Masoud Barzani was elected President of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq by the Kurdistan National Assembly in June 2005. He was re-elected in the Kurdistan Region elections of July 2009, by secret popular ballot with 70% of the vote.
Masoud Barzani was born on the day that the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) was founded, 16 August 1946. In his words, “I was born in the shadow of the Kurdistan flag in Mahabad (Iran) and I am ready to serve and die for that same flag.”
At the time of his birth, President Barzani’s father, the late Mustafa Barzani, was head of the military of the short-lived Kurdish Republic of Mahabad that was declared in Kurdistan in Iran. When the Republic fell, Mustafa Barzani fled to the USSR with five hundred devoted followers. When he returned to Iraq 12 years later, he, the rest of his family and thousands of members of the Barzani clan were promptly deported to the southern parts of the country.
An avid pupil, Masoud Barzani began his primary education at an early age and developed a love of books and learning. With the overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy in 1958, the new Republic of General Abdulkarim Qasim welcomed Mustafa Barzani and his followers back to Iraq. Masoud Barzani was 12 years old when he was finally reunited with his father.
The family moved back to their home village of Barzan, where they found their homes in ruins. Soon afterwards the Iraqi government resumed its repression against the people of Kurdistan. With no alternative, in 1961 the KDP, under the leadership of Mustafa Barzani, launched an armed struggle to defend the rights of the people of the Region.
At the age of 16, Masoud Barzani sacrificed his education and joined the Peshmerga forces. The young Barzani was deeply influenced by the valour, leadership skills and compassion of his father. President Barzani’s experiences in the mountains of Kurdistan were to provide him with the skills that were to later propel him to the leadership of Kurdistan’s movement.
It was not long before the KDP leadership noticed the younger Barzani’s qualities, and he, together with his late, elder brother Idris, took part in the delegation that signed an autonomy agreement with Baghdad in March 1970. When the Iraqi government once again reneged on its pledges, the Kurdistan armed struggle resumed. Once again, Masoud Barzani took part at the side of his father.
After the death of Mustafa Barzani in March 1979, Masoud was elected as the new president of the KDP at the party’s 9th congress. Since then he has been re-elected as the KDP’s President in each successive congress.
Although Masoud Barzani did not have the opportunity to complete his education, his interest in reading and studying political and military affairs has helped him to keep abreast of international developments. His love of reading and football is well known.
He is married with eight children. He speaks Kurdish, Arabic and Persian and has an understanding of English.
His book entitled Mustafa Barzani and the Kurdish Liberation Movement was published in Arabic in three volumes. The first volume is available in English and Turkish.