Iraq: Sulaymaniyah Governnorate assessment report

Originally published


I. General Information (2)

The Governorate of Sulaymaniyah is located in the Northeast of Iraq, bordering Iran to the East and sharing internal borders with the Governorates of Erbil, Kirkuk, Diyala and Salah Al-Din. Sulaymaniyah is geographically dominated by its rolling terrain, lying at the foothills of the Zagros Mountain range. Much of the Governorate's water supply comes from the Zagros Mountains and collects in lakes such as the Buhayrat Dokan.

Sulaymaniyah was founded in 1784 by a Kurdish prince known as Ibrahim Pasha Baban, who named it after his father 'Sulayman Pasha'. The Sulaymaniyah Statistics Directorate estimates the population of Sulaymaniyah to be 1,135,000 (2002), although an official census has not been carried out since 1987. The Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation (MoPDC)/UNDP Iraq Living Conditions Survey (ILCS) estimated that in 2004 the population was 1,715,585. (3)

The predominant religion in Sulaymaniyah is the Sunni branch of Islam, although Shiite Islam is also practiced, mainly by Kurds displaced by the former regime from Khanaqin District of Diyala Governorate. There are also a number of Chaldean Christians living in Sulaymaniyah City and a small Ahl Al-Haq minority who live mostly in Halabja District.

Tribal groups in Sulaymaniyah include: Zengana, Hamawand, Shewann, Bayyat, Jibari, Berzenchi, Jaff, Bajjlan and Hewrama.

Sulaymaniyah Governorate is composed of 11 Districts: Sulaymaniyah, Ranya, Dokan, Penjwin, Sharbazher, Pshdar, Halabja, Kalar, Darbandikhan, Chamchamal and Sharazoor. (4)

The Governorate administration is organized according to Qadha (district) and Nahiya (sub-district) Councils and a Governorate Council which has an office in Sulaymaniyah City. MoDM does not have an office in Sulaymaniyah but works in partnership with the Ministry of Human Rights of the Kurdistan Regional Government (MoHR/KRG) and the Committee of Displacement and Refugees, which is under the direction of the Council of Ministers to support the needs of returnees, IDPs and refugees.

A. Political Developments (5)

The Governorate of Sulaymaniyah is part of the area administered by the KRG, which is the legitimate government in the Governorates of Dohuk, Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and parts of the Governorates of Kirkuk, Diyala and Mosul.6 The predominant political party in the Governorate of Sulaymaniyah is the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK, known in Kurdish as Yaketi Nishtimani). Other political parties active in Sulaymaniyah include the Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party, the Toilers' Party, the Conservative Party, the Kurdistan Islamic Group (KIG), the Kurdistan Islamic Movement, the Kurdistan Communist Party and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) which has opened offices in the area since an agreement reached in 2001.

a. Regional authorities (in the Governorates of Sulaymaniyah, Erbil and Dohuk)

Elections to the Kurdistan National Assembly (KNA) were held on 30 January 2005 alongside the national and Governorate elections.

The KNA election brought together the two major political parties in Northern Iraq: the PUK and the KDP. These two groups fought a civil war in the mid 1990s that killed and displaced thousands and ultimately divided the region between the two parties, with the KDP controlling the western region from its headquarters in Erbil (former KRG Erbil) and the PUK controlling the southeast from its headquarters in Sulaymaniyah (former KRG Sulaymaniyah). As in the national elections, the KDP and the PUK (together with a large number of smaller parties) ran as a joint list known as the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan. The alliance received 1,570,663 votes, or 90 percent, and holds 104 of the 111 seats in the KNA. The members of the alliance negotiated each party's representation in advance, with the PUK and KDP getting 41 seats each. The elections to the KNA paved the way for the unification of the two administrations.

