The city of Sulaimani, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq is currently a-buzz with political maneuverings and party politics. Such is the norm during any political party convention; and it’s certainly the case at the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s (PUK) 3rd General Congress (Convention)
What makes this Congress all the more special, is that it’s the first for nine years, and comes off the back of major defections within the party. Over two years ago, several members of the party’s leadership broke ranks and formed a new political movement in Kurdistan called Change. The Change Movement did surprisingly well in challenging the PUK’s dominance in Sulaimani during the Regions parliamentary elections in July 2009, and gave a good showing in the national elections this March. So as close to two thousand PUK delegates, including myself, gather in Sulaimani to change the party’s platform, by-laws, structure and leadership you’d think that all the residents of Sulaimani (the party’s main support base) and delegates would be gripped with Congress fever. Well not quite.
In between debates about the future of one of Kurdistan’s main political parties, is real concern for the safety and perseverance of Jan Geum. Yes friends, Jan Geum fever is also gripping Kurdistan.
A South Korean TV show named “Jewel in the Palace” has the residents of Kurdistan hooked to KurdSat (a Kurdish satellite TV channel) and is very much ‘the talk of the town’. The soap opera portrays the story of Suh, Jang-geum, who struggles in life as the child of fugitives, to being a Court Lady of the Royal Kitchen, to becoming the first Female Royal Physician of Korea’s Joseon Dynasty. Sub-plots and twists has PUK party members, in between bouts of campaigning and electioneering, fervently discussing the previous nights episodes and wondering if Jang Geum will ever get to record the truth about the attempted failed poisoning and subsequent murder of Queen Jeheon. (Jang Geum’s father, a former Royal Guard of the King, executed the Queen after an apprentice cook of the royal kitchen had attempted to poison her)
This pleasant, if at times confusing break from party politics is a refreshing sign that while politics is very much a part of many Kurds’ lives, that there is actually life beyond politics. The continued normalization of our society, amidst Iraq’s, and at times the Kurdistan Regions political machinations is a healthy development for Kurdistan. So is the fact that so many members of the PUK are passionately debating the party’s future and the need for continued political, economic and social reform at the Congress.
While Jan Geum will likely overcome the schemers and plotters inside the Korean dynasty’s Royal Court; I am certain that the PUK will overcome the set-back caused by its defectors, and its own plotters and schemers from within the party, and rise from this Congress stronger, more progressive and more in-touch with its base and supporters than ever before. Something tells me that it’s no coincidence that this gripping show, is on, during these gripping times.