Statement on the occasion of the first anniversary of attack on Kirkuk and so called ‘disputed territories’

Today we mark a sad anniversary in Kurdistan Region. On October 16, 2017 Iraqi army and shia militia Hashd Shaabi with a support of neighboring countries invaded and annexed Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatu, Khanaqin and so called ‘disputed territories’. It was retaliation for independence referendum on September 25, 2017, when 92% voted in favor of independence of Kurdistan Region.

The referendum was a logical answer to the deep divisions in Iraq, the helplessness of the Iraqi authorities and the army against terrorists, economic problems caused by gigantic corruption, religious intolerance, rejection by authorities in Baghdad of the principle of co-ruling the country, widespread violation of constitutional powers of the Kurdistan Region without prospects for a change, withholding KRG’s share of budget guaranteed by Iraqi constitution and lack of implementation of article 140 of Iraqi constitution which provided for census and referendum in Kirkuk and so called ‘disputed territories’ by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.

For centuries, the Kurds have been the majority on this land, even the Arabization policy begun by Saddam Hussein did not change it. In addition, in 2014, Peshmerga defended this area from ISIS terrorists. They also liberated the lands previously taken by terrorists and successfully provided security to all residents regardless of their origin and religion.

Kurdistan Regional Government has been making preparation for the referendum assuring that it was only a stage on the road to the independence of Kurdistan, the whole process was to run peacefully in the dialogue with Baghdad, neighbors and the international community. Despite it, the answer was aggression. Annex of Kirkuk and so-called ‘disputed territories’ were accompanied by acts of violence. According to UN report, only in Tuz Khurmatu 150 houses belonging to Kurds were burned down. Looting and arson attacks also took place in Kirkuk. Dozens of Peshmerga soldiers were killed. Invaders defaced Kurdish flags and national symbols. 168 000 Kurds escaped in the first days after the invasion, only part of them returned because their possessions and houses have already been taken away from them. There has also been an increase in the violation of Kurds’ rights (as well as representatives of religious minorities). Legally elected, Kurdish governor of Kirkuk -Najmaddin Karim- was removed from the post, like the other public officers in other cities. The Arabization began again and hindered the freedom of using the Kurdish language.

Many things happened during last twelve months in Iraq. After nationwide parliamentary elections in Iraq on May 12, 2018, also with participation of Kurdish parties, authorities in Baghdad convince to look into the future and ‘open the new chapter’ in mutual relations. However, it is hard to talk about building a better Iraq without redressing the damage done a year ago. It is necessary to restore legally elected authorities of Kirkuk and other Kurdish cities, stop Arabization and return stolen property. The only chance for permanent Iraqi-Kurdish reconciliation is the implementation of article 140 of the Iraqi constitution. This is also the common position of the representatives of the largest Kurdish political parties sitting in the Iraqi parliament and their support is necessary to create a stable parliamentary majority.

On October 16, 2018, we remember the victims of the events from last year, all those killed, aggrieved and driven out from houses. Their suffering was not in vain. Kurds do not give up their independence aspirations because every nation has the right to self-determination.

We are calling for stop breaking the rights of the residents of Kirkuk and other ‘disputed areas’. We appeal for Kurdish-Iraqi partnership relations based on the provisions of the Constitution.

 

Ziyad Raoof

Representative of Kurdistan Regional Government in Poland