Posted on July 14, 2016 by Editorial Staff in Kirkuk
Arabs in Kirkuk. Photo: Beladi News
KIRKUK, Iraq,— Arab political factions in Kirkuk say they have prepared a road-map for the disputed province which will give equal administrative powers to the three main ethnic groups there, and also give the province extended autonomy from Baghdad.
Saadoon Fandi, a member of the Iraqi Arab Republic’s Council, told Rudaw on Tuesday that the council agreed that “staying with Baghdad would serve the ethnically-mixed city better than other options.”
“We think this is the best way to preserve Kirkuk from future conflicts,” Fandi said.
With roughly 20 percent of Kirkuk city’s population made up of Arab residents the council’s decision could have a considerable impact on the looming referendum over the status of the oil rich province.
Also Kurdistan’s efforts to integrate Kirkuk with its regional administration in Erbil will likely be complicated by the fact that Turkmen factions in Kirkuk hold similar views to the Arab Council.
“Most of the Turkmen groups agree that Kirkuk should become a semi-independent region, but sadly we have so far been unable to reach a final agreement with the other two groups,” said Tahseen Kahiya, a Turkmen provincial lawmaker, referring to the Kurdish and Arab factions in Kirkuk.
Roughly 50 percent of the population in the city of Kirkuk is Kurdish.
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has said Turkman and Sunni population’s rights will be more secured within the Kurdistan Region than in a Shiite-led Iraq. Erbil hopes the province will overwhelmingly decide to integrate with the KRG.
The oil-rich province of Kirkuk is one of the most disputed areas by the Kurdistan regional government and the Iraqi government in Baghdad.
The Kurds are seeking to integrate Kirkuk province into the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Regionclaiming it to be historically a Kurdish city. The population is a mix of majority Kurds and minority of Arabs, Christians and Turkmen.
Kurds have a strong cultural and emotional attachment to Kirkuk, which they call “the Kurdish Jerusalem.” Kurds see it as the rightful and perfect capital of an autonomous Kurdistan state.
The former regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein had forced over 250,000 Kurdish residents to give up their homes to Arabs in the 1970s, to “Arabize” the city and the region’s oil industry.
The Kurds took full control of Kirkuk in August 2014 as the Iraqi army collapsed in the north and Islamic State militants overran almost a third of the country.