Baghdad: Jalal Talabani,the Kurdish leader and the first president of Iraq under its postwar Constitution, has passed away in hospital in Berlin, Germany, at the age of 83.
Talabani had suffered a stroke in 2012 and was moved to a hospital in Berlin where he remained in coma. He was the first non-Arab president of Iraq, although Abdul Karim Qasim was of partial Kurdish heritage.
Talabani served as the sixth President of Iraq from 2005 to 2014, as well as the President of the Governing Council of Iraq (39th Prime Minister of Iraq).
Talabani, a law school graduate, was a key figure in the transitional governing council that drafted the new Iraqi constitution after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, and was later voted into what was supposed to be a largely ceremonial position of president of Iraq by the country’s newly constituted parliament in 2005, Guardian reported.
He survived decades of guerrilla warfare and bitter infighting, first taking up arms against the central government and then a fractious civil war between Kurdish factions in the 1990s, where he led the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). He also survived brutal purges and chemical attacks aimed at Iraq’s Kurds by Saddam Hussein.
Former US President George W. Bush’s administration saw Talabani as an important ally. Talabani tried to steer a divided nation through years of civil war and insurgency led by al-Qaida in Iraq, the precursor to Islamic State (Isis), and the conflagration initiated by the American occupation. Isis would later re-emerge with a vengeance, conquering large swaths of Iraq in 2014.
His death came days after a landmark referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, where voters overwhelmingly backed calls for the region’s independence from Baghdad.
Talabani was long an ardent campaigner for a sovereign Kurdish state in northern Iraq, where his political beginnings were rooted.