Iraq’s first non-Arab president has died in Germany

Iraq President Jalal Talabani visiting the White House in 2007. Talabani died in Germany on Tuesday. File photo by Roger L. Wollenberg/UPI

Oct. 4 (UPI) — Iraq’s first non-Arab president and leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Jalal Talabani, died in Germany on Tuesday.

Talabani, 83, suffered a stroke in 2012 and left politics only to return in 2014. He suffered a period of deteriorating health in the days leading to his death.

Known by Kurds are Mam Jalal, meaning uncle, Talabani was involved in political affairs from an early age. Born Nov. 12, 1993, he joined the Kurdistan Democratic Party at the age of 14 and graduated from Baghdad University with a degree in law in 1959.

His career has gone through multiple phases, working as a journalist, politician and member of the Kurdish Peshmerga military. He played a major role in the September 1961 Kurdish uprising known as the Aylul Revolution while serving on the Kirkuk and Sulaimani fronts.

He established the Kurdistan Democratic Party in 1975 while continuing to play a leading role in the Kurdish fight for independence. He was one of Kurdistan’s pro-independence figures.

The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan said of Talabani: “He was often seen as a unifying elder statesman who could soothe tempers among Iraq’s Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds.”

Talabani was instrumental in drafting the Iraqi constitution in 2003 and won two terms as president of Iraq.

Kurdish parties in Iran and Syria have expressed their condolences while Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also extended his condolences.

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