Tazkia (Kurdistan Region of Iraq)

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Kurdistan map.jpg
Location: Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Definition: Letter of support based on party political membership, which grants members exclusive access to positions within the public service sector
Keywords: Iraq Kurdistan Region of Iraq Middle East MENA region Patronage Elite Influence Political party
Clusters: Domination Motivational ambivalence Co-optation Patron-client networks
Author: Hemn Namiq Jameel
Affiliation: Department of Law and International Relations, Soran University, Iraq
Website: Profile page at SU

By Hemn Namiq Jameel, Department of Law and International Relations, Soran University, Iraq

Tazkia is an Arabic word, which has a number of different meanings according to context. For instance, it can refer to a person who won an election without having any competitors, or to someone being confirmed as a successful candidate for a party position without any other contenders being considered (Omar 2008[1]).

In the context of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), the term has a political nuance and refers to a letter of support issued to the membership of the two ruling parties in the KRI, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). This letter grants members exclusive access to positions within the public service sector. It represents an informal practice which has developed over the past two decades to selectively distribute public services among supporters of the KDP and PUK.

A general introduction to the KRI governance experience is necessary to understand how tazkia works in the public sector arena. The 1994-1998 KDP and PUK civil war resulted in the division of the KRI institutions into two geographically divided administrations (Stansfield 2004[2]). This had a noticeable impact on the KRI governance model. The KDP Zone became known as the Yellow Zone, after the colour of the KDP flag, and the PUK Zone was identified as the Green Zone, after the colour the PUK flag. The administrative polarisation started in 1997 in the aftermath of the civil war, and officially ended with the unification process of both partisan Kurdistan Regional Governments (KRG) in 2005 (Ala'Aldeen 2013[3]). However, the repercussions of the civil war continue to influence events. Both ruling parties acted independently in the process of empowering their armed forces, building their security forces and in developing their bureaucracies in their respective zones on the basis of political affiliation (Knights and Metz 2014[4]). This, in turn, provided fertile ground for tazkia to develop and expand within KRI public institutions.

Description: ‘This caricature depicts that application of tazkia by public office holders.’Source:[1]

Since the administrative division of 2005, the provision of most public services in the KRI institutions has taken place through these politicised procedures. Both parties have provided a wide range of opportunities for their members with regard to the way in which public institutions selectively reward them with services and positions.

The KDP favoured its members with a tazkia letter, which enabled its members to enjoy a variety of public services in the Yellow Zone; the PUK acted similarly in assisting its own members in the Green Zone. Despite the unification process of 2005, the two parties maintained their own influence within their respective zones and domination of key areas, including security and the military, as well as public finance has remained almost unchanged (Mala Baxtyar 2015[5]).

Over the past twenty years the KDP and PUK have enjoyed nearly absolute control over the Yellow Zone and Green Zone respectively, and tazkia has continued to be the most common method used by both parties to strengthen their organizational bases in the KRI and to widen their circle of support amongst the people. In both zones officials have issued tazkia letters to their members to enable them to gain a variety of public services. Both parties have interfered in governmental institutions in order to provide public jobs, public positions, pensions and land to their supporters (Ameen 2009[6]). The tazkia letter has been the key to providing access to these services. How does it work?

After unification, the key decision makers of both the former zones were the key leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Governments’ cabinets. They continued to generate informal procedures through which only people with tazkia could access a number of public services. Observers who investigated the example of public appointments noted that tazkia has been the only method by which people could gain access to the public sector to obtain any kind of public job. Although there is a lack of accurate data concerning the numbers of people who obtain public jobs through tazkia, it is reported that during the electoral campaign of 2009, the PUK alone provided public jobs to more than 20,000 people within its former Green Zone using this informal practice. Furthermore, in 2010, at the request of the KDP and PUK, more than 20,000 new employees were appointed to different government institutions on the basis of partisanship, family loyalty and localism (Ala'Aldeen 2013 p. 210[7]).

The intervention of both ruling parties in public affairs through tazkia has caused a number of problems for the KRG. For instance, officials admitted that by the end of 1992, the KRG paid salaries to around 130,000 people; today, this figure has increased to approximately 1,344,000 (Rudaw 2015[8]). According to this evaluation, the huge increase in the number of people in receipt of public salaries, together the lack of institutionalised recruitment procedures, suggest that tazkia has contributed greatly to the high overstaffing levels within the KRG. Although the KRG established a system for appointments in 2011, the system proved to be unsustainable and was applied for a limited period only between 2011 and 2012. In 2013 the new KRG cabinet appointed more than 15,000 new employees, in direct contravention of the regulations of newly formed system, and without advertising job vacancies (Sadiq 2014[9]). The remarkable appointment procedure of 2013 showed that the domination of the KDP and PUK prevents KRG institutions from functioning impartially and from providing public services without political affiliation or bias.

The intervention of political parties in public institutions, which has been obvious and absolute, has damaged the KRI model of governance. People outside the KDP and PUK feel alienated by the privileged access to key public services given to tazkia holders. It is a serious challenge for the governance of the KRI, acknowledged even by the executive leaders of the KDP and PUK (Kurdistani New 2008[10] and KRP 2012[11]). Although the current situation appears to have improved compared with the situation ten years ago, the dominance of the KDP and PUK over public bodies is apparent and tazkia is still required for access to a large number of public institutions. Comprehensive political and administrative reform is required to institutionalise public bodies in the KRI and to pave the way for the application of universal norms, which may eventually reduce the power of tazkia as well as other forms of political intervention and informal practices in the KRI.


  1. Omar, A.M. 2008. The Contemporary dictionary of Arabic language (in Arabic). Qairo: Alaam Al Kutub.
  2. Stansfield, G.R. 2004. Iraqi Kurdistan: Political development and emergent democracy. Routledge: London and New York.
  3. Ala'Aldeen, D.A. 2013. Nation Building and the system of self-governance in Kurdistan Region (in Kurdish). Erbil: Aras.
  4. Knights, M. and Metz, S. 2014. Last Man Standing: U.S. Security Cooperation and Kurdistan's Peshmerga, The Washington Institute, Washington, DC.
  5. Mala Baxtyar. 2015. 'National Horizon and partisan fog’ (in Kurdish), Kurdistani New, 6573, 07:01, p. 2-3. http://en.calameo.com/read/0001639138df048adae2b
  6. Ameen, N.M. 2009. Party and Government: the case of Kurdistan (in Kurdish), http://www.sbeiy.com/ku/Dosya_Rozhnama_detail.aspx?ArticleID=236&CatID=14&Cat=dosya
  7. Ala'Aldeen, D.A. 2013. Nation Building and the system of self-governance in Kurdistan Region (in Kurdish). Erbil: Aras.
  8. Rudaw. 2015. The talk of Dr Roj Nuri Shawais the KDP Politburo member at Meri Forum in Erbil (In Kurdish), http://rudaw.net/sorani/kurdistan/0511201519
  9. Sadiq, H. 2014. Bas reveals a secret appointment of 15000 in 2013 (in Kurdish), http://basnews.com/so/News/Details/mod/27706
  10. Kurdistani New. 2008. 'The project of Jalal Talabani to organise the relationship between the KRG and political parties, the PUK in particular’ (in Kurdish), Kurdistani Nwe, 4757, 28:12
  11. KRP. 2012. A report of the committee of the KRP president reform package, http://krp.org/kurdish/articledisplay.aspx?id=3VzcSyKniyU=