Information on whether a Peshmerga who did not want to fight other Kurds, would be permitted to quit his fighting organization, and on his treatment after quitting the organization [IRQ25004.E]

The following information was provided during a 25 September 1996 telephone interview with the editor of the International Journal of Kurdish Studies in New York.

The source explained that in the last 20 years the meaning of the term Peshmerga has expanded from refering exclusively to a fighter to include several other tasks (administrative, domestic, maintainance, etc.) inherent to such organizations. Therefore, the term Peshmerga can refer to someone who carries out non-combat activities. To encourage loyalty and to include lower-status non-combat positions, the Kurdish factions now call all of their members "Peshmerga" without distinction. The source added that it would be difficult to know the rank or level of a Peshmerga because the Kurdish parties only introduced membership cards in 1992-1993, and without much success.

Generally, the ability to leave a Kurdish organization depends on whether or not it is involved in an armed confrontation and on the status (combattant or not) of the Peshmerga. In a period of armed confrontation, quitting a fighting organization would expose a combattant Peshmerga to retribution. A combattant Peshmerga in position of command with access to sensitive information who wished to leave his organization during a period of fighting because he did not want to fight other Kurds would face serious difficulties, such as imprisonment. The organizations have invested resources in training and arming combattant Peshmergas and they are not willing to let them quit during period of intense fighting like those that have taken place since 1994. The source added that combattant Peshmergas who informed their organizations before 1994 of their intention not to fight against other Kurds, would have had an opportunity to perform other tasks in the organization.

A non-combattant Peshmerga without access to sensitive material who intends to quit the organization would present a lower security risk. The source added that the person would have to provide an explanation to the organization, but would not be ill-treated.

The following information was provided during a 28 August 1996 telephone interview with an independent researcher who works as a consultant on Kurdish affairs for Minority Rights Group in London. The source travels extensively in the Middle East and in Northern Iraq.

The source stated that a combattant Peshmerga who refuses to fight when called upon by his party would face problems in Iraqi Kurdistan. The source added, however, that if the Peshmerga indicated his intention not to fight before 1993, he might have been discharged. Before 1993, a Peshmerga discharged would mainly face economic difficulties.

The following information was provided during a 24 September 1996 telephone interview with the director of the Kurdish Studies Program at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

In general, a Peshmerga who did not want to fight other Kurds would be permitted to quit his fighting organization. The source added that high-ranking Peshmerga officers in possession of sensitive military information would face difficulties leaving their organization. Ordinary soldiers would not face these difficulties because they would not have access to sensitive information. The source was not aware of any case where a Peshmerga was ill-treated because he refused to fight other Kurds.

For general information on human rights abuses in Iraqi Kurdistan, please consult the 28 February 1995 Amnesty International report entitled Iraq: Human Rights Abuses in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991. This report, which is available at your Regional Documentation Centre, provides background information on the Ministry for Pesh Merga Affairs on page 26, while Chapter 5 of the same report provides information on human rights abuses by political parties such as the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the DIRB within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum.


Independent researcher and consultant for Minority Rights Group, London, England. 28 August 1996. Telephone interview.

Director, Kurdish Studies Program, Florida State University, Tallahassee. 24 September 1996. Telephone interview.

Editor, the International Journal of Kurdish Studies , New York. 25 September 1996. Telephone interview.