Leadership Council for Human Rights

~ Feet in the mud, head in the sky ~

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The importance of resolving the status of Kirkuk

Local development and refugee resettlement, among other issues in Iraq, hinge upon the resolution of the status of Kirkuk, according to an article by Nouri Talabany in the Winter 2007 edition of Middle East Quarterly. In accordance with Article 140 of the new Iraqi constitution, a local census and referendum is set to take place by December 2007 to decide if Kirkuk will fall under the jurisdiction of the Kurdistan Regional Government. “However, if Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki does not implement the article within the allocated time, ethnic and sectarian unrest could explode in Kirkuk, the effects rippling throughout Iraq,” Talabany writes.

Tensions in the area were exacerbated by the policies implemented under the Baathist regime, Talabany says, resulting in large-scale displacement. The discovery of oil in the region in 1927 also contributes to disputes over the future of the area. Despite these tensions, there is a need to smoothly transition Kurds back into the area, Talabany says, and Arabs who choose to relocate to southern or central Iraq will be assisted.

Some proposals, however, recommend that the referendum on Kirkuk be postponed. The International Crisis Group, according to Talabany, proposed that the Iraqi government invite the United Nations Security Council “to appoint an envoy to start negotiations to designate the Kirkuk governorate as a stand-alone, federal region for an interim period” and postpone the referendum due to the potential exacerbation of sectarian violence. Talabany, however, believes that since “various ethnic and sectarian communities coexisted peacefully until Abdul-Karim Qasim’s 1958 coup d’etat,” the “Kurdish empowerment through the democratic process [in the December 2007 referendum] need not mean disenfranchisement for the local Arabs and Turkoman communities. There is no reason why the various communities within Kirkuk cannot coexist peacefully again.”

For the full article, click here.


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