ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (K24) – Kirkuk Turkmen held a rally on Monday demanding the inclusion of Hashd al-Shaabi (People’s Mobilization) Shia militia in attending weekly security meetings held in Kirkuk.
The head of Turkmen Front Arshad Salehi told K24 that they consider Hashd al-Shaabi "a defensive force protecting Turkmen," and therefore, demand its inclusion and participation in security meetings just like Peshmerga.
Salehi emphasized the necessity for all religious and ethnic components to take part in securing Kirkuk, "We Turkmen have Hashd al-Shaabi and Kurds have Peshmerga. We need...to [coordinate these] security gatherings."
It is the first time that Turkmen demanded the militia attend such meetings. Furthermore, Salehi’s previous requests to form a specific Turkmen force were ignored by the Federal Government.
Additionally, head of Kirkuk Provincial Council Rebwar Talabani rejected the demand as well, "The security board is composed of all the sectarian and religious groups [of Kirkuk Province] including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen, Sunni and Shia."
Currently, there are approximately 7,000 Hashd al-Shaabi militants stationed throughout Kirkuk Province.
Additionally, Peshmerga's are afraid that by increasing the Shia militia's influence in the province, violent incidents will be repeated, such as the recent clash in Tuz Khurmatu.
The State-sponsored Hashd al-Shaabi was initially formed by uniting different Shia militias with the expressed purpose of confronting Islamic State (IS) extremists beginning in June 2014.
Kurdish officials say Hashd al-Shaabi is a temporary force that is expected to defer to Iraqi security forces after the war against IS ends.
Reporting by Gulala Khaled
Editing by Benjamin Kweskin and Karzan Sulaivany
(Soran Kamaran contributed to this report from Kirkuk)