Communist Party (IWCP/WCPI)
Hizbi Communisti Krekari Iraq. Al-Hizb al-Shuyu'i al-Ummali al-Iraqi

The IWCP is represented in KDP territory although, strictly speaking, an illegal party there, not being officially registered and authorised to engage in political activities. The IWCP increasingly includes extreme left-wing Iranians. The party's supposed anti-nationalist and anti-religious leanings cause friction with the KDP and have of late also been giving rise to trouble with the PUK.

The IWCP is nevertheless officially represented in PUK territory, having its head office and radio station in Sulaymaniyah. The party publishes the newspaper "Bopeshawa". Relations between the IWCP and the PUK were initially described as reasonably good. The PUK used to assist the IWCP by means of monthly donations. However, some tension has arisen, partly as a result of an accusation of illegal fund-raising levelled at the IWCP by the PUK and an investigation into IWCP involvement in the death of two former IWCP members . There are also rumours abroad of an IWCP rapprochement with Baghdad. Fierce animosity is felt between the IWCP and the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan. The IWCP arouses irritation, not only on the part of the IMK, by its extreme political views, which often run directly counter to Kurdish traditions. At the funeral of the IWCP's founder, Farad Farradj, for instance, the Internationale blared forth. The IMK was suspected of involvement in the murder of two IWCP members in Sulaymaniyah in October 1999. The IWCP earlier accused "Islamic groups in the city of Arbil" of the murder of two IWCP members on 18 April 1998 . There have been no really large-scale incidents between the IMK and the IWCP.


Followers of Sherif Ali Hussain, cousin of King Faisal who was killed in the 1958 coup.

Kurdish Groups

Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)

The KDP is a largely tribal party based in the northern governerates of Dohuk and Arbil. Throughout the 1960s there was fighting as Kurdish groups tried to gain autonomy within Iraq. After the coup of 1968 the Ba'ath Party wanted to solve the Kurdish problem and in 1969 Saddam Hussein entered into negotiations with Mulla Mustafa Barzani, the KDP's leader. The talks between the Ba'ath Party and the KDP brought about a cease-fire and the declaration of a peace agreement on 11 March 1970. This agreement recognised the Kurdish people as a distinct national entity and therefore with the right of autonomy. A general amnesty was declared and the government subsidised the KDP. It was agreed to implement the agreement within 4 years.

In 1974, through the Autonomy Law, the Ba'ath Party acknowledged the existence of Kurds as a distinct group and granted them a level of autonomy. However, it also imposed limits on this autonomy and effective authority remained with the central government in Baghdad. The KDP rejected the law and in April 1974 hostilities broke out again. Their campaign collapsed when the Shah abandoned the Kurds as the counterpart for gaining the control he wanted in the Shatt-al-Arab waterway in the Algiers Agreement of 1975. Mulla Mustafa Barzani, went into exile in the United States of America and the KDP broke into several factions. The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) was formed in June 1975 under the leadership of Jalal Talabani. Ma'sud Barzani, the son of Mulla Mustafa Barzani, took command of the KDP.

In 1987 Kurdish political and military strength gathered through the rapprochement of the two main parties, the KDP and PUK, in early 1987 and the subsequent formation of the Iraqi Kurdistan Front (IKF) in July 1987. After the defeat of the Iraqi armed forces in Kuwait in February 1991 the KDP took part in the armed uprising in northern Iraq. Although the rising was initially successful, by April 1991 the Kurdish guerrillas had been driven out of the cities of northern Iraq. In mid April 1991 the KDP, with the PUK, accepted the offer of talks with the Iraqi leadership. The talks were suspended in the autumn of 1991 when the Iraqi regime imposed a partial economic blockade on Kurdish areas. In Kurdish elections in May 1992 the KDP and the PUK emerged as the two dominant Kurdish groups opposing the Iraqi government. In June 1992 the KDP and other Kurdish opposition parties met together in Vienna to establish the Iraqi National Congress (See above). However conflict between the KDP and PUK resumed, although meetings have been held to organise a transitional government. A conciliatory and peace agreement was reached with the PUK in September 1998.

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)

The PUK is led by Jalal Talabani and follows a Marxist-Leninist ideology and was formed in 1975 following a split in the KDP. In the early years of the Iran-Iraq War the rivalry between the PUK and KDP prevented a joint Kurdish strategy against the Ba'ath Party.

