ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Kurdistan Region’s human rights commission released a statement on Wednesday calling for the suspension of administrative decisions made by the acting governor of Kirkuk against the Kurds who live in the contested province.
The statement comes in response to the ongoing “Arabization process” in Kirkuk and Khanaqin, where four Kurdish citizens were arrested on Wednesday for refusing to forcefully leave their homes and lands after Iraq’s North Oil Company claimed the properties belonged to them.
The human rights commission accused the acting Governor of Kirkuk, Rakan Saeed, of supporting efforts “to impose a demographic change on the disputed territories around Kirkuk against the Kurdish citizens.”
According to residents in the area, Saeed isgiving five households at a time an ultimatum to evacuate their homes in the villages of Juplija, Bajwan, and Hanjera or face three-month detention if they do not comply.
Kurdistan 24 could not independently verify those claims.
However, multiple Kurdish communities have been forced to leave their homes because others have made claims to the land using the same deeds they were given during previous Arabization campaigns enacted during the reign of Saddam Hussein. Saeed has been accused of approving these administrative procedures against the Kurds that live in Kirkuk and its surrounding villages.
The Kurdistan Region’s human rights commission described the decisions as “a violation of the Iraqi Constitution, especially article 140 regarding the disputed territories.”
The fate of disputed territories between Erbil and Baghdad, specifically Kirkuk, was constitutionally determined based on Article 140, which requires a referendum to be held in the province for people to decide on the future of the area: whether it should be part of the KRG or the federal government.
The date of the referendum was set to December 2007, but over a decade has since passed. The article goes unimplemented and is one of the long-standing disputes between Erbil and Baghdad.
Moreover, the military ousting of Peshmerga forces from Kirkuk and other disputed areas in October 2017 by Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Shia militias has led to a deteriorated security situation in the region.
The Kurdistan Region’s human rights commission underlined that the campaign of demographic change does not help the harmony and “coexistence of the various ethnic backgrounds” who live in the disputed areas.
It also blamed the Iraqi government and official institutions, such as the High Commission of Human Rights, of remaining idle, and called on them to prevent these continued violations.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany