ERBIL (Kurdistan) – After decades of displacement, hundreds of families in Kirkuk are yet again threatened to vacate their land or be taken to Court, this time, by an oil company with official backing.
The order came from the North Oil Company (NOC), signed by the Kirkuk Governorate and Security, which demanded the locals abandon the three villages of Hanjeera, Baijan, and Chublija (all falling to the west of the province) claiming “proximity” to the company.
“Why are they throwing me out?” an elderly Kurdish woman named Lalia Qadir cries. Qadir is a resident of the Hanjeera village who explains she has given four martyrs from her family and that her house was paid for with the blood of her children.
“I have given four martyrs. Is it acceptable for them to throw me out?”
NOC, a state-owned company, might have drafted the order out of concern for the residential areas as the operation of different types of machinery and the process of oil production pollutes local regions.
Locals, however, cry a repeat of history—another Arabization campaign by the Iraqi government to change the demographic distribution of the areas by forcibly displacing the Kurdish residents and replacing them with Arabs from central and southern Iraq.
Over 600 families occupy the three villages now. The locals were previously relocated to the Kurdistan Region and other parts of Iraq during the campaigns under the reign of the Ba’athist Regime in Iraq.
Almost all the people affirmed their stance to remain in their villages and expressed vigorous willingness to sacrifice their lives rather than leave.
“We are not going anywhere. Even if they [NOC with the backing of the Iraqi government] behead us, we are not leaving.”
“We call upon the Regional Government [of Kurdistan] to come to our aid,” another individual said, furious at the action of NOC.
One local admitted to Kurdistan 24 that she would be willing to leave the land if she was compensated by the Iraqi government otherwise she would rather stay with the rest of the people.
The families told Kurdistan 24 they had returned after the fall of the oppressive government in 2003.
The then government carried out Arabization operations in Kirkuk Province and other Kurdish-populated areas in Nineveh, Salahuddin, and Diyala; now contested regions between Baghdad and the Kurdistan Region.
The decision to determine which administration these areas would fall under—the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) or Baghdad—was addressed in Article 140 of the 2005 Iraqi Constitution.
The Article required an exclusive referendum to be held in the provinces and other disputed regions by the end of 2007. However, due to political differences between the two governments, it has never been implemented.
Accompanying Article 140 is Article 132 which relates to compensation for the people of Kurdistan affected by the dictatorship of the former Iraqi regime.
After last October’s events in the disputed areas, Kirkuk among them, the Iraqi government has been incompetent in handling the security and governance of the regions as locals protest, calling for a return to pre-2017 conditions of a joint Baghdad-Kurdistan Region governance.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Hemin Dalo contributed to this report)