Talabani was born in 1933 in Kelkan village and descends from the Talabani tribe that has produced many leading social figures including Riza Talabani. He received his elementary and intermediate school education in Koya (Koysanjak) and his high school education in Erbil and Kirkuk. When he was in his teens, Talabani's peers began referring to him as "Mam" Jalal, as 'mam' meaning "paternal uncle" in Kurdish, and the Kurds have called him by this affectionate name ever since. In 1957, during the final year of his studies for a degree in law at Baghdad University, he was expelled because of his political activities. He completed his degree two years later.
Rights for Kurds
When in September 1961, the Kurdish uprising for the rights of the Kurds in western Iraq was declared against the Baghdad government of Abdul Karim Qassem, Talabani took charge of the Kirkuk and Silemani battle fronts and organized and led separatist movements in Mawat, Rezan and the Karadagh regions. In March 1962, he led a coordinated offensive that brought about the liberation of the district of Sharbazher from Iraqi government forces. When not engaged in fighting in the early and mid-1960s, Talabani undertook numerous diplomatic missions, representing the Kurdish leadership at meetings in Europe and the Middle East.
The Kurdish separatist movement collapsed in March 1975, after Iran ended their support in exchange for a border agreement with Iraq. This agreement was the 1975 Algiers Agreement, where Iraq gave up claims to the Shatt al-Arab (Arvand Rūd) waterway and Khuzestan, which later became the basis for the Iran–Iraq War. Believing it was time to give a new direction to the Kurdish separatists and to the Kurdish society, Talabani, with a group of Kurdish intellectuals and activists, founded the Kurdish Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (Yekiaiti Nishtimani Kurdistan). In 1976, he began organizing an armed campaign for Kurdish independence inside Iraqi Kurdistan. During the 1980s, Talabani sided with Iranian Kurdistan and led a Kurdish struggle from bases inside Iraq until the crackdown against Kurdish separatists from 1987 to 1988.
In 1991, he helped inspire a renewed effort for Kurdish independence. He negotiated a ceasefire with the Iraqi Ba'athist government that saved the lives of many Kurds and worked closely with the United States, United Kingdom, France and other countries to set up the safe haven in Iraqi Kurdistan. In 1992 the Kurdistan Regional Government was founded. Talabani has pursued a negotiated settlement to the internecine problems plaguing the Kurdish movement, as well as the larger issue of Kurdish rights in the current regional context. He works closely with other Kurdish politicians as well as the rest of the Iraqi opposition factions. In close coordination with Masoud Barzani, Talabani and the Kurds played a key role as a partner of the US-led Coalition in the invasion of Iraq.
Talabani was a member of the Iraqi Governing Council that negotiated the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), Iraq's interim constitution. The TAL governed all politics in Iraq and the process of writing and adopting the final constitution.
Jalal Talabani with U.S. President Barack Obama during a visit to Camp Victory, Iraq, April 7, 2009.
Talabani between U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki, 2011.
Talabani was elected President of Iraq on April 6, 2005 by the Iraqi National Assembly and sworn into office the following day. On April 22, 2006, Talabani began his second term as President of Iraq, becoming the first President elected under the country's new constitution. His office was part of the Presidency Council of Iraq. Nawshirwan Mustafa was Talabani's deputy until Mustafa resigned in 2006 and formed an opposition party called Wusha.
Personal life and health
Jalal Talabani is married to Hero Ibrahim Ahmed, daughter of Ibrahim Ahmed, a lieutenant of Mullah Mustafa. His youngest son, Qubad, is the deputy Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil.
On 18 December 2012 Talabani suffered a stroke and was in intensive care in Baghdad, where his condition eventually stabilized after reports that he was in a coma. A statement on the President's official website said that he was being treated for blocked arteries. On 20 December, Talabani's condition had improved enough to allow travel to Germany for treatment. The head of Talabani's medical team in Iraq has been Governor Najmiddin Karim. On 19 July 2014, Jalal Talabani returned to Iraq after more than 18 months of medical treatment>
- The building of this site would not be possible without the courageous decision by President Bush to liberate Iraq. This building is not only a compound for the embassy but a symbol of the deep friendship between the two peoples of Iraq and America.
- On the United States building a new embassy in the Green Zone of Iraq — reported in Chelsea J. Carter, Associated Press (January 6, 2009) "U.S. inaugurates $700 million new embassy in Iraq Mammoth new building called symbol of new era", Charleston Gazette, p. P3A.
- I'm glad to tell you Mr President that our relations with our neighbors is improved very well with Turkey, with Syria, with Iran with the Arab countries. The relation is normal now and we have no problem with any of those countries. In contrary, many many new ambassadors are coming to our country from Arab countries.
- Statement made to U.S. President George W. Bush at a meeting at the White House — reported in Agence France-Presse staff (September 10, 2008) "Talabani: Iran, Syria pose 'no problem' for Iraq", Agence France-Presse,
- I agree with him that we are going to work together for having this strategic agreement between United States and Iraq, and also to continue our cooperation in our struggle against terrorism and for promotion of democracy in Iraq and in Middle East.
- Statement made at a meeting with President George W. Bush — reported in Olivier Knox (June 25, 2008) "Bush, Talabani work on US-Iraq security pact", Agence France-Presse.
- The brutal regime of the dictator fell … the regime that ruled Iraq for decades, the decades of darkness. The decades that were of tyranny.
- Kuwait Times staff (March 20, 2008) " War ended era of torture, tyranny: Iraqi president", Kuwait Times.
