Ziyad Raoof’s statement about attack on Kirkuk

Warszawa, October 16, 2017

Ladies and gentleman,

Yesterday night Iraqi army along with shia militias attacked Kirkuk. This attack stands in serious contradiction with provisions of Iraqi constitution, until now so eagerly defended by authorities in Baghdad. It poses a great threat to the unique religious-ethnic mosaic of Kirkuk.

In 2014, when Iraqi army was routed by ISIS and cowardly left military basis loaded with modern weapon and dozens of cities and villages, Peshmerga took responsibility for defending Kirkuk. Over the next few years they thwarted numerous ISIS attacks on the city, maintaining order and peace among the inhabitants. They carried out their tasks at the sacrifice of dead and wounded, providing shelter to a huge mass of refugees: Muslims, Christians, Yezidis. The actions of the Iraqi army, which have been avoiding attacks on the neighboring stronghold of ISIS in Hawija, have clearly shown that stabilization was not in the interest of Baghdad.

Attack on Kirkuk, killing many Peshmerga, demonstrational lowering Kurdistan flag and deposition of legally elected governor Najmaldeen Kareem exposed real intentions of Baghdad- full and immediate subordination of the city and pacification of religious-ethnic mosaic. This is a continuation of the earlier policy of the central government; the consistent avoidance of talks about the status of the city, despite the fact that article 140 of Iraqi constitution obliged to normalization (return of Kurds exiled during cruel arabization conducted by Saddam Hussein) and determination of city status “by a date not to exceed the 31st of December 2007.”

President Masoud Barzani clearly emphasized during the visit in Kirkuk in September on the eve of the referendum: “We don’t say that Kirkuk only belongs to Kurds, Kirkuk should be a symbol of coexistence for all ethnicities”. Today this unique mosaic is facing threat of sinking into conflict and persecution of minorities, as it is happening in other provinces of Iraq.

We call upon international community, including Polish government to urgently exert pressure on Iraqi authorities to stop the aggression immediately. It verges on a bitter irony that shia militia commanded by external powers attacked Kurds using modern American equipment provided to fight ISIS. Iraqi government mocked obligation to never use this equipment in internal fights against the other nations, ethnic and religious groups living in Iraq. Long-term efforts by the international coalition to overcome terrorism and stabilize the Middle East can be completely undermined. We believe that Western governments will listen to the calls made by US and British MPs as well as members of the European Parliament in Brussels.

The Kurdistan Regional Government until the last moment appealed to the international community and all forces in Iraq to refrain from escalating the conflict. Likewise, Peshmerga tried not to respond to the military provocations of the militia and the Iraqi army, but now they will not remain indifferent to the act of aggression and violation of the basic principles of the constitution. According to a statement issued by the General Command of the Peshmergers, it is a “declaration of war”.

Ziyad Raoof

The Representative of Kurdistan Regional Government to Poland