Highlights

 
Quotable
War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious.
General Smedley Butler
Original Blog US Casualties Contact Donate

 
September 3, 2006

Kirkuk Confronts an Uncertain Future


by Jim Lobe

KIRKUK – Rahman Aziz, 37, laughs out loud with his friend Rahman as they sit together across from the old citadel in this northern Iraqi city. The city needs their laughter.

Rahman is a Kurd, and his friend, Sa'ad, 34, a Turkomen. "We have been good friends for years," said Rahman, who now owns a small shop in the city. "We don't think our friendship can ever be destroyed by politics."

But it is under threat. Kirkuk is being claimed by Kurds. But it has a large population of Arabs who were settled there in the days of Saddam Hussein. It also has a large Turkomen population – Iraqis of Turkish descent.

Kirkuk Kurds faced severe persecution under Saddam Hussein. Saddam's troops forced Rahman's family to evacuate their home in the predominantly Kurdish neighborhood Imam Qasim in Kirkuk ten years ago. They were allowed to take only a handful of their possessions with them.

A few days after they left, their house was bulldozed. The family moved to Sulaimaniya, 120km east of Kirkuk.

In the course of its 35-year rule in Iraq, the Ba'ath government expelled tens of thousands of Kurds and Turkomens from Kirkuk under its "Arabisation" policy. Thousands of Arab families from the southern and central Arab regions were encouraged to move to Kirkuk to strengthen government grip on the region's oilfields.

Now many Kurdish refugees have started returning to Kirkuk in hope of resuming a better life.

"We all need to make a fresh start here," Rahman said. But conflict must be avoided, he said. "If we don't want to fight each other, nobody can force us to."

Despite such sentiments, the situation does not look promising. A relatively safe city for months after the end of the war in May 2003, Kirkuk is now witnessing an increasing wave of killings.

Kirkuk officials blame most of the violence on al-Qaeda and its affiliated groups, but officials are not clear whether those behind the violence have sectarian motives.

The mounting violence is doing its damage by way of straining relations between different communities. The intricate social structure of Kirkuk – comprising Kurds, Arabs (both Shia and Sunni), Turkomens and also Christians – has led some diplomatic and media circles to speculate that this city could be one of the starting points of a civil war.

Most people in Kirkuk do not seem to believe that will happen. Many say that talk of civil war is led by people who have a stake in making that war happen.

"If a civil war was to happen, it would have happened in the immediate chaotic aftermath of the fall of Saddam's regime," Jawad al-Janabi, Arab member of Kirkuk's provincial council told IPS. "I think the common historical backgrounds and social ties among the various nationalities of Kirkuk will prevent such a war."

Kurdish officials in Kirkuk say there is no ethnic clash in Kirkuk. "It is for three years some people say Kirkuk is a time bomb," said Hasib Rojbayani, a Kurdish member of Kirkuk's provincial council. "But such claims are far from the reality of Kirkuk. The situation here is under control."

Amid rising speculation about a civil war in Kirkuk, most people dream simply of better living conditions. "We just need some peaceful air to breathe, and to forget the unhappy past," said a Christian resident.

Iraq's new constitution has set up a three-step roadmap to normalize the situation of Kirkuk. Article 140 in that document allows Kurdish and Turkomen refugees to return to the city, and calls for Arabs who were brought by Saddam's regime to Kirkuk to be compensated to leave the city.

A population census would be the second step, to be followed by a provincial referendum by the end of 2007 on whether Kirkuk will remain a separate federal region or be incorporated into Kurdistan region.


comments on this article?
 
