Washington Kurdish Institute
October 3, 2017
On October 3, 2017 the Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani known as Mam Jalal (Uncle Jalal) passed away in a hospital in Berlin- Germany. The Washington Kurdish Institute (WKI) expresses warmest condolences to the people of the Kurdistan and the world on this loss. Talabani will always remian an inspiration for the WKI to defend the rights of the Kurdish people in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey.
Mam Jalal is the son of Sheik Hisamadeen of Sheik Nuri, the son of Sheik Ghafour. He was born in Kalkan village at the foot of Kosrat Mountain, which overlooks Dukan Lake. He spent most years of his childhood in that village, where he completed elementary school. Later, his father became head of the Talabani Shrine, or Takiya, in Koya.
Ever since childhood, Mam Jalal showed signs of true, strong leadership. For instance, he always was ahead of his peers in attending funerals and other social events. Also, every morning when the students lined up in the schoolyard, Mam Jalal was chosen by his teachers to perform the national anthem and read national poems. He actively took part in school activities such as performing in the theatre and reading articles. From these childhood experiences, the idea of nationalism in Mam Jalal blossomed.
In 1945, when Mam Jalal was only 13, he read a very enthusiastic statement during a popular event arranged in Koya amid the Nawroz Festival, an event which was then banned by consecutive Iraqi regimes. 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 read both for further education and leisure outside of the classroom.
Later that year, after the establishment of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) on August 16, he was influenced by that party and began his political activities among other students. He also wrote articles under an pseudonym, “Agir,” for Rizgari, a newspaper issued secretly by the party.
In 1947, he became a member of that party and successfully performed his political activities.
In 1948, after completing elementary school, he attended secondary school in Koya town. That year was known as the “Year of Uprising” as the Iraqi people repudiated the Portsmouth Treaty and overthrew Salih Jabir’s government and replaced it with a new government led by Muhammad Sadir.
During that period, expanded 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 famous poem “Martyrs Day”, a poem which was written for his late brother and other martyrs of the Uprising. That was a historic moment in the life of Mam Jalal and he was influenced by that great Iraqi poet ever since. Later, he began to establish a sincere friendship with al-Jawaheri.
In 1949, Mam Jalal was promoted to be the chief of the Koya Area 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 instead.
In 1951, he was arrested along with a number of his friends and sent to Mosul, where, despite this incident, 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 became the chief of the Kirkuk political organizations.
In 1952, he attended the college of law in Baghdad. During this time, the party’s pieces began to fall apart, yet Mam Jalal was able to adeptly repair 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 which 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.
During this period, he visited a number of countries such as the former Soviet Union and China.
In 1957, he visited Moscow and Syria, where he took the opportunity to meet Syrian Kurds. After his return, he became the chief of Xabati Kurdistan which was secretly formed in Sulaimani.
During the first day after victory in the July 14, 1958 Revolution, he supervised the popular uprisings in Sulaimani. Later he went back to Baghdad, where he continued to work with Rizgari magazine.
In 1959, he was elected as member of the KDP central committee and again contributed to the publication of the Xabat newspaper, which was published in Arabic. For Xabat, he published his articles under an pseudonym, “Perot.”
In 1960, he was assigned to be the chief of the Sulaimani Branch of the PDK and he opened a capacity building training center for members of the party within Sulaimani.
Later, he was assigned to become editor-in-chief of a Kurdistan newspaper after the previous Kurdish paper was shut down by Iraqi authorities. During this assignment, he wrote an article in support of the late Mustafa Barzani and in protest over the brutal acts of the former Iraqi prime minister Abdul-Karem Qassim who accused Barzani of some alleged crimes. As a result, the Iraqi authorities issued an arrest warrant for Talabani and thus he went back to Sulaimani.
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 Sulaimani Branch of Peshmarge forces. Later he was assigned as general commander of the Kurdistan Peshmarga forces.
During that revolution, he outlined many military plans and conducted ambushes, leading to the liberation of many parts of the outskirts of Sulaimani.
After the notorious February coup d’état in 1963, Mam Jalal was assigned as 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 promote the issues of the Kurdish people and gather support from European countries for the Kurdish revolution.
In 1964, he went back to Kurdistan and resumed commanding Rizgari Peshmarga Forces.
In 1967, he took part in the Arab socialists forum held in Algeria, in which he issued a well-informed statement on the status of the Kurdish people, the legitimate rights of the Kurdish people, and the road 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 paid a visit to a number of countries such as Lebanon, Syria, and Egypt. After the Algiers Agreement between Iraq and Iran in 1975, Mam Jalal had to stay in those countries.
On June 6th, 1975, he and some of his friends co-founded the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Damascus, Syria, which was later officially announced on June, 1st, 1976. He was assigned as the Secretary-General of the PUK.
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 Iraqi Baathist regime.
After the liberation of Iraq, he was elected as 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. He was the first non-Arab president of Iraq.
In 2010, he was re-elected for a second term as Iraqi president.
On 18 December 2012, Talabani suffered a stroke which resulted in his absence from politics. On October 3, 2017 he passed away in a hospital in Berlin, Germany.