Ethnic Violence in Kurdistan Boils Over; 3 Dead on Thursday, 5 Dead on Wednesday
On Thursday, Kirkuk Police Chief Turhan Yusuf said, “Unknown attackers stabbed two Kurds to death and threw their bodies near a bridge in the centre of the city.” This act was presumably in revenge for the shooting of 3 Arabs by Kurdish militiamen on Wednesday (see below). His deputy, Shirzad Rifaat Qadir, reported that Kirkuk police killed an Arab man and wounded two others in an attempt to prevent them from attacking Kurds.
Al-Hayat said that the head of the general hospital in Kirkuk, Hashim Muhammad, announced that on Wednesday three Iraqis were killed and 31 wounded (6 of them gravely) by gunfire from Peshmerga Kurdish militiamen. The militiamen fired on Arab and Turkmen demonstrators, said to number about 1,000, protesting Kurdish demands that Kirkuk be absorbed into a Kurdish super-province. Demonstrator Ali Husain Muhammad, one of those wounded, said, “The reason the peshmerga opened fire is that the demonstrators began shouting slogans containing slurs against the Kurds . . .” Among the chants was “There is no god but God; Kurdistan is the enemy of God!” Arab and Turkmen political groupings demanded that the US civil administration open an investigation into the incident.
Kirkuk, with an estimated population of 730,000, is among Iraq’s 5 largest cities. It is a center of the oil industry, has light textiles, and is a local agricultural entrepot. The city has Kurds, Sunni Arabs, Sunni and Shiite Turkmen, and Chaldean and Assyrian Christians. Some 100,000 Kurds and Turkmen were expelled from the city in recent years by Saddam. Last spring, Preston Mendenhall in his War Diary from Iraq maintained that the city was comprised as of April 2003 of one third Arabs, one third Turkmen and one third Kurds. It is not clear, however, how many Kurds have returned to Kirkuk in the past 8 months, and how many Arabs have been quietly expelled south (the number is reported to be in the thousands).