Islamic Movement of Kurdistan

Formed1987
DisbandedGroup is active.
UpdatedAugust 13, 2014

Narrative Summary

In 1987, a group of Kurdish Islamic scholars under the leadership of Shaykh Uthman Abd-Aziz created the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK). [1]

Following electoral losses in the early 1990s, the IMK attempted to solidify its base of power by establishing its own consultative shura (council) and system of law enforcement and providing health, education and social services to its members. [2] The IMK’s attempt to wrest political power from the two dominant parties in Iraqi Kurdistan, namely, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), eventually led to armed conflict between the PUK and the IMK in December 1993. However, this fighting was overshadowed within a year by a more serious armed conflict between the PUK and the KDP. During this period, the IMK often joined with the KDP to balance against the PUK. [3] Nevertheless, in 1998 the IMK decided to engage fully with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), allying with the PUK to become a part of the government. Because the KRG is a secular body, the more religious sects of the IMK opposed cooperation with the government and formed three splinter groups: Hamas, Tawhid, and the Secord Soran Front. Eventually, each of these factions broke away from the IMK, and then merged together to form the Tawhid United Front. [4]

In 1999 the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan merged with the armed Islamic group Al-Nahdah to form the Islamic Unity Movement in Kurdistan. However, this new coalition group broke down 2001 – thus, the IMK readopted its original name. [5]

The IMK competed in local elections in the spring of 2001 and netted around 20% of the vote in both the KDP- and PUK-controlled regions, and more than 50% in the Halabja area [6] In 2003, following the arrival of coalition forces in Iraq, the KRG disarmed the IMK; thereafter, the group apparently switched its focus to its role as a political party in the KRG. The IMK experienced moderate success in the 2005 national elections, winning .2% of the vote and thereby garnering two seats in the Interim National Assembly. [7]

However, the power of the IMK appears to be waning – in the Kurdistan provincial elections of 2013, it lost one of only two seats it held in the KRG. [8] In the 2014 elections, it received only 16,000 votes. While the IMK was once the third largest party in Kurdistan, falling right behind the PUK and the KDP in popularity. It is now not even considered a part of the top five political parties in Kurdistan. [9] [10] 

Leadership

  1. Sheikh Uthman Abd al-Aziz (1987 to 1999):
  2. Mullah Ali Abd al-Aziz Halabji (1999 to Unknown): After the death of Mullah Osman Abd-al-Aziz in 1999, his brother, Mullah Ali Abd-al-Aziz, assumed control of the IMK and joined the PUK’s half of the Kurdistan Regional Government, taking charge of the Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs, as well as the Ministry of Justice.[11]

Ideology & Goals

The Islamic Movement of Kurdistan is an Islamic, nationalist political party. It rejects the imposition of Shariah law. [12]

Name Changes

Designated/Listed

The IMK is not listed as a terrorist organization. 

Resources

While the IMK purportedly received the majority of its logistical and financial support from Iran, it has also received assistance from Saudi Arabia and the United States. [13] 

External Influences

Since its formation, Iran has always been a strong supporter of the IMK, both financially and logistically, exerting considerable influence over the IMK’s politics. Iran originally helped the establishment of the IMK to create an ally against the Baath party and a conduit through which it could project Islamic influence into Iraq. [14]

Geographical Locations

The Islamic Movement of Kurdistan is based in the Halabji region of Northern Iraq. [15]

Targets & Tactics


Political Activities

The IMK started as a political party, first participating in the Kurdistan provincial elections of 1991. However, the IMK did not experience any electoral success given the domination of the KDP and the PKU. As the IMK attempted to gain greater political influence through the provision of social services and religious education, it came into armed conflict with the PUK. However, it was only when the IMK decided to engage constructively with the PUK and the KRG in 1998 that it began to gain in the polls, both provincially and nationally. [16]

However, the power of the IMK has declined, as the group lost significant support as indicated by its performance in the 2013 and 2014 elections. The IMK fell from its position as the third largest party in Kurdistan during the late 1990s and early 2000s –  the IMK now does not even break the top five largest political parties in Kurdistan. [17] [18]

Major Attacks


Relationships with Other Groups

During the 1990s, a shift in IMK strategy to engage with the KRG resulted in the creation of three factions within the IMK; these splinter groups weakened the organization and drew away significant membership. First, a faction based in Garmian, Kurdistan, that called itself “Hamas” held more radical Islamist beliefs than the majority of the IMK and opposed cooperation with the secular KRG. Under the leadership of Umar Abdul Karim Abdul Aziz, also known simply as Umar Barziani, Hamas finally split from the IMK in 1997. Second, the Tawhid faction of the IMK was also ostracized by IMK leadership for its radical Islamism and its use of extreme tactics, such as dumping acid on women not wearing veils in public. Formed by Mullah Abdul Ghani Bazazi in mosques throughout Erbil, Tawhid eventually split with the IMK in the late 1990s. Hamas and Tawhid merged in July 2001 to form the Tawhid United Front. Lastly, the Second Soran Unit (SSU) was originally the largest military unit in the IMK and eventually joined the Tawhid United Front. [19] [20]

Another Islamic group in Iraqi Kurdistan, al-Nahda, was formed by the brother of Osman Aziz, the founder of the IMK, but focused on the education of the general population in Islam, rather than political engagement. In 1999, al-Nahda and the IMK merged to form the Islamic Unity Movement of Kurdistan, also known as the Islamic Federation of Kurdistan. However, differences between the leaders of al-Nahda and the IMK led to the dissolution of the Islamic Unity Movement of Kurdistan only two years later in 2001. [21]

