Kirkuk – as a miniature model of the Middle East ready for an explosion

Ali Hajizade

Editor’s column

AHajizade


The ancient Iraqi city of Kirkuk, is one of the important cultural and historical centers of Turkic culture and history. In addition, Kirkuk is located in an oil-rich region. Kurds and Arabs also live in Kirkuk along with Turcomans. Even during the rule of Saddam Hussein, the regime was trying to change the demographic picture of the city, that is, to Arabize it at the expense of the Sunni Arabs being resettled here from other parts of Iraq.

In April 2003, after the fall of Baghdad, Kurdish armed groups entered Kirkuk and occupied the city upon approval of the Americans. First of all, Kurdish armed groups (as during the Kurdish uprising in 1991) began to destroy (burn and export in an unknown direction) the archives of courts, notaries and other state institutions. This vandalism was not spontaneous, but had a completely practical purpose. Namely, to prepare the ground for changing the demographic picture of the city in favor of the Kurds. Data on ownership, as well as data on the composition of the population were destroyed, thus, making it much more difficult for the residents to prove ownership of a house or a plot of land.

After the central government was formed in Iraq in Baghdad, the authorities took control of Kirkuk. However, in 2014, during the offensive actions of the units of ISIL in Iraq, a significant part of the country’s territory came under the control of ISIL. In June 2014, units of the Iraqi army left Kirkuk without a fight, on June 12 the city was captured by the forces of the Kurdish Autonomy, under the pretext of protecting the city from ISIL.

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Since then, the Kurdish autonomy (a de facto independent state centered in Erbil in the north of Iraq) has been trying in every possible way to take control over the city and its environs. As in the areas under their control in Syria and northern Iraq, systematic ethnic cleansing is also conducted in Kirkuk against the Arabs and the Turcomans by the Kurds. It is strange that the world community, and especially the United States and Europe, supporting Kurdish militia and state organizations, prefer to turn a blind eye to the policy of ethnic cleansing that Kurds are carrying out towards their neighbors. In Kirkuk, unlike other parts of Iraq and Syria, the Kurds failed to force all the non-Kurdish population out of the city, but the process here is systematic, and is accompanied by brutal violence towards the Turcomans, who are by the way the most educated community in the city.

The apogee of the Kurdish expansion in Kirkuk was the installation of the flags of the Kurdish autonomy over the city’s administrative buildings. This step caused an extremely negative reaction both by the Arab and Kurdish communities of the city and the Iraqi authorities. However, the corrupt and sectarian Iraqi authorities are unable to go beyond angry statements, which means the impunity of the Kurds in Kirkuk and creates a condition for them to bring it to completion. Namely, to expel all the non-Kurdish population from the city and include the Kirkuk region in the Kurdish autonomy which they intend to turn into an independent state.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has also expressed its concern over the recent events, but as practice shows, statements in such cases alone are not enough. If the international community, and especially the countries that patronize the Kurdish forces in the region, proceeding from the principles declared by them, will not stop ethnic cleansing in the territories controlled by the Kurds, then a three-way bloody ethnic conflict may well begin in Kirkuk. And those who at the time could but did not prevent this process will be responsible for this bloodshed.

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