Six Years Without Our Mentor, Leader, and President, Mam Jalal

Kurdistan 09:07 AM - 2023-10-03
 Late President Mam Jalal. PUKMEDIA

Late President Mam Jalal.

President Mam Jalal Iraq Kurdistan PUK

Former Iraqi President and Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani (Mam Jalal) passed away in a hospital in Berlin, Germany, at the age of 83, six years ago today. 

He was in Germany seeking health care and had reportedly slipped into a coma earlier in the day. His condition rapidly deteriorated on Tuesday, October 3, 2017, when he passed away. 

Mam Jalal was a Kurdish politician who served as the sixth President of Iraq and President of the Governing Council of Iraq (the 39th Prime Minister of Iraq) from 2005 to 2014. He was the first non-Arab president of Iraq. Among the Kurdish people, he is known as "Mam Jalal," which means "Uncle Jalal." 

He founded the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and has served as its secretary-general. He was a prominent member of the Interim Iraq Governing Council, which was established after Saddam Hussein's regime was overthrown following the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Since the 1960s, President Mam Jalal has been an advocate for Kurdish rights and democracy in Iraq. 

Apart from his native Kurdish, Talabani is fluent in Arabic, Persian, and English. 

Mam Jalal is the son of Sheikh Husamuddin Sheikh Nuri Sheikh Ghafur. He was born in Kalkan village, located in Koya town, at the foot of Kosrat Mountain, which overlooks Dukan Lake. He spent his early years in that village, where he completed elementary school. Later, his father became the head of Talabani Shrine, or Takiya, in Koya.

As a student, he exhibited exceptional intelligence and remarkable aptitude. As a child, he demonstrated leadership qualities by attending funerals before his peers. Teachers would select him to read national poems and anthems when the students assembled in the schoolyard each morning. From that point forward, the idea of nationalism became ingrained in his mind. As he began his fourth year of elementary school, he quickly established himself as a leader among his peers, participating in a variety of school activities such as public speaking and theatrical performances.

Since then, the idea of nationalism in Mam Jalal has blossomed.

Mam Jalal gave an ardent speech at a well-attended gathering in Koya during the Nawroz (Kurdish New Year) Festival in 1945 when he was just 13 years old. Subsequent Iraqi regimes later outlawed the event. His teachers and the participants of the event were highly impressed by this reading.

In 1946, upon the recommendation of one of his teachers, he founded a secret learning association, which was called the “Reading Development Association". He was elected as the chief of the association, which encouraged students to keep reading other things besides their school lessons.

Later that year, following the establishment of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) on August 16, he started his political activities among the students. Additionally, he contributed articles to the party's covert newspaper Rizgari under the alias "Agir." In 1947, he became a member of the KDP and successfully performed his political activities. 

In 1948, after completing elementary school, he attended secondary school in Koya town. The Iraqi people rejected the Portsmouth Treaty, toppled Salih Jabir's administration, and installed Muhammad Sadir as its new leader in what became known as the "Year of Uprising."

During that period, freedoms were brought about, and a comprehensive election was held to elect representatives of the students across Iraq. Mam Jalal was elected to represent the students of Koya town and attended for the first time the Iraqi Students Congress held at Sabah Square, Baghdad, in 1948.

During the congress, Mam Jalal attended a session in which the well-known Iraqi poet Muhammad Mahdi Al-Jawaheri read his well-known poem “Martyrs' Day”, a poem that was written for his late brother and other martyrs of the uprising. Mam Jalal experienced a historic turning point in his life at that time, and the great Iraqi poet has since influenced him. Later, he began to establish a sincere friendship with him. 

In 1949, Mam Jalal was promoted to be the chief of the Koya Area of the KDP. In February 1951, he was elected to be a member of the KDP's central committee during the second congress of the party. However, to keep unity in the party, he did not take that position and gave it to one of his comrades who had been recently released from prison. 

In 1951, he was arrested along with a number of his friends and sent to Mosul, where he kept conducting his political activities. Then, he went to Kirkuk to complete his education and re-establish the political organs of the party, and there he became the chief of the Kirkuk political organizations.

