Arab politicians in Kirkuk reject forming
By Wladimir van Wilgenburg
KIRKUK, Iraq's border with Kurdistan region,
— Arab politicians in Kirkuk have rejected the
concept of a Sunni region, a controversial idea
floated by Iraqi parliamentary speaker Usama al-Nujaifi
Arab leader Ahmed Hameed al-Obeidi responded to the
statement in a press conference last week, saying,
“The establishment of sectarian and racist regions
is totally rejected.”
Obeidi, head of the Arab Current Project in Kirkuk,
said that 12 Arab parties rejected Nujaifi’s
suggestion, which was made during an interview with
US-funded Al-Hurra TV in Washington.
The disputed province of Kirkuk, 280 kilometers
northeast of Baghdad, is one of the country’s most
ethnically and religiously diverse regions that is
claimed by Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen who are vying
for control of the oil-rich governorate.
Arab politician Ahmed Hameed al-Obeidi. The 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. Photo by Wladimir van
Hussein Ali Salih, the City Council Chairman in
Kirkuk’s Arab Hawija district, said in a statement
that creating a special region is out of the
question and would be a step toward dividing the
country, the national broadcaster Radio Sawa
Furthermore, an Arab member of Kirkuk’s provincial
council, Sheikh Burhan Mezher al-Assi, told Radio
Sawa that the media exaggerated the issue and
stressed that Arabs in Kirkuk have a common vision
to unite the country. He noted that all Iraqis --
including Sunnis -- are frustrated about the
The former Deputy Governor of Kirkuk, Ismail al-Hadidi,
told Rudaw that most members in Iraqiya, which
includes the country’s most prominent Sunni Arab
leaders, are opposed to creating a Sunni region. He
suggested that Nujaifi was trying to express “the
Sunni people’s belief that there is too much
pressure on them.”
Hadidi said he believes Americans support a Sunni
region and that federalism is part of the
constitution, noting that US Vice-President Joe
Bidenide had proposed dividiong Iraq into Sunni,
Shia and Kurdish regions.
“But members of parliament didn’t share this idea …
or put it into action. They just don’t care about
it,” he maintained.
Iraqi Kurdistan is the country’s only
semi-autonomous region. Nujaifi recently revealed
that the Shia-majority governorates of Wasit and
Basra had asked for a referendum to form a region,
but Baghdad has yet to address the issue.
Some Assyrian parties also called for forming a
semi-independent district in Nineveh province to
protect the province’s minorities against attacks.
As a small minority, however, they were not able to
garner enough support for the proposal in parliament
and were met with opposition by Arab parties in
Nineveh, though the idea was backed by Kurdish
Hadadi and Xidir Hamdani, an Arab who works with the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in Kirkuk, said
that despite the denials, Arabs and other groups
want a province to self-administer.
“Arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk province support the
idea of a separate governorate with a special
status,” Hadidi said.
Independent Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman told Radio
Sawa that the statements reflect the gap between
Sunni politicians and Shias. He argued that the
constituion needs to be studied and an agreement
must be made to resolve the differences.
AFP reported that Nujaifi defended his statements
after Arab politicians accused him of wanting to
divide Iraq. He said Iraqis have the right to create
autonomous regions if the central government is not
responding to citizens' needs. But he denied claims
that he wants to create a region solely for Sunnis
or any other group on a sectarian basis.
The Sunni-backed Iraqiya list failed to form the
government despite narrowly winning the plurality of
seats in the 2010 parliamentary election, a major
point of frustration for Sunnis. The government is
led by Shia Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his
State of Law Alliance,www.ekurd.netthough
Iraqiya continues to lobby for more power including
demanding that Iraqiya chief Iyad Allawi head up an
influential strategic policy council.
Last week, a member of the State of Law alliance
said that 52 MPS have made a request to the
parliament to hold Nujaifi accountable for his
Separately, Kirkuk’s provincial council also
discussed provincial elections in the province,
which has not held any local polls since 2005
because of disagreements between the different
political parties over who will be allowed to vote
in the disputed province. The US and the UN Mission
in Iraq, UNAMI, have pushed political parties to
hold an election.
Kirkuk has seen an influx of Kurds from outside of
Kirkuk, Arab politicians say, while Kurdish
politicians claim they were residents of Kirkuk who
were expelled by Saddam Hussein’s regime.
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