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 Kurdish security using threats in bid to oust Iraqi Arabs in Kirkuk: Official

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Kurdish security using threats in bid to oust Iraqi Arabs in Kirkuk: Official  2.10.2010  

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October 2, 2010

KIRKUK, Iraq's border with Kurdistan region, — Kurdish security forces in Kirkuk have threatened to kill Arab residents if they do not leave the northern Iraqi city ahead of a contentious population census scheduled for later this month, Iraqi officials said Friday.

The officials told the German Press Agency DPA that Arab Sunnis and Shiites in the city were asked to leave under the pretext that they were not native residents of Kirkuk. When they refused to do so, they were reportedly threatened.

"Dozens of Arabs have been threatened with death and displacement for the past three days," said Rakan al-Joubouri,
www.ekurd.netthe deputy governor of Kirkuk.

He said threats were being made by the Kurdistan Democratic Party Party KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK.                   

A street at the heart of the city of Kirkuk
Abdullah Rifaat, a leading official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, denied the allegations. He said the police and the Kurdish security forces had only tried to encourage Arabs to register with the authorities.

Al-Joubouri nevertheless called on the Iraqi government to intervene immediately and send troops to protect the Arab and Turkmen populations of Kirkuk.

Some officials believe the attempted evictions were meant to coincide with the census, which is to be conducted October 24.

The census had previously been postponed for a year due to concerns that it would fuel sectarian and ethnic tensions in the northern cities of Kirkuk and Mosul. The last Iraqi general census was conducted 23 years ago.

Opponents of the census fear that its numbers could be politicised in oil-rich areas where Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen reside.

Kirkuk city is historically a Kurdish city and it lies just south border of the Kurdistan autonomous region, the population is a mix of majority Kurds and minority of Arabs, Christians and Turkmen, lies 250 km northeast of Baghdad. Kurds have a strong cultural and emotional attachment to Kirkuk, which they call "the Kurdish Jerusalem." Kurds see it as the rightful and perfect capital of an autonomous Kurdistan state.

Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution is related to the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk city and other disputed areas through having back its Kurdish inhabitants and repatriating the Arabs relocated in the city during the former regime’s time to their original provinces in central and southern Iraq.

The article also calls for conducting a census to be followed by a referendum to let the inhabitants decide whether they would like Kirkuk to be annexed to the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region or having it as an independent province.

The former regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had forced over 250,000 Kurdish residents to give up their homes to Arabs in the 1970s, to "Arabize" the city and the region's oil industry.

The last ethnic-breakdown census in Iraq was conducted in 1957, well before Saddam began his program to move Arabs to Kirkuk. That count showed 178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turkomen, 43,000 Arabs and 10,000 Assyrian-Chaldean Christians living in the city. 
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