In 1952, he attended the College of Law in Baghdad. When the organizations of the KDP fell apart, he managed to re-align them.

In January 1953, he took part in the third Congress of the KDP, during which he was elected a member of the KDP central committee. Later, upon his new assignment, he supervised the first congress of the Kurdistan Students Union, a student organization that is affiliated with the KDP. During the congress, he was elected the Secretary General of the Union. He was also one of the founders of the Kurdistan Youth Union. 

In 1954, he was elected a member of the KDP Political Bureau. He paid a visit to several countries, such as the former Soviet Union and China.

In 1957, he paid visits to Moscow and Syria, where he took the opportunity to meet Syrian Kurds. After his return, he became the chief of the Xabati Kurdistan newspaper, which was secretly published in Sulaymaniyah.

During the first day after victory in the July 14, 1958, revolution, he supervised the popular uprisings in Sulaymaniyah. Later, he went back to Baghdad, where he contributed to the issuance of Rizgari magazine.

In 1959, he was elected a member of the KDP central committee and again contributed to the publication of the Xabat newspaper, which was published in Arabic, where he published his articles under an anonymous name, Perot.

In 1960, he was assigned to be the chief of the Sulaymaniyah Branch of the KDP, and he opened a capacity-building training center for members of the party within Sulaymaniyah.

After the previous Kurdish newspaper was shut down by Iraqi authorities, he was later appointed as editor-in-chief of a Kurdistan newspaper. During this assignment, he wrote an article in support of the late Barzani and in protest of the former Iraqi prime minister, Abdul-Karem Qassim, who accused Barzani of various crimes. As a result, the Iraqi authorities issued him an arrest warrant, and he returned to Sulaymaniyah.

In 1961, when the revolution was reignited, he set up the first military base in Chami Rezan, and he was first assigned as commander of the Sulaymaniyah Branch of Peshmerga forces. Later, he was assigned as the general commander of the Kurdistan Peshmerga forces.

During that revolution, he outlined many military plans and conducted ambushes, leading to the liberation of many parts of the outskirts of Sulaymaniyah.

After the notorious February Coup in 1963, Mam Jalal was assigned as the leader of the Kurdish delegation to Baghdad to hold negotiations with the Iraqi authorities over the rights of the Kurdish people in Iraq. Later, he visited Egypt and Algeria to hold meetings with the top senior officials of both countries.

He further expanded his travels into Europe, where he would introduce the question of the Kurdish people and gather support from European countries for the Kurdish revolution.

In 1964, he returned to Kurdistan and resumed command of the Rizgari Peshmerga Forces. In 1967, he participated in the Arab Socialist Forum in Algeria, where he issued a well-informed statement on the Kurdish people's status, legitimate rights, and the path to friendly relations between Kurds and Arabs.

In 1970, he played a vital role in re-uniting the two wings of the KDP political bureau, which had fallen apart. In 1972, he travelled to several countries, including Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. Mam Jalal was forced to remain in Iraq and Iran following the Algiers Agreement in 1975.

On June 6th, 1975, he and some of his friends co-founded the PUK in Damascus, Syria, which was later officially announced on June 1st, 1976, and he was assigned as the Secretary-General.

As many political observers have noted, Mam Jalal was a catalyst for the unification of all Iraqi opposition groups, and he provided support for these groups before the collapse of the Iraqi Ba'ath regime.

After the liberation of Iraq, he was elected a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, and in November 2003, he took over the leadership of the Council, playing a vital role in the governing of Iraq in general.

On April 6th, 2005, the Iraqi Parliament chose Mam Jalal to be the first elected president after the fall of Saddam Hussein. He received 227 votes out of 248.

In 2010, he was re-elected for a second term as Iraqi president.

On December 18, 2012, President Mam Jalal suffered a stroke and was hospitalized in Baghdad's intensive care unit, where his condition stabilized after initial reports of him being in a coma. A statement on the President's official website said that he was being treated for blocked arteries. On December 20, his condition improved sufficiently for him to travel to Germany for medical treatment. After more than 18 months of medical treatment, Mam Jalal returned to Iraq on July 19, 2014. He passed away in Germany on October 3, 2017, at age 83.


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