Iranian film Disturbs Relations Between Erbil and Tehran

Salah Hasan Baban
Kurdish-Iraqi Journalist

Kurdish leaders and their supporters are up in arms over a short Iranian movie showing a “weak” Massoud Barzani, while glorifying Qassem Soleimani.

With scenes described by many Kurds as “shocking,” Tawakkul is a 9-minute film about the rescue of Massoud Barzani, Kurdistan former president and current leader of The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), by Qassem Soleimani, the late commander of the Quds Force. The film was released by a production company affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

The movie shows Barzani afraid, confused and abandoned by his Western allies, the Americans, French and Turks, when his adjutants inform him about the progress of ISIS towards Erbil. This was in August 2011 when ISIS attempted to subjugate Erbil before moving into other Kurdish regions.

KDP leaders and their supporters are up in arms over the film. According to Sirwan Barzani, for example, it “targets the Kurdish commanders in general, and Massoud Barzani especially.” Sirwan, the brother of the region’s current president, Nechirvan Barzani, and a nephew of Massoud Barzani, was a commander in the Gweir region adjacent to Erbil, which constituted a threat to the Kurdish capital when it got under control of ISIS

Having taken Gweir, ISIS tried to occupy Erbil. The film narrates how Massoud Barzani was let down by those believed to be his loyal friends. This ultimately prompted him to contact Soleimani, asking him for help to prevent Erbil from falling in the grip of ISIS.

Leaders of the KDP and its supporters are up in arms over the Iranian film.

Soleimani reassured him on the phone by saying: “Hold on for one night, and I will come to you tomorrow.”

Following that scene, a small plane appears at the end of the film, from which the Iranian general, accompanied by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and a group of 70 combatants with light weapons appear in Erbil. They are warmly welcomed by Barzani.

One of the shocking elements of the film is showing Barzani as a weak character. In the film he appears frustrated being left alone without support. This representation contradicts what his party, supporters and media outlets believe and promote.

Masoud Barzani

“The film and its events are imaginary Persian scenarios and narratives that are unilateral and unsubstantiated just like the old myths,” said Ali Awni, a commander in Barzani’s party. “The coalition forces supported us, and the Iranians provided us with military equipment, including mortar bombs, but they were expired and we did not benefit from them at the time.”

“Masoud Barzani thanked the Iranians and the coalition for helping us in the war against ISIS,” Awni continued. “However, this does not mean they can accuse us of supporting ISIS as was shown in the film, while we were the ones to suffer greatly during this war. In fact, there are more than 2,000 martyrs and thousands of wounded who still suffer from disabilities amongst us.”

Awni then accused those whom he called “the vanquished and the fugitives” of inventing stories to satisfy their “complexes.”

All Kurds are upset with Iran’s policies mocking Kurdish officials, namely Massoud Barzani,” said Awni. “Barzani is considered a great reference for Kurds not only in Iraqi Kurdistan but across the region. “Why are you bullying your neighbours, while you remain silent when Israel attacks you in Syria,” Awni asked.

After the screening of the film, the KDP had no choice but to push Barzani’s nephew Sirwan, commander of the Gweir axis, to appear in a private interview on Kurdish channel Rudaw, close to his brother, the current president of the region, Nechirvan.

The interview highlighted the “heroics” of Sirwan’s forces at that time. However, Sirwan angered supporters of The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) for downplaying the role of PUK counter-terrorism units, commanded by Lahore Sheikh Genki, the party’s current co-chair.

Videos filmed by Kurdish counter-terrorism combatants show how they entered the Makhmour district and imposed control over the most prominent axis within it.

In one video a combatant called Pishtuan appeared saying: “Now we are in Silo Makhmour. We liberated the district from ISIS after the escape of Massoud Barzani’s forces.” He was later killed in an operation against ISIS In their response to Sirwan Barzani, the Lahore Sheikh Genki Forces published a video on their Facebook page capturing the moment they stormed the district near Erbil and liberated it completely. This, without any help of Barzani’s peshmerga.

At the same time, KDP leader Masoud Barzani did not deny in his TV interviews that Iran extended a helping hand to the region during the confrontation against ISIS. Yet, he denied exaggerations about the phone call between him and Soleimani during that period

One of the shocking signs of the film is dealing with Barzani as a weak character.

The government’s Department of Foreign Relations sent a letter to the General Consulate of Iran in Erbil, protesting against the distorted facts shown in the movie. It emphasized that this matter is not in the interest of good relations between the two countries.

“Qassem Soleimani used to respect the leaders of the Kurdistan region, and Iran maintains historical relations with the Kurdish leaders,” said Iran’s Consul General Nasrallah Rashnudi in a TV interview. “Barzani knows that we are against such films. There are parties who want to disturb our relations. An investigation was launched into the production of this film

Likewise, the representative of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Tehran, Nazem al-Dabbagh, submitted a protest addressed to the Iranian government. In an official response Iran said not to accept the film and its content, Dabbagh told Daraj.

Translated from Arabic by Fatima Jaber.

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