Is the "sole survivor" the long-hoped-for savior president of Iraq?
Shafaq News / The long time that Rebar Ahmed weathered since coming face to face with an inevitable death until his candidacy for the presidency of Iraq, is a period measured not only by years, but by what he has been through as the "sole survivor" of the genocide of his family.
It has been nearly 40 years since the former Baathist regime exterminated the Barzanis, when thousands of people were forcibly led to the southern deserts and executed or buried alive. It was a massacre that has been deeply dug into the collective memory of the Kurds to this day.
Rebar Ahmed, the current interior minister in the Kurdistan Regional Government (K.R.G.), was born in the Hern village in Zebar District of Duhok governorate. His family has long followed the Barzan elders, and today, he is the only male survivor of his family who has been wiped out entirely. He grew up alone with his mother, who raised him, according to Shafaq News agency's sources.
The Anfal campaign was launched in July 1983, during which 8,000 people from Barzan were arrested, followed by genocide in other parts of the region. The campaign is estimated to have killed at least 180,000 people, including children, women, and the elderly. It also displaced hundreds of thousands more, for nothing but being Kurds.
Now, the "sole survivor" from the brink of death is running for the presidential election race.
Rebar Ahmed will compete with more than 20 other candidates, including current President Barham Salih of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (P.U.K.).
According to his biography, Ahmed's career was not emotional in the abstract sense of the word. Before taking over the portfolio of the Interior Ministry in the region in 2019, the 50-year-old man received his master's degree in national security from the Iraqi National Security University in Baghdad in 2007, having previously received his bachelor's degree in civil engineering from Salahaddin University in Erbil in 1997.
In addition to his military service as a Major general, Ahmed has served as Head of the Joint Coordination Department of Kurdistan Region Security Council since 2012, as well as Director of Intelligence Analysis of the Kurdistan Region’s Parasteen Agency between 2005 and 2012.
Prior to that, he was Director of Counter-Organized Crimes for the Defense Department of the Kurdistan Region’s Agency 2000-2005.
He was also elected as a member of the Administration Committee of Kurdistan Students’ Union from 1993 to 1997, and promoted to office member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (K.D.P.) in 1997.
He has also been selected as a member of the Shanadar Organization for the Reconstruction of Kurdistan since 2000.
Rebar Ahmed's candidacy came after the Federal Supreme Court decided to exclude presidential candidate Hoshyar Zebari, who described his exclusion as "politicized" stressing that "life will continue" and the ruling "is not the end of the world".
Rebar Ahmed's candidacy is a confirmation of the new political realities produced by the democratic game not only on the Kurdish scene, but also across the Iraqi arena, where K.D.P. boosted its performance and electoral results with 31 parliamentary seats (it had 25 seats in the 2018 elections), while P.U.K. remained "stuck" at its previous quota with 17 seats despite its alliance with the Gorran Movement.
To sum it up, it seems that the Kurdistan Democratic Party wants to state that the final word will be theirs to identify the "Kurdish candidate" who will take over the position of the presidency in Baghdad.
Furthermore, now that the K.D.P. chose Rebar Ahmed, with all the Kurdish, Iraqi, and humanitarian symbolism he encompasses, to enter Qasr al-Salam (the Peace Palace) in Baghdad as president of the republic, the party is also betting on convincing everyone that this political swing is best for both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, and that the sole survivor of the genocide may be the best option to get Iraq out of the political death moor.