Community Relationships

The IMK has been known to provide social services, such as health care and religious education, to the areas under its control. [22] However, the IMK has consistently opposed the imposition of Shariah law. [23]

 

Other Key Characteristics & Events



References

  1. ^ BBC. “Profile: Kurdish Islamist movement.” BBC. January 13, 2003, retrieved on July 31, 2014 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/not_in_website/syndication/monitoring/media_reports/2588623.stm
  2. ^ Amnesty International. Iraq: Human Rights Abuses In Iraqi Kurdistan Since 1991. New York: Amnesty International USA, 1995. Pg. 20.
  3. ^ Amnesty International. Iraq: Human Rights Abuses In Iraqi Kurdistan Since 1991. New York: Amnesty International USA, 1995. Pp. 98-130
  4. ^ Romano, David. “An Outline of Kurdish Islamist Groups in Iraq.” The Jamestown Foundation. September, 2007, retrieved on August 1, 2014 from http://www.jamestown.org/uploads/media/Jamestown-RomanoIraqiKurds_01.pdf
  5. ^ Romano, David. “An Outline of Kurdish Islamist Groups in Iraq.” The Jamestown Foundation. September, 2007, retrieved on August 1, 2014 from http://www.jamestown.org/uploads/media/Jamestown-RomanoIraqiKurds_01.pdf
  6. ^ Inga Rogg, “Die Kurden im Bann der Islamisten”, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2 December 2002.
  7. ^ Romano, David. “An Outline of Kurdish Islamist Groups in Iraq.” The Jamestown Foundation. September, 2007, retrieved on August 1, 2014 from http://www.jamestown.org/uploads/media/Jamestown-RomanoIraqiKurds_01.pdf
  8. ^ Rudaw. “Mixed Reaction to Latest Results from Kurdistan Polls.” Rudaw. September 29, 2013, retrieved on August 4, 2014 from http://rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/290920132
  9. ^ Saeed, Yerevan. “The Fading Star of Kurdistan’s Islamic Parties.” Rudaw. May 20, 2014, retrieved on August 4, 2014 from http://rudaw.net/english/opinion/19052014
  10. ^ Rudaw. “Political Parties in Kurdistan Polls.” Rudaw. September 19, 2014, retrieved on August 4, 2014 from http://rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/19092013
  11. ^ B004 Radical Islam In Iraqi Kurdistan The Mouse That Roared.pdf.” Web. 30 Apr. 2012. http://www.crisisgroup.org/%7E/media/Files/Middle%20East%20North%20Africa/Iraq%20Syria%20Lebanon/Iraq/B004%20Radical%20Islam%20In%20Iraqi%20Kurdistan%20The%20Mouse%20
  12. ^ Romano, David. “An Outline of Kurdish Islamist Groups in Iraq.” The Jamestown Foundation. September, 2007, retrieved on August 1, 2014 from http://www.jamestown.org/uploads/media/Jamestown-RomanoIraqiKurds_01.pdf
  13. ^ Global Security. “Islamic Movement of Kurdistan.” Global Security. September 7, 2011, retrieved on August 4, 2014 from http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq/imk.htm
  14. ^ Romano, David. “An Outline of Kurdish Islamist Groups in Iraq.” The Jamestown Foundation. September, 2007, retrieved on August 1, 2014 from http://www.jamestown.org/uploads/media/Jamestown-RomanoIraqiKurds_01.pdf
  15. ^ BBC. “Profile: Kurdish Islamist movement.” BBC. January 13, 2003, retrieved on July 31, 2014 from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/not_in_website/syndication/monitoring/media_reports/2588623.stm
  16. ^ Romano, David. “An Outline of Kurdish Islamist Groups in Iraq.” The Jamestown Foundation. September, 2007, retrieved on August 1, 2014 from http://www.jamestown.org/uploads/media/Jamestown-RomanoIraqiKurds_01.pdf
  17. ^ Rudaw. “Mixed Reaction to Latest Results from Kurdistan Polls.” Rudaw. September 29, 2013, retrieved on August 4, 2014 from http://rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/290920132
  18. ^ Saeed, Yerevan. “The Fading Star of Kurdistan’s Islamic Parties.” Rudaw. May 20, 2014, retrieved on August 4, 2014 from http://rudaw.net/english/opinion/19052014
  19. ^ Rubin, Michael, "The Islamist Threat in Iraqi Kurdistan," Middle East Forum, Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 12, December 2001, retrieved on April 15, 2011 from http://www.meforum.org/meib/articles/0112_ir1.htm
  20. ^ Romano, David. “An Outline of Kurdish Islamist Groups in Iraq.” The Jamestown Foundation. September, 2007, retrieved on August 1, 2014 from http://www.jamestown.org/uploads/media/Jamestown-RomanoIraqiKurds_01.pdf
  21. ^ Romano, David. “An Outline of Kurdish Islamist Groups in Iraq.” The Jamestown Foundation. September, 2007, retrieved on August 1, 2014 from http://www.jamestown.org/uploads/media/Jamestown-RomanoIraqiKurds_01.pdf
  22. ^ Amnesty International. Iraq: Human Rights Abuses In Iraqi Kurdistan Since 1991. New York: Amnesty International USA, 1995. Pg. 20.
  23. ^ Romano, David. “An Outline of Kurdish Islamist Groups in Iraq.” The Jamestown Foundation. September, 2007, retrieved on August 1, 2014 from http://www.jamestown.org/uploads/media/Jamestown-RomanoIraqiKurds_01.pdf

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