Two Students Injured in Ethnic Protests in Kirkuk
al-Hayat, Tass: Student leaders in Kirkuk said that two Arab students were wounded Wednesday in confrontations with police, who were attempting to forbid a demonstration by Arabs and Turkmen. The confrontations broke out when hundreds of Arab and Turkmen students attempted to march from the courtyard of a mosque to demonstrate in front of the provincial state house. They encountered Kurdish students, who had mounted a counter-demonstration. Nevertheless, about 500 Arabs and Turkmen managed to get through and to demonstrate in front of the state house, waving Iraqi flags. The Arab and Turkmen students called upon the US forces to replace the Kurdish dean of the School of Technology, Hamid Majid, “since we consider that he encouraged a demonstration by Kurdish students on Tuesday.”
Kirkuk has been tense since Tuesday, when thousands of Kurds demonstrated in favor of joining oil-rich Kirkuk to a consolidated greater Kurdish province. The Kurds had put forward a plan for a loose Iraqi federalism such that Baghdad would be forced to deal with a single Kurdish super-province. They seek to join to this Kurdistan all regions with a Kurdish majority, such as Kirkuk.
Dmitri Zelin had reported for Tass on Dec. 23, via the Beirut daily an-Nahar, that Arab and Turkmen political parties in Kirkuk had complained about the Kurdish plan already on Tuesday.. Sami Dunmaz, leader of the Islamic Movement of Iraqi Turkmens and vice chairman of the Turkmen Front of Iraq, protested what he viewed as provocative demonstrations by Kurds in favor of Kirkuk joining the proposed greater Kurdistan province. He said the plan was an “attempt to disrupt the unity of the Iraqi motherland,” and compared it to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990, “when he turned the neighboring Kuwait into an Iraqi province.” [!] The al-Tajammu` al-`Arabi or Arab Parties Coalition of Kirkuk, supported the Turkmen protest. Its head, Abdel Hussein al-Abudi, said the plan was “a bomb, which will destroy civil peace in Iraq.” In response to the tension, additional US troops were moved to Kirkuk, and local police and Kurdish paramilitary units were attempting to keep peace.
The Turkish foreign minister, Abdullah Gul, issued his own denunciation of the Kurdish consolidation plan. Turkish officials in the past have threatened war if an overly autonomous Kurdish state emerges in Iraq.
For an informed Shiite Iraqi scholar’s view of the options before the Iraqi Kurds, see Abbas Kadhim, “An Opportunity they Cannot Afford to Miss”.