ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – The Iraqi Health Ministry has ordered the removal of a Kurdish official in the ethnically-diverse province of Kirkuk, replacing him with a Turkmen individual.
Kirkuk is an oil-rich province located south of the Kurdistan Region and north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad. The multi-ethnic region has a diverse population made up of Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs, and Christians. Kurds account for the majority of the population.
The province is one of the disputed territories between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq.
Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Shia militias have been in control of Kirkuk since driving Kurdish Peshmerga forces from the province last October.
Since then, many Kurdish officials have been removed from their posts and replaced with non-Kurdish ethnic groups, among them are the Governor, Kirkuk’s Security Director, Agriculture Director-General, the Mayors of Kirkuk city, Dibis, Daquq, and Khurmatu, as well as the District and Suburban Police Director.
The latest one is the Director-General of Health in Kirkuk. According to an official letter obtained by Kurdistan 24, Iraq’s Health Minister Adila Hmoud Hussein issued a formal order on July 11 to replace the current Kurdish Director-General, Sabah Zangana, with Karim Wali, an ethnic Turkmen.
The order also mentions that the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi approved the change in the administration post.
Kurdish lawmakers from Kirkuk have previously stressed to Kurdistan 24 that since Oct. 16 the province is witnessing a campaign of “forceful demographic change” that aims to weaken the Kurds in Kirkuk.
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.
The campaign was meant to change the demography of the areas by forcibly displacing the Kurdish residents and replacing them with Arabs from central and southern Iraq.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany