Mr. Jalal Talabani, former Iraqi President and co-founder of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), has passed away in a Berlin hospital on 3 October 2017 at the age of 83. He was a high admirer of the Eritrean struggle for national independence, and friend of the Eritrean patriot, Osman Saleh Sabbe. Today, both EPDP and Talabani's PUK are members of the Progress Alliance formed in 2013. At this solemn moment, the EPDP extends its sympathies and condolences to the PUK and the bereaved family of this promiment Kurdish-Iraqi leader. May his soul rest in peace.
In the mid-1990s, I (the writer of this brief note) had the opportunity of meeting Mr. Talabani at a number of official and non-official occasions in the major Kurdish cities of Erbil and Suleimaniya and his childhood village outside the city of Suleimaniya. And every time, Mr. Talabani would shout : "Wolde Ammar over here" and he would insist that I take a seat beside him so that we could take some time "to talk more about the wonderful Eritrea." (At that time, every friend expected Eritrea to become a model state for the entire region.)
Dinner & chat with Mr. Talabani. When we celebrated Eritrea's accession to statehood in May 1993, Mr. Talabani was represented at our party by his representative in Suleimaniya City.
Mr. Talabani highly admired the tenacity of Eritreans in a difficult struggle, and he repeatedly attested that the Eritrean struggle was a good example to be emulated by the Kurdish people. Mr. Talabani knew closely the late Osman Saleh Sabbe and said he learned many lessons from him in building friendships for national struggles without reliable friends.
It is highly probable that his remains will be taken for burial in Suleimaniya,Iraqi Kurdistan.
Printed below are excerpts from agency reports about the late Jalal Talabani.
Mr. Jalal Talabani was one of the country’s most powerful and unifying leaders and a man who spent much of his life fighting for the cause of the Kurds of northern Iraq. He had long struggled with his health and was often treated abroad. In 2008, he underwent heart surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. He suffered a stroke in 2012 and stepped down as president in 2014. He was elected to the Iraqi presidency three times. As a Kurd, Mr. Talabani was the first non-Arab president of an Arab nation.
A good-humored, portly man with a soft smile and a mustache, Mr. Talabani was nonetheless a pragmatic and savvy political operator who knew when to play down his fervent Kurdish nationalism. He had been a frequent emissary to world capitals for the Kurdish people before and after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in the U.S.-led invasion of 2003.
He was popularly known as Mam Jalal, Kurdish for Uncle Jalal, a nickname ascribed to him in his youth because of his seriousness and that later reflected the affection of his supporters and even some political rivals.
Many in Iraq have wondered whether the crisis would have occurred if Mr. Talabani had still been active in politics. At the very least, they said, he might have been able to defuse it. At various moments in the nation’s turbulent history, he was able to bring Iraq’s warring factions to the negotiating table.
Before his death, Mr. Talabani was trying to mediate a deepening political crisis among Iraq’s three main groups — Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds — who are all embroiled in a contest for power and territory more than six years after the departure of U.S. troops.
From an early age, he showed a revolutionary streak, founding the underground Kurdish Student Union when he was 13.
By 1961, he began to focus solely on the cause of Kurdish resistance against the Iraqi government. Mr. Talabani was a battlefront commander and led separatist movements in several Kurdish regions. When not on the front lines, he traveled on numerous diplomatic missions, becoming the face of Kurdish resistance to Europeans and across the Middle East. Mr. Talabani helped build a political footprint in the new Iraq.