Sparks Rise From a Time Bomb
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Sparks Rise From a Time Bomb
by Mohammed A. Salih
|The security situation in Iraq's northern oil
rich-city Kirkuk has deteriorated over the past few
weeks as a constitutional deadline approaches to determine the fate of the
The city is home to a mix of Kurds, Turkomens and Arabs, with the
population of each
Bombings on Feb. 3, 6 and 16, and three more Feb. 21 rocked the disputed
bombings coincided with a move by an Iraqi government committee to
140 of Iraq's constitution that seeks to reverse demographic changes
brought about in
Kirkuk by the regime of former president Saddam Hussein.
Under Saddam, tens of thousands of Kurds and Turkomens were deported from
and were replaced by Arab settlers from the south to tighten the regime's
control over the
northern oil fields of the country.
That move eroded the traditional dominance of Kurds. But the new move to
changes threatens also the Turkomens, a local people of Turkish origin.
"Without doubt the situation is very bad, and it has been become worse
Abdulghani, a senior official of the Iraqi Turkomen Front (ITF) told IPS.
Iraq's new constitution sets out a three-phase plan to "normalise" the
situation in Kirkuk.
In the first phase, Kurdish and Turkomen refugees will return to Kirkuk,
and Arab settlers
will be given financial incentives to return to their areas of origin. The
Iraqi government is
offering each of these Arab families 15,000 dollars and a piece of land.
settlers can transfer jobs to the areas they return to.
Also, in this first phase, predominantly Kurdish districts that were cut
off from Kirkuk, like
Kalar, Chamchamal and Kifri east of Kirkuk, will be re-attached to Kirkuk
phase is due to be completed by April this year.
Those settlers who do not want to leave will not be forced to, but will
lose the right to
vote, and denied other forms of participation in official decision-making.
The second phase provides for a census. That will then be followed in the
third and last
phase by an official referendum by the end of this year in which the
population will vote on
the destiny of the province.
Officials told IPS that the questions to be raised in the referendum have
not been agreed
yet. Some speak of a choice whether Kirkuk should be a part of the
Kurdistan region or under the central government. Others say there must be
a third choice
whether Kirkuk should stand as a separate federal region similar to
The International Crisis Group, an international organisation that works
resolution, recommended in a report released last summer that Kirkuk must
stand "as a
stand-alone federal region falling neither under the Kurdish federal
region nor directly
under the federal government for an interim period."
Based on Article 53 of Iraq's post-war interim constitution, many
Turkomens and Arabs
also demand the status of an independent federal region for Kirkuk. But
that is strongly
opposed by Kurds.
The debate on Kirkuk's fate has gone beyond Iraq's borders. Turkey, that
has a sizeable
Kurdish population, vehemently opposes Kurdish control of Kirkuk, fearing
embolden its own Kurds.
At a meeting with Iraq's Shia vice-president Adel Abdul-Mahdi, Turkish
Recep Teyyip Erdogan called for postponing the referendum on Kirkuk. "The
holding the referendum in Kirkuk have not materialised yet," Erdogan told
With outside and inside pressures increasing, some Kurdish circles now
speak of a
compromise to appease the city's Turkomens, who would be the second major
group after Kurds if and when Article 140 is implemented.
"We are ready for dialogue with the ITF or any Turkomen party on Kirkuk,"
member of the Kurdistan regional parliament in Arbil told IPS.
A Kurdish compromise with Turkomens could be in the form of some
formula and "safeguarding their national and cultural rights," Abdullah
"For example, they can run the administration in the areas where they
majority of the population...and can have more effective participation in
government institutions and parliament."
Kurdistan parliament speaker Adnan Mufti said last year that Turkomens
should be given
autonomy in areas where they make up most of the population. That
intended to encourage Turkomens to vote for bringing Kirkuk within the
With ethnic tensions rising, and given the short period of time left and
problems on the ground, many doubt the Iraqi government's ability to
"From a practical point of view, implementing Article 140 is impossible;
there are many
technical problems on the ground which have to be worked out," said
He said his party is working "first for annulling, second postponing and
the constitutional article.
Many Iraqis see Kirkuk as a time bomb that might go off at any moment and
drag Iraq into
a real civil war. Several urge a delay in implementing Article 140. Kurds
see it differently.
"The real bomb will explode if Article 140 is not executed," said
Copyright © 2007 IPS-Inter Press Service