By 1985 the PUK were taking part in a full-scale insurrection against the Ba'ath regime. In July 1987 the PUK joined the Iraqi Kurdish Front (IKF) with the KDP following a rapprochement between the two parties. In Kurdish elections in May 1992 the PUK and the KDP emerged as the two dominant Kurdish groups opposing the Iraqi government. In June 1992 the PUK and other Kurdish opposition parties met together in Vienna to establish the Iraqi National Congress. However conflict between the KDP and PUK resumed, although meeting have been held to organise a transitional government. A conciliatory and peace agreement was reached with the KDP in September 1998.

Action Party for the Independence of Kurdistan (PKSK of PSKI)
Parti Kari Sarbakhoy Kurdistan or Party Khabat bo Serbogoy Kurdistan

The PKSK is a splinter organisation of the ICP and was originally affiliated with both the PKK and the PUK. The party was initially under the leadership of Mohammed (Hussein) Halleq. However, he was murdered on 2 November 1995. After his murder, relations between the PKSK and the PUK became difficult because the PKSK accused the PUK of the murder. The PKSK is now trying to restore its relationship with the PUK. Contacts with the PKK have also deteriorated because the PKSK has taken the side of the KDP and opposes the presence of armed PKK fighters in North Iraq.

The present leader of the party is thought to be Yousif Hanna Yousif, who is better known as Abu Hikmat. He is also a minister in the cabinet of the KDP in Arbil. There is some confusion about the question of where the offices of the PKSK are located. There are reports that the party also has offices in Suleimaniyya and Rania. According to some reports, the office in Suleimaniyya is said to be run by a so-called "carbon-copy party". Other sources state that these offices represent the actual PKSK, while on the contrary the office in Arbil is said to no longer belong to the "real" PKSK but to be controlled by a "carbon-copy party".

The fairly small PKSK, led by Yousif Hanna Yousif, is represented in the KDP government in Arbil, where the PKSK also has a party office. The party is on good terms with the KDP.

Conservative Party of Kurdistan (CPK/Al Muhafinin)
Parti Parezgarani Kurdistan, Hizb al-Muhafidhin al-Kurdistani

The CPK was set up in late 1991/early 1992. The party is mainly clan-based and not very ideological, having links with the Surchi tribe. At first it maintained normal contacts with the KDP and the PUK. Since 1995/1996, however, relations with the KDP have deteriorated considerably, with the KDP suspecting Al-Muhafizin of ties with the PUK. The KDP raid on a Surchi village in 1996, in which the Surchi tribal chief at the time was killed, provides one explanation for deep-felt CPK grievances against the KDP. The CPK has since then in practice no longer been tolerated in KDP territory. The party has ceased to operate there, although the CPK has never officially been banned. The party does operate in PUK territory, though, and until recently had a minister in the PUK government.

Democratic Alliance of Kurdistan (DAK)
Hawpaymani Demoqrati Kurdistan, al-Tahalluf al-Dimuqrati al-Kurdistani

On 13 October 1996 five Kurdish parties set up the Democratic Alliance of Kurdistan together as a protest against the co-operation of the KDP with the Iraqi authorities. The front comprised the PUK, the Iraqi Toiler's Party, the Democratic Movement, Socialist Democratic Kurdistan and the Conservative Party of Kurdistan. The DAK publishes a newspaper called Haw Pemani, in Arabic al-tahalluf


During a conference of the IMIK at the beginning of 1998, a group of officials under the leadership of Najim al-Dien Faraj (better known as Mullah Kerekaar) left the IMIK and set up Hamas. Hamas is an illegal orthodox military grouping which is thought to be increasingly active in the PUK region but has no official responsibility. It is not known whether this organisation receives much support from IMIK members. Several recent bomb attacks and murders which took place in Suleimaniyya and Arbil in the first half of 1998 have been attributed to Hamas.

Iraqi Kurdistan Front (Berey Kurdistani Iraq)

In 1988 the KDP, the PUK, the KPDP, the KSP-I and the PASOK together formed the Iraqi Kurdistan Front (IKF)). The aim of the Front was the establishment of united Kurdish movement in the fight against the regime in Baghdad. The IKF played a major role during the Intifada and in the preparations for the general elections on 19 May 1992. After the elections, the ICP, the KTP and the Assyrian Democratic Movement (ADM) also joined the Front. The activities of the Front were hindered, however, by the underlying rivalry between the KDP and the PUK. The IKF has since disbanded.

