Jalal Talabani

Jalal Talabani

President of Iraq
Date of Birth: 12.11.1933
Country: Iraq

Biography of Jalal Talabani

Jalal Talabani, a prominent Kurdish and Iraqi political figure, served as the President of Iraq from April 6, 2005. He was born into a local sheikh's family and began actively participating in public and political life at the age of 13, leading the Kurdish student organization "Union of Kurdish Students." In 1950, he became a member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and later served as the party's organizer in Kirkuk and a member of its Central Committee and Political Bureau. He studied at the Faculty of Law at Baghdad University from 1953 to 1958. During this time, he also represented Kurdish students at the Beijing and Moscow Youth and Student Festivals, where he first met Mustafa Barzani.

In 1957, Talabani became the editor-in-chief of the newspaper "Struggle of Kurdistan," which was illegally published in Sulaymaniyah. After the 1958 revolution, he served as the editor of the KDP publication "Khabat." In March 1961, facing criminal prosecution, he fled from Baghdad to Kurdistan and went into hiding. During the September Uprising of 1961, Talabani formed a guerrilla unit in the Mawat area and led a successful operation against an armored car carrying 30,000 dinars destined for Sulaymaniyah. In 1962, he became one of the prominent and popular rebel commanders, known for his energy and military abilities. After a ceasefire agreement was reached with the first Ba'athist regime in February 1963, Barzani sent him as his representative and later as the head of the Kurdish delegation to Baghdad. As a member of the Iraqi delegation, Talabani visited Nasser in Cairo and Ben Bella in Algeria, thus beginning his international diplomatic career. Following the resumption of hostilities, he embarked on a diplomatic mission to Europe and later assumed command of the entire Southern Front upon his return.

This career was interrupted by the split in the KDP in 1964. Talabani sided with the party's intelligentsia and the first secretary of the party, Ibrahim Ahmed (his future father-in-law), against Barzani, which led to his forced exile to Iran. After an unsuccessful attempt to reconcile with Barzani, he declared himself in Baghdad in 1966 and, with the government's support, founded the "True KDP." He waged armed struggle against Barzani's supporters. After Barzani and Saddam Hussein signed a peace agreement on March 11, 1970, the "True KDP" was disarmed and dissolved, and Talabani and his followers confessed their loyalty to Barzani and were granted amnesty. Shortly after, Talabani left for abroad. Masoud Barzani, the former head of the Kurdish intelligence service "Parastin," claimed that this was due to Talabani's financial affairs, as he had deposited over 4 million dollars from the party's fund into his personal accounts in Kuwait. The collapse of the September Uprising in March 1975 found him serving as the assistant representative of the KDP in Beirut. In this situation, Talabani claimed that the uprising's failure was caused by Barzani's deviation from the principles of revolutionary and anti-imperialist struggle, and he emerged as a figure who was able to unite the newly formed leftist organizations. With the patronage of the Syrian authorities hostile to Baghdad, he organized their congress in Damascus, leading to the establishment of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) on June 1, 1975. In May 1976, the PUK resumed guerrilla warfare in Kurdistan.

Talabani's main base was his hometown Sulaymaniyah and the Soran region, which was in opposition to Barzani's stronghold in the northwest (Bahdinan). With the start of the Iran-Iraq War in 1980, Talabani received support from the Iranians in his fight against the Baghdad regime (with a hiatus in 1984 when a ceasefire was reached between him and Saddam Hussein). In the final months of the Iran-Iraq War and particularly after its conclusion, Iraqi forces launched a massive offensive against the Kurdish guerrillas. By autumn 1989, the last PUK peshmerga units were forced to leave Iraq.

In March 1991, following the defeat of Saddam Hussein's forces by the international coalition, Talabani and Masoud Barzani led a general Kurdish uprising that resulted in the liberation of almost the entire Kurdistan region. However, on April 1, Iraqi forces launched a massive offensive against the rebels. This led to a mass exodus of Kurds to neighboring countries. In the autumn, Kurdistan was declared a "safe zone" by the UN, and Iraqi forces were expelled from Sulaymaniyah, Erbil, and Dohuk by NATO forces. Under their protection, elections were held in 1992 for the National Assembly (parliament) of Iraqi Kurdistan, with 49 seats going to the PUK and 51 to the KDP. However, conflicts between the two parties led to Talabani, with the support of Iran, attempting a coup and seizing power in "Free Kurdistan" in 1994. This resulted in a civil war that lasted until 1998 when a peace agreement was reached during a meeting in Washington with active mediation from the US administration. Nevertheless, "Free Kurdistan" remained divided into two parts: the KDP-controlled area (Erbil-Dohuk) and the PUK-governed area in Sulaymaniyah. In 2002, the Kurdish parliament was reunified, but the unification of governments only occurred in 2006. In April 2003, after the fall of Baghdad, Talabani's forces seized the "oil capital" of Iraq, Kirkuk. Following this, Talabani and Barzani became members of the Iraqi Governing Council. In 2005, Talabani became the President of Iraq with active support from his rival Barzani, who, according to the agreement, became the President of Kurdistan.

Among the Kurds, Talabani is known as "Mam Jalal" or "Uncle Jalal." He is characterized by his energy, undeniable diplomatic abilities, boundless ambition, and the trait that even his supporters describe as "Machiavellianism." Talabani has authored several books, mostly dedicated to the Kurdish national liberation movement.