By Sarteep Qashqayee
Erbil- Bafel Talabani is the older son of Jalal Talabani. He is in his forties, and he is married. Bafel is considered as very close to his father, and he was inspired by his father’s leadership. He was the head of PUK’s intelligence agency, Zanyari. After remaining in the shadow of his dad and mom, Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, the young Talabani emerges as a deal maker and sometimes a referee between PUK’s fragmented wings, especially after the announcement of PUK’s Decisionmaking Body by two deputies of Talabani, Barham Salih, and Kosrat Rasul. These days his selfies and group pictures with other leaders of the PUK have been circulated widely.
There are not many reports about Bafel Talabani in local media, and even in the international media. When I googled his name only his Skynews interview, and the alleged corruption claim in the UK appeared. However, he is getting ready to present himself to become both PUK and Talabani’s family’s top man.
In early 2003 and 2004, Bafel became a familiar name of the PUK when his name was attached to PUK’s counterterrorism unit chairman. In 2004, in a counterintelligence mission, it was said that Bafel led the mission that resulted in the killing of Abdullah Qasre, the member of the Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) political bureau. Since then, he disappeared and rarely seen in the public events until his father’s illness. People has always associated his name with the PUK’s counterterrorism unit.
According to the insiders, Bafel is following his father’s steps in politics, and he looks after him in many ways. However, the available stories about him in public, as well as media, say opposite things.
Like his father, people say that Bafel “would pray Salat behind Ali, but would go and eat with Muawiya.” For many years, he appeared in the background of his father, but now Bafel, who is also described as a “white wolf,” is entering the political quarrel. Like his father, he has neither friend nor enemy. He never gets tired of dealing with his rivals.
Collecting information about Talabani the son in the media is very rare, but according to the information I have obtained, he has been working behind the scene for so long. He was also behind his younger brother’s emergence Qubad Talabani, who is deputy prime minister of Kurdistan, and his cousin Lahur Talabani, who is the head of PUK’s Parastin. Although Bafel does not hold an official title in the PUK, he considers himself as head of PUK counterterrorism unit.
If Qubad Talabani is described as a political and liberal man, and his cousin, Lahur Talabani as an intelligence and military one commander, Bafel, like his father, is a combination of both. Only those who are very close to him see these characteristics in him. His friends say that he is frank like Talabani the father and keeps an equal distance from everyone – but he is very decisive. When he enters a negotiation, he gets out with a deal.
Unlike his mom, Bafel has an excellent relationship with Barham Salih, and he likes him so much and supports him as well. He, also, has good relations with Kosrat Rasul and his sons and never allowed his mom’s bad relations with PUK leaders to affect his personal connections with these leaders.
Bafel’s first image in politics was in 2016, after the announcement of PUK’s Decisionmaking Body. He also accompanied PUK’s delegation to Tehran in the same period. In 2015, he participated in a meeting with Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani, especially after the 12 October events of 2015. In Erbil, He met Komal leader Ali Bapir as well, and his visit was covered by Komal outlets.
The young Talabani inherits his father’s controversial ties with both Iran and the United States, but this gave him leverage to play a crucial role in PUK’s internal crisis and bringing PUK leaders together. His role in deescalating the tensions between PUK leaders with him mom was remarkable. In the past few month, he held several meetings with Kosrat Rasul and Barham Salih and presented himself as a mediator, and he was successful in convincing his mom to end her difference with the PUK leaders and resolve the issues.
His decisive role in bringing PUK leaders together gives him more power to become PUK’s future leader and number one man of Talabani’s family.
Bafel was able to achieve quite a lot in a very short period. Other than deescalating PUK tensions, he restored the joint leadership of PUK-Gorran [Change Movement] meeting and to prepare a unified response to Barzani’s initiative.
His next move is drafting a new proposal to run PUK affairs between PUK wings. His proposal got the approval of many PUK leaders, and now it is pending the final approval which will be done after the return of Kosrat Rasul, who is now taking medication in Europe. If approved, the young Talabani’s leadership cannot be ignored.
In his proposal, he suggested not only a shared leadership and the role of PUK deputies in keeping the PUK united, but he also wants to implement a more transparent policy about PUK finance as well. He wants major PUK institutions to be restructured.
On his mom’s side, people like Mala Bakhiyar, who regards himself as PUK’s mastermind, supports Bafel’s mediator role and he has no objection about Bafel’s growing leadership performance. Bakhtiyar is socially very close to Bafel because he is Bafel’s father-in-law. That secures Bafel’s position inside PUK even more.
About relations with Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Bafel shares his fathers’ thoughts. He is not recognized as an anti-KDP figure and keeps his relationships with both Masoud Barzani and Nechirvan Barzani. Couple months ago, he visited Masoud Barzani and discussed domestic affairs with him.
About Gorran, he wants the PUK to keep a good relation with it because Gorran is a very popular political party in PUK’s stronghold Sulaymaniyah and the PUK should respect Gorran as it is. He seeks a balanced relationship with the KDP in which an efficient power sharing is implemented without affecting relations with Gorran.
Inside Talabani family, Bafel has excellent relations with his mom and siblings. His Achilles heel might be his public speaking skill. He also does not have his personal media outlet or source of income, but he depends on his mom for media and money. However, he does not want to speak to media very much and does not like to talk about his himself on social media either. So far, he does not have an official Facebook or Twitter account.
More pictures of Bafel and his political maneuver.
*Sarteep is a journalist from Erbil. He is writing about Kurdish internal politics. He works for Dwarozh outlet, a private media outlet based in Sulaymaniyah.