ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Official documents reveal the resettlement of 600 Arab families from southern and central parts of Iraq to the disputed province of Kirkuk.
According to documents Kurdistan 24 received, 600 Arab families from the governorates of Salahuddin, Anbar, Maysan, and Baghdad were transferred and given residence in Kirkuk over the past six months.
Rasul Raouf, a representative of the Socialist Party in Kirkuk, said the process of resettling Arabs in the disputed region “is very organized.” He noted that official documents authorize the transfers to Kirkuk and officially consider the newcomers as residents of the governorate.
“I believe if this continues in the next election, then, after four years, the Kurds will no longer remain the majority in Kirkuk,” Raouf told Kurdistan 24.
Since the Iraqi government’s attack on Kirkuk and other disputed areas in October 2017, Arabs have been brought to the province from different regions in an attempt to implement the demographic changes.
The campaign is meant to change the demography of the areas by forcibly displacing the Kurdish residents and replacing them with Arabs from central and southern Iraq.
Kirkuk, an ethnically diverse province comprised mainly of Turkmen, Arabs, Christians, and a Kurdish majority, is claimed by both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq.
The former Iraqi Ba’ath regime, under Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship, implemented Arabization campaigns in Kirkuk province and other Kurdish-populated areas in Nineveh, Salahuddin, and Diyala.
After the fall of the former Iraqi dictator in 2003, the lands were given back to their Kurdish and Turkmen owners when the Arabs left voluntarily in exchange for a sum of money promised by the Iraqi Constitution.
However, after Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias pushed Kurdish Peshmerga forces from Kirkuk in late 2017, allegations of the forced displacement of Kurds began to emerge. Landowners were allegedly told to vacate their properties by ethnically Arab claimants who had Saddam-era documents.
Several Kurdish officials have accused Rakan Saeed, the Arab acting governor that was installed at the time, of facilitating ethnically divisive policies in efforts to tip the balance against Kurds. The Kurds have a majority of seats in the Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC) and, as a result, are entitled to choose Kirkuk’s governor.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany
(Additional reporting by Soran Kamaran)