Al-Iraqiyah: Arab-Kurdish Polemics over the Oil City of Kirkuk

BBC Monitoring carries a translation of a discussion of the Kirkuk crisis on al-Iraqiyah televisions between a Kurdish and an Arab member of parliament.:

August 8, 2008 Friday

Iraqi MPs discuss problem of Kirkuk on Al-Iraqiyah TV discussion programme

LENGTH: 1704 words

[“Al-Iraqiyah and the Event” political talk show moderated by Abd-al-Karim Hamadi, interviews Iraqi House of Representatives members Muhammad Mahdi al-Bayati, rapporteur of the House; Khalid Shawani, for the Kurdistan Alliance; and Umar al-Juburi, for the Arab Bloc for National Dialogue – date not given; recorded]

Iraqi government-controlled Al-Iraqiyah TV on 2 August carries a new episode of its “Al-Iraqiyah and the Event” political talk show, moderated by anchorman Abd-al-Karim Hamadi. The topic of discussion is the Kirkuk issue, and means to resolve it. Guests on the programme are: Muhammad Mahdi al-Bayati, member of the Iraqi House of Representatives and House rapporteur, in the studio; Khalid Shawani, member of the Iraqi House of Representatives for the Kurdistan Alliance, in the studio; and Umar al-Juburi, member of the Iraqi House of Representatives for the Arab Bloc for National Dialogue, via telephone from an unidentified location.

In his introduction, moderator Hamadi poses the following questions: “Where has the Kirkuk crisis reached now? What solutions are there? What is the status of deliberations? Are we rotating in a vicious circle?”

Asked to talk about the status of the Kirkuk problem in light of De Mistura’s proposal, Al-Bayati says that the Kirkuk problem was not supposed to reach this tense point “where statements are made here and there leading to entrenchment behind political parties and trends in the arena.” He explains that the city of Kirkuk has witnessed problems since the establishment of the Iraqi Republic, adding that “the Kirkuk issue has reached the point where the components of the city lack trust in each other, and that this was reflected in the Iraqi Parliament. This lack of trust resulted in changing drafts 10 or 11 times concerning Article 24 of the Provincial Council Election Law. The changes involved certain phrases due to their sensitivity, also resulting from the lack of trust among these components.”

Asked to verify whether the committee that is discussing the Kirkuk issue comprises representatives of all components, Al-Bayati explains that the committee, comprising Parliament’s speakership, meets representatives of one component first, then meets all components together, adding: “The current discussions and deliberations rotate around the UN proposal, and we believe that this proposal is good, except for some points that were raised by the two sides. I believe that all sides have faith in the De Mistura proposal, but that lack of trust is the cause of the obstruction or delay that takes place every now and then.” He notes that the points of difference in this proposal are related to violations committed against public and private properties, election centres, power sharing, and the mechanism of the elections.

Asked what makes the Kurdistan Alliance change some phrases in the draft law and whether it relates to the lack of trust in the other side, Shawani says that although the Kurdistan Alliance wanted the Kirkuk elections to be held on schedule like other governorates, the alliance agreed to postpone them “until the concerns of brother Arabs and Turkomans are eased.” He adds that the Arabs and Turkomans have reached the same conviction reached by the Kurdistan Alliance, that “we support the holding of elections together with the distribution of administrative posts.” He says that the request for a committee to investigate and audit the demographic change in the city does not contradict the alliance’s stand, “because we were the side that requested such a committee to be formed from the beginning.” He explains that the committee’s investigations will refute the allegations about the Kurds planning to make Kirkuk a Kurdish city. He criticizes the request of Arabs and Turkomans in Kirkuk for a special law and mechanism for holding elections there, wondering whether Kirkuk is not an Iraqi governorate where the same law should be applied as in other governorates. Shawani notes that at a time other Iraqi governorates witnessed some type of civil or sectarian war, Kirkuk maintained its cohesion and its components continued to coexist peacefully.

Asked to confirm whether the authority of the Iraqi Central Government in Kirkuk is weaker than that of the Iraqi Kurdistan Province, Shawani denies that this is the case, and emphasizes that the federal government is present there, giving the example of the Army units, which receive their orders from the Iraqi Defence Ministry. He says public services in Kirkuk are bad, because they are the responsibility of the central government and Baghdad fails to render them, adding that all appointments and official decisions come from Baghdad without any objection from the Iraqi Kurdistan Province.

