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Jalal Talabani Dies at the Age of 83

Jalal Talabani Dies at the Age of 83

Wednesday, 4 October, 2017 - 07:30
Iraq's ex-President Jalal Talabani. Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party announced its leader Jalal Talabani has passed away in hospital in Berlin, Germany, aged 83, after his health had deteriorated. He often went to Germany for medical treatment.


In 2005, Talabani became the first Kurdish president of Iraq and remained in position for two consecutive terms. He stepped down in 2014, two years after suffering a stroke that led him to seek medical treatment in Germany. He then returned to Sulaymaniyah in Kurdistan to continue his recovery.


He withdrew from public life after suffering a stroke and was in Germany seeking health care and had reportedly slipped into a coma earlier in the day.


According to the PUK, his condition rapidly deteriorated on Tuesday.


Jalal Hisamadin Talabani was born on November 12, 1933 in the village of Kalkan near Mount Kosrat. His father was a Qadiriyya Sheikh in Koy Sanjag, where Talabani attended grade school.


The former president was politically active from an early age as he joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in 1947, at age 14. in 1954, he was elected member of the political bureau of the party and was close to Mulla Mustapha Barzani, former leader of KDP.


Throughout his life he has been a journalist, Peshmerga, and politician. The PUK said he was “often seen as a unifying elder statesman who could soothe tempers among Iraq’s Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds.” 


He graduated with a law degree from Baghdad University in 1959 and was called to serve in the Iraqi army where he commanded a tank unit. In 1961, he became editor in chief of Kurdistan newspaper. 


Talabani played a major role in Kurdistan’s September Uprising of 1961 serving on the Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah fronts. He was a military leader during clashes against Iraqi troops in Kurdish cities.


After the toppling of the government of Abdul Karim Kassim, he led in 1963 the Kurdish delegations in the negotiations with the new Prime Minister Abdul Salam Aref.


That same year, Talabani headed to Egypt and met with former Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser, visited Algeria and several European country to mobilize support for the Kurdish cause.


He married Hero, daughter of Kurdish poet Ibrahim Ahmad, in 1970. The couple has two sons: Bafel and Qubad who is the deputy prime minister of the Kurdistan Region.


In 1975, he left the KDP and established the PUK under the motto: peace, democracy, human rights and self-determination. As head of the PUK, he continued to play a leading role in the Kurdish struggle, attempting negotiations with Saddam Hussein and establishing the Kurdistan Front with Idris Barzani in 1986.


Few years later, and in 1992, along with Masoud Barzani, Talabani established a regional government in Kurdistan. 


Talabani played a profound role in leading the Iraqi opposition until the toppling of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003. Later in November, he was elected member of the council that ruled the country during the transitional period.


Following the announcement of his death, flags were lowered at half staff and President Masoud Barzani declared a national week of mourning.


In a televised speech, Barzani extended his condolences and mourned the death of "a friend, brother, and a strong supporter.”


Barzani added: "We are profoundly saddened by the death of President Mam Jalal... The loss of a leader like Mam Jalal is a great loss to our nation and [his place] cannot be filled easily."


He conveyed his condolences to the Talabani family, his widow and sons.


Talabani was usually referred to as Mam Jalal by Kurds, meaning uncle. 


Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi also expressed his sadness at Talabani’s death, describing the Kurdish leader as a “faithful partner” in the new Iraq.


“In these sensitive times we’re more than ever in need of his moderation, wisdom and insistence on the unity of Iraq and Arab-Kurdish brotherhood in a united Iraq. We’ll always remember his description of the people of Iraq as a wreath of flowers of different varieties,” Abadi stated.


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