|Jalal Talabani is the current leader of the PUK and the president of Iraq (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Talabani is the founder and secretary general of one of the main Kurdish political parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). He was a prominent member of the Interim Iraq Governing Council, which was established following the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime by the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Talabani has been an advocate for Kurdish rights and democracy in Iraq for more than 50 years. Apart from his mother language, Kurdish, Talabani is fluent in Arabic, Persian and English. Talabani is a member of the Socialist International.
Talabani was born in 1933 in Talaban Village and descends from the Talabani tribe that has produced many leading social figures including Riza Talabani. He received his elementary and intermediate school education in Koya (Koysanjak) and his high school education in Erbil andKirkuk. When he was in his teens Talabani's peers began referring to him as "Mam" Jalal, mam meaning paternal uncle in Kurdish, and the Kurds have called him by this affectionate name ever since. In 1957, during the final year of his studies for a degree in law at Baghdad University, he was expelled because of his political activities. He completed his degree two years later.
Rights for Kurds
When in September 1961, the Kurdish uprising for the rights of the Kurds in western Iraq was declared against the Baghdad government of Abdul Karim Qassem, Talabani took charge of the Kirkuk and Silemani battle fronts and organized and led separatist movements in Mawat, Rezan and the Karadagh regions. In March 1962, he led a coordinated offensive that brought about the liberation of the district of Sharbazher from Iraqi government forces. When not engaged in fighting in the early and mid 1960s, Talabani undertook numerous diplomatic missions, representing the Kurdish leadership at meetings in Europe and the Middle East.
The Kurdish separatist movement collapsed in March 1975 after Iran ended their support in exchange for a border agreement with Iraq. This agreement was the 1975 Algiers Agreement, where Iraq gave up claims to the Shatt al-Arab(Arvand Rūd) waterway and Khuzestan, which later became the basis for the Iran-Iraq war. Believing it was time to give a new direction to the Kurdish separatists and to the Kurdish society, Talabani, with a group of Kurdish intellectuals and activists, founded the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Yekiaiti Nishtimani Kurdistan). In 1976, he began organizing an armed campaign for Kurdish independence inside Iraqi Kurdistan. During the 1980s, Talabani sided with Iranian Kurdistan and led a Kurdish struggle from bases inside Iraq until the crackdown against Kurdish separatists from 1987 to 1988.
In 1991, he helped inspire a renewed effort for Kurdish independence. He negotiated a ceasefire with the Iraqi Ba'athist government that saved the lives of many Kurds and worked closely with the United States, UK, France and other countries to set up the safe haven in Iraqi Kurdistan. In 1992 theKurdistan Regional Government was founded. Talabani has pursued a negotiated settlement to the internecine problems plaguing the Kurdish movement, as well as the larger issue of Kurdish rights in the current regional context. He works closely with other Kurdish politicians as well as the rest of the Iraqi opposition factions. In close coordination with Massoud Barzani, Talabani and the Kurds played a key role as a partner of the U.S.-led Coalition in the invasion of Iraq. Talabani was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council that negotiated the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), Iraq's interim constitution. The TAL governed all politics in Iraq and the process of writing and adopting the final constitution.