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Barham Salih (former Prime Minister)

TUE, 10 NOV 2009 11:00 | KRG Cabinet

Former Prime Minister, Kurdistan Regional Government

Prime Minister Barham Salih is a veteran Kurdish politician with years of public service and leadership in both the Kurdistan Region and in Iraq. His life and political outlook have been defined by his experience as a political activist committed to freeing the Kurdistan Region and Iraq from tyranny and to the pursuit of democracy and human rights.

Dr Salih was appointed Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region on 30 September 2009, leading the sixth Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) cabinet until 4 April 2012. In the July 2009 Kurdistan Region parliamentary elections he headed the Kurdistan List, which won 59 out of 111 seats.

Born in the city of Suleimaniah in 1960, Dr Salih joined the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in 1976. At the age of 18 and 19, he was twice arrested by the Ba’athist regime for his involvement in the Kurdish national movement, and was detained and tortured. On his release he studied hard to complete his education, achieving the third highest baccalaureate grade in all of Iraq that year. Following continued persecution, he left Iraq for the United Kingdom.

During his years of exile, Dr Salih worked hard to improve Kurdistan’s relations with the West and campaigned against Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial Ba’ath regime. He was put in charge of the PUK’s foreign relations in London and at the same time continued his studies. He gained a degree in Civil Engineering and Construction in 1983 from the University of Cardiff, and a Doctorate in Statistics and Computer Applications in Engineering in 1987 from the University of Liverpool.

Following the 1991 Gulf War and the withdrawal of the Iraqi army and administration from Kurdistan, Dr Salih was elected to the PUK’s leadership and appointed as the PUK representative in Washington. He developed relations with influential groups and decision-makers in Washington, and participated in the Iraqi opposition’s conferences and meetings before the fall of the Ba’athist regime.

From 2001 to mid-2004, Dr Salih served as Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Region Suleimaniah Administration. Despite a double embargo for much of that time by both the UN and Saddam Hussein, he made every effort to improve the standard of living and service delivery, and laid the foundations for ambitious development projects.

After the 2003 liberation of Iraq, Dr Salih served in Iraq’s post-war governments He served as the Deputy Prime Minister in the Interim Iraqi Government in mid-2004, Minister of Planning in the Transitional Government in 2005, and most recently as Iraq’s Deputy Prime Minister to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Under Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, Dr Salih also became Head of the Economic Committee. Representing the Iraqi Government, he launched the International Compact with Iraq, a mutual commitment between Iraq and the international community to help build a prosperous, democratic and federal country, at peace with itself, with the region and the world.

Prime Minister Salih is married to Dr Sarbagh Salih, a women’s rights activist, and they have a son and a daughter. He is fluent in Kurdish, Arabic and English.