ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Committee to Evaluate and Respond to International Reports on Tuesday called on the UN’s Assistance Mission to Iraq (UNAMI) to improve its efforts in collecting and documenting abuses and human rights violations in the disputed city of Tuz Khurmatu.
On Oct. 16, Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias attacked and took over the province of Kirkuk and other disputed territories in retaliation to the Kurdistan Region’s Sep. 25 referendum on independence. Since then, a new wave of displacement and humanitarian crisis hit the region as thousands of people, mostly Kurds, left Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu out of fear of abuse and threatening behavior.
According to the KRG, in the aftermath of the October attack, over 180,000 people, mostly Kurds, have been displaced from Kirkuk and other disputed cities and been the targets of arsons, lootings, and threats.
“Now that these violations have been brought to light, actions need to be taken to stifle the hostility in the region,” read a statement by the KRG’s International Reports Committee. “The figures that UNAMI has provided,” however, “greatly vary from the ones we have received from our sources.”
The committee highlighted that the discrepancies between the KRG’s numbers and those reported by UNAMI were too large to ignore. “The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported 1,440 families and 8,694 people were displaced, but according to our sources 31,000 families and 126,000 individuals have been displaced.”
Many of the families relocated to safer areas in the Kurdistan Region, in the Erbil and Sulaimani provinces. “Our sources also report that 12 political party buildings were destroyed, 5 radio and TV stations were looted and burnt, and 1102 homes were looted.”
In December, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani called on his Iraqi counterpart to investigate abuses against Kurds in Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu. Others have warned of attempts to “disrupt the demographic composition” of Kirkuk and other disputed cities “through the forced displacement of Kurds,” describing it as a new Arabization campaign to which Baghdad is turning a blind eye.
Kurdish officials have called on the UN to send a “fact-finding” group to “investigate and collect information” on the Kurdish villages being targeted by the new campaigns of forced displacements. The Kurdistan Region’s Prime Minister, Nechirvan Barzani, has repeatedly warned that the UN has not taken the Khurmatu situation seriously.
“KRG authorities request that UNAMI improve their efforts as the KRG expects that UNAMI’s summary of findings of the investigation should be more geographically comprehensive and contain detailed information on the violations,” the statement continued.
Last month, a UNAMI team explained it was difficult to spot looted buildings since some of the houses were not accessible. At other times, they were prevented from entering certain areas by the Hashd al-Shaabi, according to a member of the Iraqi Parliament.
“As time passes evidence becomes scarcer and the chances of more casualties, violations, and looting increases. Therefore it is imperative that UNAMI also conducts investigations in Kirkuk, Sinjar, Snune, Zummar, West Tigris Bank, and their surrounding villages,” the committee concluded.