- This is a historic visit full of love and brotherhood that sends the message that Iraq and Iran are now having the best relationship.
- At a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on a visit to Iraq — reported in Liz Sly, Nadeem Majeed (March 3, 2008) "In Iraq, ex-foe is new friend - Historic visit by Iran leader showcases ties", Chicago Tribune, p. 1.
- It was an agreement between (former Iraqi president) Saddam (Hussein) and the shah of Iran (ousted in 1979) and not between Iraq and Iran. On the Algiers accord document — reported in Agence France-Presse staff (December 26, 2007) "Iran insists on border deal with Iraq", Agence France-Presse.
- We are not denying that Turkey has a right to defend itself from extremists but some of its actions are not serving any democratic purpose in Turkey or in Iraq. This will not benefit the relations between the two countries.
Abdel Hamid Zebari (December 25, 2007) "Turkish planes strike inside Iraq: Kurdish official", Agence France-Presse.
- I am informing you of our displeasure over the arrest of the Iranian civilian official without consulting the government of Kurdistan. That is a humiliation for the regional administration. You ignored our authority. I ask for his immediate release in order to maintain healthy relations between Iran and Kurdistan and for the prosperity of Kurdistan.
- Statement made to General David Petraeus and ambassador Ryan Crocker, upon the arrest of Iranian civilian by U.S forces — reported in Jacques Charmelot (September 22, 2007) "Iraq president demands US free detained Iranian", Agence France-Presse.
- I always tell the Kurds who defend independence: Let's say we declared the independent Kurdish state and Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey imposed sanctions on us, without waging a war. How would we survive under those circumstances?
- Turkish Daily News staff (September 14, 2007) "Talabani: War against Turkey equal to war against democracy", Turkish Daily News.
- I must tell you that I am committed, as the president of Iraq, to benchmarks and to do our best to achieve some progress forward for national reconciliation. Statement made to President George W. Bush — reported in Agence France-Presse staff (May 31, 2007) "Bush sends top aide to Baghdad", Agence France-Presse.
- I am very, very sorry for the lives lost in Iraq. I think it was a very noble job that your army and your people did in Iraq.
- Speaking about loss of life of British soldiers, to students at Cambridge University — reported in Deutsche Press-Agentur staff (May 11, 2007) "Iraqi president says soldiers die for 'noble cause'", Deutsche Press-Agentur.
- We have developed contacts with five groups of insurgents. We are making these contacts in an attempt to bring them into the political process. Agence France-Presse staff (April 11, 2007) "Iraqi president says in contact with five rebel groups", Agence France-Presse.
- No for the return of Saddam's Baath party. This is against the constitution and those who are negotiating to bring them back are violating the constitution.
- On the results of the United States bipartisan commission group, the Iraqi Study Group report — reported in Solomon Moore (December 10, 2006) "Iraq President Rejects Study Group's Report", Los Angeles Times.
...under extremely difficult circumstances (Iraq) pursues the inherently complicated task of rebuilding the country. Yet Iraq continues, courageously, to reach for the promise of a democratic, federal and pluralistic state, where generations of oppressed Iraqis will regain their dignity, freedom and the right to join the civilized and progressive nations of the world.
- Olivia Ward (September 23, 2006) "Keep U.S., British forces in Iraq, says Talabani", The Toronto Star, p. A12.
- Human rights and individual liberties, including religious freedom, will be at the heart of the new Iraq.
- Michael Howard (July 25, 2005) "Freedom at heart of new Iraq, says Talabani : Suicide bomb kills 40 as president calls for calm", The Guardian.
- Some Shi'ites are asking that Islam be the only source of laws, which means turning Iraq into an Islamic regime, and that is unacceptable. We accept that the religion of Iraq is Islam, and we must respect Islam and the Islamic identity of Iraqi people. But we think Islam should only be one source of the Iraqi laws.
- Jim Muir (February 10, 2005) "Shia demands 'risk turning Iraq into an Islamic regime' into Islamic regime constitution will be fierce, says Talabani", The Daily Telegraph.
- We are trying to persuade all the Iraqi opposition to come breathe freedom in Iraq and use liberated Kurdistan as a base for our common struggle. On an attempt to build an opposition force to overthrow Saddam Hussein — reported in Ethan Bronner (October 25, 1992) "Kurds Organizing Anti-Hussein Forces - Sidebar For a Quiet Colonel, A Moving Role as Santa Claus", Boston Globe, p. 1.
- The Western governments will be encouraged and persuaded to deal with the real representatives and listen to the real voice of the Kurdish people.
- On the first-ever free elections for the Kurds of northern Iraq — reported in Jim Muir (May 15, 1992) "Iraqi Kurds Hope Vote Legitimizes Leadership - Cut off by a harsh blockade, Kurds engage in spirited first-ever election campaign that sets out two different visions of future", Christian Science Monitor, p. 6.
- Saddam was the creation of outsiders. He was created, strengthened, and kept by international force. He is like a man on a tree and the tree will be cut: he will fall down. The formation of a new front will inspire the Iraqi people to intensify the struggle, to give heart to people who before were faced with the whole world supporting Saddam.
- Statement made as the then-General Secretary of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PKU), on Iraqi opposition leaders — reported in George D. Moffett III (September 20, 1990) "Iraqi Exiles Make a Try at Unity - Saddam's isolation spurs varied opponents to shelve differences and plot his overthrow", Christian Science Monitor, p. 4.