 
Archives

  • US Jews Open to Palestinian Unity Govt
    3/26/2009

  • Bipartisan Experts Urge 'Partnership' With Russia
    3/17/2009

  • Obama Administration Insists It's Neutral in Salvador Poll
    3/14/2009

  • NGOs Hail Congressional Moves to Ease Embargo
    3/12/2009

  • Call to 'Resist and Deter' Nuclear Iran Gains Key Support
    3/7/2009

  • Washington Ends Diplomatic Embargo of Syria
    3/4/2009

  • Diplomatic, Aid Spending Set to Rise Under Obama Budget
    2/28/2009

  • Many Muslims Reject Terror Tactics, Back Some Goals
    2/26/2009

  • Lugar Report Calls for New Cuba Policy
    2/24/2009

  • U.S.-Israel Storm Clouds Ahead?
    2/20/2009

  • Calls Mount for Obama to Appoint 'Truth Commission'
    2/20/2009

  • Washington's Praise of Venezuelan Vote Suggests D├ętente
    2/19/2009

  • Rightward Shift in Israeli Polls Creates New Headaches
    2/13/2009

  • US Advised to Back Somalia Reconciliation Efforts
    2/12/2009

  • Hawks Urge Boosting Military Spending
    2/5/2009

  • More Troops, More Worries,
    Less Consensus on Afghanistan
    2/4/2009

  • Report: Most Citizens Kept in Dark on Govt Spending
    2/2/2009

  • Obama Raises Hopes of
    Mideast Experts
    1/28/2009

  • Obama Picks Israel-Arab, Afghanistan-Pakistan Negotiators
    1/23/2009

  • Rights Groups Applaud Move to Halt Gitmo Trials
    1/22/2009

  • Obama Offers Internationalist Vision
    1/21/2009

  • Around the World, High Hopes for Obama
    1/20/2009

  • Liberals, Realists Set to Clash in Obama Administration
    1/19/2009

  • Obama Urged to Take Bold Steps Toward Cuba Normalization
    1/15/2009

  • Clinton Stresses 'Cooperative Engagement,' 'Smart Power'
    1/14/2009

  • Bush Foreign Policy Legacy Widely Seen as Disastrous
    1/14/2009

  • Networks' Int'l News Coverage at Record Low in 2008
    1/6/2009

  • Amnesty Calls on Rice to Drop 'Lopsided' Gaza Stance
    1/3/2009

  • Israeli Attack May Complicate Obama's Plans
    12/30/2008

  • Report: Recognizing Hamas Could Help Peace
    12/19/2008

  • Business Groups Support Dismantling Cuba Embargo
    12/8/2008

  • Mumbai Massacre Seen as Major Blow to Regional Strategy
    12/5/2008

  • Obama Urged to Quickly Engage Iran, Syria
    12/3/2008

  • Diplomacy, Multilateralism Stressed by Obama Team
    12/2/2008

  • Obama Foreign Policy: Realists to Reign?
    11/28/2008

  • Hemispheric Group Calls for Major Changes in Americas Policy
    11/25/2008

  • Greybeards Urge Overhaul of Global Governance
    11/21/2008

  • Intelligence Analysts See Multi-Polar, Risky World By 2025
    11/21/2008

  • Obama Urged to Strengthen Ties with UN
    11/20/2008

  • Obama-Tied Think-Tank Calls for Pakistan Shift
    11/18/2008

  • Obama Advised to Forgo More Threats to Iran
    11/17/2008

  • First, Close Gitmo,
    Say Rights Groups
    11/11/2008

  • Obama's Foreign Policy:
    No Sharp Break From Bush
    11/11/2008

  • Coca Cultivation Up Despite Six Years of Plan Colombia
    11/7/2008

  • Obama to Seek Global Re-engagement, But How Much?
    11/6/2008

  • Two, Three, Many Grand Bargains?
    11/3/2008

  • Moving Towards a 'Grand Bargain' in Afghanistan
    10/19/2008

  • Top Ex-Diplomats Slam 'Militarization' of Foreign Policy
    10/16/2008

  • Bush Set to Go With a Whimper, Not a Bang
    10/15/2008

  • Pakistan 'Greatest Single Challenge' to Next President
    10/8/2008

  • Senate Passes Nuke Deal Over Escalation Fears
    10/3/2008

  • Brief Talks With Syria Spur Speculation
    10/1/2008

  • Iran Resolution Shelved in Rare Defeat for AIPAC
    9/27/2008

  • Bipartisan Group Urges Deeper Diplomacy with Muslim World
    9/25/2008

  • White House Still Cautious on Georgia
    9/6/2008

  • US' Somalia Policy Likely to Bring Blowback
    9/4/2008

  • Iran Could Reap Benefits of U.S.-Russian Tensions
    8/28/2008

  • A Really Bad Couple of Weeks for Pax Americana
    8/24/2008

  • Success of Attack on Iran's Nuclear Program Doubtful
    8/9/2008

  • US Gets No Traction in the Middle East
    8/5/2008

  • Gates Strategy Stresses Unconventional Warfare
    8/1/2008

  • Air Force Think Tank Advises Against Iran Attack
    7/31/2008

  • Pakistani PM May Be Pincushion for U.S. Frustration
    7/26/2008

  • Realists Urge Bush to Drop Iran Precondition
    7/23/2008

  • McCain Knee-Capped by Maliki
    7/22/2008

  • Jim Lobe, works as Inter Press Service's correspondent in the Washington, D.C., bureau. He has followed the ups and downs of neo-conservatives since well before their rise in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    Reproduction of material from any original Antiwar.com pages
    without written permission is strictly prohibited.
    Copyright 2003 Antiwar.com