Islamic Movement of Iraqi Kurdistan (IMIK)
Bizutnewey Islami le Kurdistani Iraq, Al-Haraka al-Islamiyya fi Kurdistan al-Iraq

The Islamic Movement (IMIK) was founded in 1986 by Sheikh Uthman Abd al-Aziz and several other Sunni mullahs who were all part of the non-political "Union of Religious Scholars" (Yaketi Mamostayani Ayni Islami, Ittihad Ulama' al-Din). The foundation was officially ratified in 1998. The IMIK operates from the town of Halabja and after the KDP and the PUK it is currently the largest party in Northern Iraq. In the region controlled by the IMIK, the party has set up its own infrastructure. Sheikh Uthman Abd al-Aziz was appointed as a mufri (religious judge) by the IMIK.

In 1998. He has moved to Arbil with a number of followers. The leadership of the party is currently in the hands of his brother Mullah Ali Abd al-Aziz Halabji, who has his office in Halabja.

IMIK holds two ministerial posts in the PUK-dominated government. This co-operation appears to be principally a temporary coalition dictated by pragmatic considerations. IMIK is receiving aid from Iran and is also said to receive money from other Islamic countries. IMIK has offices in various towns in Northern Iraq, including Suleimaniyya and Arbil.

Armed hostilities, which resulted in deaths were reported between the PUK and Islamic Groups, the PUK and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and the KDP and the PKK. The heaviest fighting began in September, when a newly created Islamist group, the Jund al-Islam, seized control of some villages near the Iranian border and attempted to institute a strictly Islamic theocratic regime. According to press and opposition reporting, the Jun al-Islam attacked PUK fighters near Halabjah, killing dozens of persons. Intermittent fighting between the PUK, and the Jund al-Islam, and other Islamic groups continued until late November, when an agreement between those involved and the Iranian Government dissolved the Jund al-Islam and imposed a cease-fire.

Kurdish Revolutionary Hizbollah (KRH)
Hizbullahi Kurdi Shorishger, Hizbullah al-Kurdi al-Thawri

The KRH was set up in 1988 and is a splinter group of the Kurdish Hizbollah. The KRH is under the leadership of Adham Barzani, also a cousin of Masud Barzani, the leader of the KDP. The KRH is a small military organisation, which has a few offices in the vicinity of Diyana and Hadji Omran near the Iranian border. This organisation receives both military and financial support from Iran, but has little influence on Kurdish society.

Kurdish Tribal Association

Leading Kurdish tribal grouping (about 20 tribes), established 1991.

Kurdistan Toilers' Party (KTP)

The left-leaning parti Zametkeshani Kurdistan, founded according to the party itself on 12 December 1985, publishes the newspaper "Alay Azadi" (Banner of Freedom) in Sulaymaniyah. A few cultural and ideological periodicals ("Pesh Kawtin" and "Nojan") are also reportedly published and television and radio programmes put out on its own braodcasting stations. The relatively small KTP is included in the PUK dominated government. The KTP does not enjoy good relations with the KDP and has no offices in KDP territory. There has, however, never been any serious confrontation between the two parties.

Kurdistan Democratic Movement (KDM)

There are also known to be other parties, such as the Kurdistan Democratic Movement (KDM)

Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU)
Yaketi Islami le Kurdistan, Rabetat Al-Muslimin Fi Kurdistan

The KIU is part of an international Islamic organisation called the Ikhwan Al-Muslimin (Islamic Brotherhood). The branch in Kurdistan is in principle independent and is directly responsible for policy matters. The KIU receives a lot of support from various countries around the Arabian Gulf.

The KIU is under the leadership of Salahadin Mohammed Baha al-Din. Other leaders include Ali Mohammed Ahmad, Dendaar Najmen Al-Doski and Omar Abdul Aziz. The party is striving to set up an Islamic state in Iraq in which the rights of the Kurds are recognised. It is chiefly active among students, but also has an adult political base, particularly in Arbil and enjoys good relations with both the PUK and the KDP.