Hamadi notes that the situation in Kirkuk is normal, according to Shawani, and he asks Al-Bayati to explain the causes of tension and why this violation of the Constitution by voting on Article 24 of the Provincial Council Election Law. Al-Bayati stresses that the situation in Kirkuk is abnormal due to the Kurdish efforts to alter its demography and propaganda that the city is the heart of Kurdistan, noting that all governmental posts in the city were occupied by Kurdish party members after April 2003. He adds: “This issue raises the concern of Arabs and Turkomans in Kirkuk. We began to establish the city’s administration in the wake of the downfall of the former regime, but the course of political action in Kirkuk took a different trend, as there was monopolization of power and occupation of government buildings and military camps.”

Asked why the Arabs and Turkomans are apprehensive about the situation in Kirkuk, although Shawani has confirmed that matters are normal there, and also why problems are being created and exaggerated about the future of the city, Al-Juburi says: “To begin with, I object to the use of the term Sunni Arabs, because the Arabs in Kirkuk, Sunnis and Shi’is, are one component of the city. The use of this term aims to fragment Arab ranks in Kirkuk.” He adds that “the concerns of brother Arabs and Turkomans are serious, because since 9 April 2003, a drastic change has been taking place on the ground, not mere allegations by brother Arabs and Turkomans, and this was proved by the statistics used for allocating the 2008 budget funds.” He explains that these demographic changes were more than 100 per cent and affected one component only, which is the Kurdish component, coinciding with a decrease in the population of Arabs and Turkomans.

Asked where did the Arabs and Turkomans go, Al-Juburi says they left the city because of harassment, and many Arabs migrated for their own safety, because they were hunted down as supporters of the former regime or because they were forced to sign papers against their will. Asked why the Arabs and Turkomans remained silent about these concerns for almost five years and did not raise them except when matters reached that point, Al-Juburi says that the Arabs and Turkomans protested many times to the Kirkuk Provincial Council and boycotted this council in late 2007, as a result of which the Iraqi president interfered and promised to tackle the issue of power sharing, and he was the person who proposed the 32 per cent principle. He adds: “Nevertheless, the [Kurdish] brothers did not adhere to implementing what was agreed and, accordingly, our concerns are serious. This is why we insist on introducing guarantees to the Provincial Council Election Law.”

Commenting on what Al-Juburi has said, Al-Bayati says that he concurs with Al-Juburi’s viewpoint, emphasizing that Kirkuk’s Arab and Turkoman components have been calling for a consensus on the status of the city, but “regrettably until this moment no consensus has been reached on the city and its administration,” explaining that the city’s key officials are all Kurds. He adds that he keeps evidence of Kurdish expropriation of government and private lands and buildings in Kirkuk, demonstrating some of this evidence. He says that complaints were filed with former Iraqi governments, the US Consulate in the city, and the UN Mission, adding that the central government formed committees to investigate these claims, but no solutions were reached.

Responding to the above, Shawani says that the Kurdistan Alliance leased buildings against documented contracts, emphasizing that Al-Bayati wanted to minimize the Kirkuk problem and show it as an issue of expropriation of property. As for whether Kirkuk is the heart of Kurdistan, Shawani says: “Kirkuk is Kurdish and I believe that it is so, and I have Ottoman documents of Kurdish individuals who are not involved in this case, to support my belief,” adding that there are other foreign and Arab documents to prove the nationality of the city. Al-Bayati interrupts to say that the British documents are void. Shawani challenges Al-Bayati to give him a name of an Arab family in Kirkuk that was forced to leave the city.

Asked why the Arabs and Turkomans remained silent all these years and raised the issue only at the time of elections, Shawani says: “This is because they know quite well that they will not win the seats that they already had.” He emphasizes that the Kurdish demands are constitutional.

Asked if he has a solution to the problem, Al-Bayati says: “Solutions are unknown at present,” emphasizing that “there is a moderate solution presented by the UN secretary general, which is being studied and there are continuous sessions about it. Despite the problems that were raised, I believe that this proposal will be a decisive solution to the ambitions of the brothers in the Kurdistan Alliance and the legitimate rights of the brother Arabs and Turkomans in Kirkuk. Otherwise, we will be heading to hell and to further complications in Kirkuk and the entire Iraq.”

Responding to the same question, Shawani says that “the citizens of Kirkuk should determine the future of their city,” emphasizing that “the Kurdistan Alliance views the solution as one that is based on Article 140 of the Constitution.” Al-Bayati interrupts to say that this solution is not a real solution and that it is the cause of the problem.

Source: Al-Iraqiyah TV, Baghdad, in Arabic 1905 gmt 2 Aug 08

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