ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Every Kurdish party in Kirkuk convened for the first time since the Oct. 16 attack and military takeover of the province by Iraqi forces and Shia militias to discuss electing a new governor.
Local Kurdish parties held a meeting for the first time in Kirkuk, including the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) which left the province and boycotted Iraq’s May 12 election after the events of Oct. 16 which it described as “a military and forceful occupation.”
Iraqi forces and Iranian-backed Shia militias on Oct. 16, 2017, attacked and took over the oil-rich province of Kirkuk and other disputed territories, forcing the Kurdish Peshmerga forces to withdraw. The Kurdish forces were in charge of protecting the areas from threats by the Islamic State (IS) since the 2014 collapse of the Iraqi Army.
The move was a military response by Baghdad against the Kurdistan Region’s historic independence referendum held the month before.
Since then, the security situation has considerably deteriorated in those areas as insurgent attacks, ambushes, and kidnappings by IS militants and other unknown armed groups are on the rise.
Tuesday’s meeting took place in eastern Kirkuk’s Qara Hanjir district, in the headquarters of the Kurdistan Communist Party.
They discussed a number of topics, including the current situation in Kirkuk and discussed the election of a new governor, a member of the parties’ delegation told Kurdistan 24.
The parties also held a press conference and read a joint statement requesting the Iraqi government to withdraw all troops deployed to Kirkuk after Oct. 16 and “stop the Arabization campaign in effect,” calling it a clear violation of the Iraqi constitution.
The parties also condemned the recent Iranian missile attack on Kurdish opposition groups based in the Kurdistan Region.
The statement added that the parties agreed to reactivate the Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC) and resume regular sessions. The KPC has not been able to convene since Oct. 16 attack
The parties also stressed they believe in peaceful co-existence in Kirkuk and asserted the Kurdistani parties, as the majority in the province, should not be marginalized in administration and security roles.
Following the takeover, Najmaldin Karim, the governor of Kirkuk, was ousted by the Iraqi federal government for supporting the referendum on independence, which saw 93 percent of people favoring statehood.
Since then, Rakan Saeed, an ethnically Sunni Arab, replaced Karim as acting governor. Kurdish parties have heavily criticized him for pursuing policies that favor sectarian and demographic changes in Kirkuk.
Saeed ran in the May 12 national elections and secured a seat in the Iraqi Parliament, leaving the post of Kirkuk Governor vacant.
Kirkuk is oil-rich and province located in the south of the Kurdistan Region and north of Iraq. It is a multi-ethnic province with a diverse religious background made up of Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs, and Christians. Kurds account for the majority of the population.
It is one of the disputed territories between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government of Iraq. The province has undergone severe, systematic campaigns of demographic change to ‘Arabize’ the region and obstruct the Kurdistan Region’s claim on it.
Editing by Nadia Riva