Talabani criticized for designating Kirkuk
"Jerusalem of Kurdistan", MP says it's "serious"
MP says Talabani’s Kirkuk statements “serious”
KIRKUK, Iraq's border with Kurdistan region,
— The President of Iraq
Jalal Talabani has been criticized for describing
oil-rich Kirkuk as the “Jerusalem of Kurdistan” by
the province’s Arabs and Turkmen who have demanded
explanations from the president for his remark.
Talabani was addressing a rally of supporters of his
party – the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in
the northern city of Sulaimaniyah on March 7 during
the 20th anniversary of a poplar uprising in the
city against the former Iraqi regime in 1991 when he
likened Kirkuk to Jerusalem. The 1991 uprisings of
the people of Kurdistan resulted in the current
semi-autonomy of the region.
"We must not forget that there are areas reunited
with the (Kurdistan) region such as Kirkuk, the
Jerusalem of Kurdistan,” Talabani said in his
address, “we need a common struggle”.
Jalal Talabani, Iraqi president
addressing a rally of supporters of his party – the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Sulaimaniyah,
Kurdistan region of Iraq. on March 7, 2011.
Photo credit: Serok Komar
The oil-rich province of Kirkuk
is one of the most disputed areas by the Kurdistan
regional government and the Iraqi government in
A lawmaker from al-Iraqiya bloc, Wihda al-Djemeili,
termed as “serious” on Wednesday Iraqi President
Jalal Talabani’s statements on Kirkuk, adding the
remarks might possibly be an attempt to cool down
the masses’ anger in the Iraqi Kurdistan region.
Perhaps President Talabani’s statements were an
attempt to ease the anger of the people in the Iraqi
Kurdistan Region, which has been witnessing mass
demonstrations,” al-Djemeili told Aswat
al-Iraq news agency.
Djemeili noted that Talabani does not represent a
certain group or party but he is the president of
the republic of Iraq.
“The Kurds’ inclination to get Kirkuk and annex it
to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region is immense.
They can do that because they have a strategic
vision,” she said.
“What we heard from Talabani about Kirkuk being the
heart or Jerusalem of Kurdistan should be
reconsidered,” said an Arab member of the Kirkuk
provincial council, Mohammed Khalil al-Jubouri
“...as president of the country; he should be
“It is better for him to say Kirkuk is an Iraqi
province for all Iraqis”.
But, Parizad Sha’ban, a member of the Kurdistan
Alliance list in the Iraqi parliament said Talabani
spoke to the crowd as the leader of the Patriotic
Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
“Talabani did not speak as the president of Iraq”
said Sha’ban, “yet the Arab media criticize him and
describe his comments as unconstitutional.”
The Kurds are seeking to integrate the province into
the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region clamming it to
be historically a Kurdish city, 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,www.ekurd.net
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
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
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