Ninevah And Constitutional Referendum

Ninevah and the Constitutional Referendum

A kind reader in Iraq writes:

‘ I was in Iraq during the recent elections . . . It is possible – probable – that the Kurdish authorities stuffed ballot boxes. The irony is that if they did this, it was probably unnecessary. The demographics of Ninevah governorate would make it virtually impossible to get a 2/3 no vote.

Mosul city itself is probably 2/3 Sunni Arab, with a significant Kurdish minority in the safer, eastern districts. The Kurds would have voted (twice?) in favor of the constitution. The Christians, a significant minority in Mosul, would mostly also have voted yes if they voted at all. If Ninevah governorate consisted only of Mosul, the vote against the constitution may well have been close to 2/3 against . . .

[The Christians in the north are complicated – I think their vote on the constitution may be split. They are suspicious of Kurdish autonomy but concede that autonomy also means no Sharia’ law in the north. The Christians . . . in Dohuk and Erbil were in favor, but without much enthusiasm. In Baghdad or Mosul, they might be much more opposed.]

However, Ninevah Governorate was drawn in such a way that it includes a wide swath of territory in the eastern part of the governorate, currently militarily and politically controlled by the Kurds. There are a number of major towns and small cities in this region: Aqrah, Bardarash, Shaykhan (‘Ain Sifni), and Kalak to name the largest four. (Aqrah is the hometown of Latif Zebari, the “bad” uncle of Iraq’s current foreign minister, who had a blood feud with Mustafa Barzani since the 60’s. That’s another reason why this area was included in Ninevah. Latif has an interesting story – his family and followers still live in Mosul, but no longer can count on Arab support. The KDP has elected not to finish him off, as they did with Omar Surchi, another powerful agha who sided with the government against Barzani.)

The towns of al-Qosh, Ba’ashiqah and Tel Kayf to the immediate north and northeast of Mosul are majority Christian. They are likely to have voted more or less for the constitution, if the Kurds trusted them enough to have their votes counted. (There were credible allegations of disenfranchisement of Christians in these communities during the last election. They mostly supported Allawi as the secular, non-Kurdish alternative.)

The towns of ar-Rabi’ah and Zimar are currently at least half Kurdish. Sinjar is now nearly all Kurdish (after the expulsion of Arabs in 2003) and the large collective town near the Syrian border is populated by Arabs of the Shammar tribe, who have historically opposed the Ba’athists and are the most likely of all Sunni Arabs to have voted at least in part for the constitution. (Ghazi al-Yawar is a Shammar)

That leaves the following population centers outside of Mosul as likely sources of nearly 100% “no” votes for the constitution: Tel Afar, Hammam al-Alil, Hadra, Ba’aj, and smaller communities along the Tigris south of Mosul . . . I suspect that the total population of these Sunni communities is roughly equal to or maybe a little less than the total population of the qadhas and nahiyas under Kurdish administration control. The Arab areas of Ninevah have not fared well over the last two years. Many Arabs in Zimar, Sinjar and Shaykhan were forced to leave, and although many of them are now unemployed, landless, and pissed off residents of Mosul and Ba’aj, others have migrated out of Ninevah governorate completely to Baghdad or Salahaddin governorate. The Sunni towns and cities outside of Mosul are matched one-for-one with equivalent Kurdish towns, with the exception of Tel Afar, which is about 150% the size of Aqrah, the largest Kurdish city in the governorate.

So I would estimate that a fair vote in Ninevah Governorate probably would be about 55% against the constitution, but probably not more – depending of course on equivalent turnout for the different ethnic groups. ‘

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