On 29 May 2005, Massoud Barzani, the leader of the KDP, was appointed President of the KRG, and the first meeting of the KNA was held on 4 June 2005. After repeated announcements about merging the two distinct administrations in a phased manner, the two administrations remained divided until early 2006. An agreement between the PUK and the KDP on the joint administration of the KRG was finally reached on 21 January 2006. Under the agreement, the parties decided that KDP Head and Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani retains the Presidency, while Nechirvan Barzani from the KDP serves as Prime Minister. The PUK's Adnan Mufti was appointed as Speaker of the KNA until the next election of the KNA at the end of 2007, when the parties will switch control of the offices of the Prime Minister and the Speaker respectively. Furthermore, a new post of Vice-President was established and filled by the PUK politburo executive chief Kosrat Rasul Ali. The Vice-President will also serve as the Deputy Commander-in-Chief of the Peshmerga Forces of the Kurdistan Region.

The seat of the KRG is in Erbil. According to the new power-sharing agreement, the KDP will head/heads the KRG Ministries of Finance, Peshmerga Affairs, Higher Education, Agriculture, Martyrs, Culture, Electricity, Natural Resources, Municipalities, Sports and Youth as well as the Ministry for Extra-Regional Affairs. The PUK oversees the Interior, Justice, Education, Health, Social Affairs, Water Resources, Transportation, Reconstruction, Planning and Human Rights ministries. The KRG Ministries of Finance, Peshmerga Affairs, Justice and Interior should unite within one year. (7) The KIU, the KIG as well as the Turkmen and Chaldo-Assyrian parties are heading the remaining ministries.

The Permanent Constitution, approved in a referendum in October 2005, provides for the adoption of a Regional Constitution defining the structure of the Regional Government and its areas of jurisdiction. The Regional Government can exercise its authority provided that exercise does not conflict with the Permanent Constitution (Article 119). After months of intense debate between different parliamentary blocks, a draft of the Regional Constitution was finalized at the end of August 2006. Controversial issues concerned the status of Islam in the Regional Constitution, the borders of the Kurdistan Region and its governing system. The Regional Constitution sets Islamic principles as one of the major sources of legislation despite opposition by secular groups and women's organizations. Despite initial reports that Kirkuk would be proclaimed capital of the Kurdistan Region in the constitution, Erbil has been designated regional capital. The draft states that Kirkuk and other disputed areas are part of the Kurdistan Region and that the boundaries of the Kurdistan Region shall be set in accordance with Article 140 of the Permanent Constitution. The draft also gives the Kurdish people the right of self-determination. According to Adnan Mufti, Speaker of the KNA, the draft Regional Constitution will soon be delivered to the KNA for ratification. It must also be submitted to a regional referendum in the three Northern Governorates of Erbil, Sulaymaniyah and Dohuk before it can enter into force. (8)

b. Governorate authorities

The governing body of the Governorate of Sulaymaniyah is the Governorate Council, also elected on 30 January 2005. Its 41 seats are divided among four parties: the PUK holds 28 seats, the KDP five seats, the KIU has five seats and the KIG three seats. The 30 January 2005 elections also led to the appointment of Governor Dana Ahmad Majid and the Chairperson of the Council, Sherzad Abdul-Hafiz.

c. National Authorities

In the elections for the 275-member Transitional National Assembly on 30 January 2005, the PUK joined with the KDP and smaller parties to form the Democratic Patriotic Alliance of Kurdistan. The Kurdish alliance came second in the elections with 25 percent of the votes (75 seats) and PUK founder and Secretary-General, Jalal Talabani, became the President of Iraq on 6 April 2005.

A second round of National Assembly (Council of Representatives) elections was held on 15 December 2005. The results show that Iraqis again cast their ballots along sectarian or ethnic lines: the Shiite coalition (United Iraqi Alliance) had again dominated the voting, but is short of a majority, holding 128 of the 275 seats. Kurdish parties (Kurdistan Gathering) won 53 seats and the main Sunni Arab bloc (Tawafoq Iraqi Front) won 44, giving them a much stronger political voice than they had before.(9) In spite of complaints by some of the leading parties, the polls were run in accordance with international electoral standards (10) and were accompanied by only limited violence. Sunnis, who had boycotted the January 2005 elections, did participate in large numbers and the overall turnout was relatively high (around 70% overall in the country and over 80% in the Governorate of Sulaymaniyah). The Kurdish Alliance won a clear majority of the votes cast in the Governorate (13 seats) but lost votes to the KIU (2 seats).

