ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The Salahaddin Police General Directorate have arrested 17 Kurdish policemen in the town of Tuz Khurmatu for participating in the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence, and 12 more are being targeted according to an official.
Arrest warrants were issued for 29 Khurmatu police officers, of various ranks, for their participation in the Sep. 25 referendum, the Khurmatu Mayor’s spokesperson, Mohammed Fayeq, revealed on Sunday.
He mentioned that 17 of the policemen had been arrested and sent to prison in Salahaddin Province.
“Their heads have been completely shaved, and they’re currently being held in jail in Salahaddin,” Fayeq added.
He also noted that the Salahaddin provincial police were still looking for the remaining 12 wanted Kurdish policemen.
The Kurdistan Region on Sep.25 held a referendum on independence which also included the Kirkuk Province and other disputed territories. An overwhelming majority, nearly 93 percent, voted in favor of secession from Iraq.
The town is located in the south of Kirkuk, with a diverse ethnic and religious population and a Kurdish majority. Khurmatu is historically claimed to be one of the last towns in the Kurdistan Region located on the administrative border of the Federal Government of Iraq and is currently under the control of Baghdad.
Following the Oct. 16 attack and takeover of Kirkuk and other disputed territories by Iraqi Forces and Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias, over 180,000 people were forcibly displaced to the Kurdistan Region, most of them being Kurds from Kirkuk and Khurmatu.
Since then, Shia militias have burned, looted, and destroyed over 2,450 Kurdish houses and shops, a Diyala Provincial Council Member, Mala Hassan, previously told a local newspaper. International human rights organizations have published similar reports.
Recently, hundreds of Khurmatu residents held protests in Garmiyan and called on the UN, the Kurdish government, and the Federal Government of Iraq to help them return to their homes and provide security, and if necessary, send UN peacekeeping forces to the area.\
Editing by Nadia Riva