Kurdistan National Democratic Union (YNDK)
Yaketi Natawaie Dimokrati Kurdistan, Inihjad al-Qaumi al-Demoqrati al-Kurdistani

This party was set up in March 1996 in the province of Arbil where it also has its headquarters. The YNDK was in the first instance an extension of the PKK, but the founders of the former party quickly turned against the PKK. During the conflict between the KDP and the PUK the party split into two groups. One group was under the PUK and the PKK, the other under the KDP. The first group has meanwhile almost disappeared and some of its leaders have been murdered. There are thought to be fewer than 100 armed fighters linked to the YNDK. The party publishes a party newspaper under the name "Media". The aim of the party is the independence of Kurdistan.

Kurdistan Revolutionary Party (KRP)
Hizbi Shorishgeri Kurdistan, al-Hizb al-Thawri al-Kurdistani

The Kurdistan Revolutionary Party was set up in 1972 after a conflict with Mustafa Barzani by a group of former members of the KDP. Two years later the KRP jointed the government-inclined National Progressive Front (NPF), the only organisation in Iraq to which parties other than the Ba'ath Party are admitted. The Secretary-General of the party was Abdul Sattar Taher Sharef. He fled Iraq about two years ago. The party supports Baghdad and plays practically no active role in the part of Northern Iraq, which is under the control of the Kurdish parties.

Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party (KSDP)
Parti Sosialiri Dimuqrati Kurdistan, Al-Hizb al-Ishtiraki al-Dimuqrati al-Kurdistani

The KSDP, springing from the Kurdistan Socialist Party - Iraq (KSP-I), is a small, tribally-based party, led by Muhammed (or Hama) Hadji Mahmoud. He was briefly a member of the KDP when the Socialist Party, to which he belonged, united with the KDP in 1993. Mahmoud soon clashed with the KDP leadership, left the party and set up the KSDP. That party does not engage in any open activities in KDP territory. The KDP would not allow it to, as relations between them are apparently too bad. The KSDP is included in the PUK government and reportedly has hundreds of peshmergas in PUK territory. It is on good terms with the PUK and operates openly in the latter's territory. The KSDP enjoys good relations with the Iranian intelligence service, Ettela'at, and is said to receive financial support from Iran. The KSDP executive is based in Sulaymaniyah.

Unity Party of Kurdistan

Coalition of three of the smaller Kurdish parties - the Kurdistan Popular Democratic party (DPDP), the Kurdistan Socialist Party of Iraq (KSPI) and the Popular Alliance of Socialist Kurdistan (PASOK). Merged with the KDP in the summer of 1993.

Shi'ite Groups

Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution of Iraq (SCIRI)

SCIRI was founded in 1982 and is a Shi'a organisation. It was led for the first three years of its' existence by its' founder, Hojjat al-Islam Muhammad Baqr al-Hakim, and then by a collective leadership. SCIRI was based in Iran and provided a focal point for Iraqi Shi'a opposition to the war with Iran.

The 10,000 strong military arm of SCIRI, largely under the control of the Iranians, is largely made up of Iraqi Shi'a prisoners taken by the Iranians during the Iran-Iraq War.

Al-Da'wah Party

The Al-Da'wah Party, or Islamic Call, is a militant Shi'a organisation, formed in 1968 and is based in Tehran. The Al-Da'wah was not just a reformist movement but rather a revolutionary party advocating the replacement of the modern secular state by an Islamic social political order. It was inspired by the prominent Iraqi Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr. After the Iranian Revolution a massive wave of enthusiasm engulfed the Shi'a community in Iraq and drove the Al-Da'wah party, which openly endorsed Ayatollah Khomeini as its spiritual leader, to step up its activities against the regime. In 1989 the Ba'ath regime responded to demonstrations in support of Khomeini by imposing martial law in southern cities. Membership of the Al-Da'wah Party became punishable by death. It has made assassination attempts on Saddam Hussein.

Al Khoei Foundation

A religious body established by Ayatollah al Khoei, the Shi'a Mirja of Naja, in the 1970's and run as a charitable organisation. Co-operates with opposition to Saddam Hussein.

Umma (Nation) Party

The party was founded in 1982 and opposes Saddam Hussain's regime. Saad Saleh Jabr leads the party.

Union of Iraqi Islamic Forces

The Union of Iraqi Islamic Forces is a breakaway from the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and includes various wings of the Dawa Party which has split into five factions and one of the wings of the Islamic Organisation. It is concerned that "one of the reasons for the reasons for our defeat in the purising inside Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War was the involvement of non-Iraqi elements" and accused SCIRI of "relying totally on Iran's attitudes".

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:50:04 ZULU