But Kurdistanis between the ages of 15 and 30 -- approximately 40% of the population -- grew up in an already semi-autonomous Kurdistan. Most of them only heard about the struggle against the former regime from their parents and grandparents.
They did, however, witness the armed struggle for power between the KDP and the PUK from 1994 to 1997, and have lived under two-party rule that dominates political representation, resource management and access to employment. They have little or no contact with the rest of Iraq, attend Kurdish universities, speak Kurdish better than Arabic -- and hold Irbil politically accountable before Baghdad.
In the eyes of this youth, the KDP and PUK have spent the past 20 years prioritizing parochial interests over the national good.
Until the protests started, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) ministries remained split between the two parties -- with no access for others -- and little collaboration has existed between them. Peshmerga forces, long the symbol of national resistance to Hussein's regime, are also divided into two uncooperative branches, one loyal to the KDP and the other to the PUK.
Furthermore, although Kurdistan enjoys better security than the rest of Iraq and has seen investments pour in since 2003, between 35% and 45% of Kurdish youth remain unemployed or underemployed. Political affiliation often regulates advancement.
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