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 Kurdistan's three opposition parties present a proposal on Kirkuk

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Kurdistan's three opposition parties present a proposal on Kirkuk  13.2.2012  

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 region. 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: AFP/Getty See Related Links
February 13, 2012

KIRKUK, Iraq's border with Kurdistan region, — Kurdistan’s three opposition parties presented a proposal last week to deal with the dilemma of the oil-rich province of Kirkuk.

The proposal emphasizes a constitutional article that demands the normalization of the situation and that a referendum be held on the fate of the volatile province.

The proposal also calls for improving ties with Kirkuk’s Arab and Turcoman communities, reviewing the security situation in the province and ending the monopoly of the security forces by the two ruling Kurdish parties of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

The multiethnic province of Kirkuk has long been a source of contention between its various communities, the Kurds and successive Iraqi governments. Although the Iraqi constitution has devised a provision known as Article 140 to resolve the dispute over Kirkuk, it has not been fully implemented, despite the expiration of a deadline in late 2007.

The opposition groups have also proposed that compensation for refugees returning to Kirkuk be increased, that their current houses be registered in their names and that a roadmap for the province’s future be adopted.

Khalid Shwani, a PUK lawmaker in Iraqi parliament, says some of the opposition’s suggestions are already being considered. Shwani referred to a bill that demands registration of returning Kurdish and Turcoman properties under their names. Parliament members have done the first reading of the bill, he said.

Kirkuk’s former governor, Abdurrahman Mustafa, said that the opposition’s proposal has to some degree overlooked the real authority of governmental institutions in Kirkuk.

“Registering property deeds is a central (government) power, not one of the local administration in Kirkuk,” said Mustafa.

Mustafa disagrees that there is any “dispute” between Kirkuk’s ethnic groups. He says there are “differences and problems between political groups, but there are cross-ethnic marriages and the relations between ethnic groups are normal.”

Shwani also says the disputes in Kirkuk are political, not social.

The opposition has expressed its concern about KDP and PUK’s control over security forces in Kirkuk. That echoes the demands of Arab parties in Kirkuk who want an end to Kurdish domination of the province’s security forces. KDP and PUK each have their own security services in Kirkuk.

Latif Sheikh Mustafa, a lawmaker in Iraqi parliament from Gorran, Kurdistan’s largest opposition group, believes the unstable security and political situation in Kirkuk has caused rifts among the province’s ethnicities and parties.

The Gorran MP voiced his opposition to efforts by some Iraqi and foreign groups who want to make Kirkuk an independent region. Even some figures within the PUK support that notion, he said. Kurds want Kirkuk to be annexed to the Kurdistan Region and consider it part of their historical homeland.

Mustafa urged a fair approach in dealing with Turcomans and Arabs and an equal distribution of public services across the province’s various parts so as to convince them to agree with Kirkuk becoming part of the Kurdistan Region.

“If in the Kurdistan Region, the task of the authorities is to satisfy Kurds, in Kirkuk they have to satisfy Arabs and Turcomans as well,” said Mustafa.

Rebwar Talabani, the deputy head of Kirkuk Provincial Council, says the public services are distributed according to “population numbers and in an equal manner without any problem.” Talabani called for the unification of KDP and PUK security forces into one institution in Kirkuk.

Osman Kakayi, a senior KDP official in Kirkuk, says security posts in Kirkuk are now filled according to a system of meritocracy and resumes, and that the process “has nothing to do with the KDP and PUK.”

By Nawzad Mahmoud

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