Sunday, 3 October 2010

Kurdish militia ‘terrorizing’ Arabs and Turkmen in Iraq’s Kirkuk

Kurdish militia ‘terrorizing’ Arabs and Turkmen in Iraq’s Kirkuk

Azzaman, October 2, 2010

Arab and Turkmen in the disputed and restive Province of Kirkuk say Kurdish militias are forcing many of them flee their areas.

The charges come only a few weeks to the population count which the government wants to conduct. The new measures by Kurds are said to be part of a calculated and orchestrated strategy to turn the count in Kirkuk to their advantage.

“Kurdish security forces, known (locally) as Ashawees, have withdrawn papers from Arab immigrants in the city and have warned them to leave within 24 hours,” said member of parliament Omer Khalaf who represents a constituency in Kirkuk.

“The people of Kirkuk ask the government to protect them against such terrorizing measures,” he said.

The oil-rich Province of Kirkuk is an explosive issue in Iraq. Kurds have vowed to add it to their semi-independent enclave in northern Iraq. Arabs and Turkmen say the province should be administered by the central government in Baghdad.

Khalaf said the Kurdish measures have escalated ahead of the census scheduled for October 24.

The Arab representative in the provincial council, Abdullah al-Asi, urged the government to send regular troops to replace Kurdish militias in control of the province.

“We have evidence of persons being threatened and warnings issued against Arabs to force leave or be killed. We have passed the evidence to the United Nations,” Asi said.

Asi said Kurdish militias and security forces have infiltrated many neighborhoods in the provincial center, Kirkuk.

“If the government in Baghdad does not send in troops, we will be forced to protect our neighborhoods and ourselves by forming special vigilante groups,” he said.

The Kurds have denied the accusations, saying their militias and security organs were not involved.

“We have no connection with the issue. These are mere allegations meant to derail the count,” said Adnan Karkoukli of the Kurdistan Democratic Party.

Sunni Arabs in general are skeptical of the count, particularly in the provinces with Kurdish minorities such as Nineveh, Kirkuk and Diyala.

They fear that Kurdish militias will meddle in the census procedures to turn the population count in their favor.

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