After six months of negotiations a national unity government was agreed between the United Iraqi Alliance, Tawafoq Iraqi Front, Kurdistan Gathering and Iraqi National List, under the leadership of Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. (11) PUK-leader Jalal Talabani is the President of the Republic of Iraq.

In both the January and the December 2005 national elections, Iraqis living abroad in a number of countries (including Iran, Syria and Jordan) were able to participate through an 'out of country' voting system.

d. Referendum on Permanent Constitution

A referendum on the draft Permanent Constitution was held on 15 October 2005. The Kurdish alliance representatives were full participants in the preparation of the Permanent Constitution. Some Sulaymaniyah citizens expressed dissatisfaction with the draft Permanent Constitution, stating that it did not fully satisfy Kurdish aspirations for independence. However, the draft was generally felt to offer the best prospect for autonomy and self-rule currently available and the Sulaymaniyah electorate voted strongly in favour of the Permanent Constitution. According to the IECI, 98.96% of the voters in Sulaymaniyah Governorate voted in favour of the draft Permanent Constitution and 1.04% voted to reject it.(12) Under a compromise reached before the referendum, it was agreed that the new Council of Representatives would consider amendments to the Permanent Constitution within four months (Article 142 of the Permanent Constitution). Amendments agreed will have to be approved in a popular referendum. The referendum will be successful if it is approved by a majority of the voters and if not rejected by two-thirds of the voters in three or more Governorates. Issues at stake include federalism and the distribution of oil.


(2) General information sources include: MoPDC, Governorate Office, Statistics Office and media.

(3) MoPDC/UNDP, Iraq Living Conditions Survey, April 2005,

(4) UNAMI, Geographic Maps - Sulaymaniyah, 22 July 2003, Note that the District of

Sharazoor has only been created post-2003 and to date no updated maps indicating all districts of Sulaymaniyah Governorate are available.

(5) Political information sources include: IECI, Iraqi Authorities, MoHR/Sulaymaniyah and media.

(6) See Article 53(A) of the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), which continues to be valid under the Permanent Constitution (see Article 141). Article 53(A) TAL states: The Kurdistan Regional Government is recognized as the official government of the territories that were administered by the that government on 19 March 2003 in the Governorates of Dohuk, Arbil, Sulaimaniya, Kirkuk, Diyala and Neneveh. The term 'Kurdistan Regional Government' shall refer to the Kurdistan National Assembly, the Kurdistan Council of Ministers, and the regional judicial authority in the Kurdistan region.

(7) Kurdistan Regional Government, Kurdistan Regional Government Unification Agreement, paras 1-5, 21 January 2006, =70. For a full list of the KRG cabinet, inaugurated on 7 May 2006, see Kurdistan Regional Government, Ministers of the new unified cabinet, 7 May 2006,

(8) KUNA, Final draft for Kurdistan constitution to be submit to regional parliament, 31 August 2006,; The Globe, Kurdistan constitution recognizes Islam as a source of legislation, 29 August 2006,; The Globe, Kurdistan Constitution paves way for independence, 22 August 2006,; Women's e-News, Iraqi Kurdish Women Voice Hopes for Constitution, 25 April 2006,

(9) IECI, Certification of the Council of Representatives Elections Final Results, 10 February 2006,

(10) International Mission for Iraqi Elections, Final Report on the December 15, 2005, Iraqi Council of Representatives Elections, 12 April 2006,; IECI, Statement No. 39, Board of Commissioners Decisions on Complaints Regarding the Council of Representatives Elections, 16 January 2006,[1].edited.pdf.

(11) For a list of cabinet members see BBC, Who's who in Iraq's new cabinet, 22 May 2006,

(12) IECI, Certification of the Constitutional Referendum Final Results, 25 October 2005,

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