ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On Tuesday, around 200 Arab Sunni citizens reportedly arrived in Kirkuk’s Sargaran sub-district to settle and occupy properties using unlawful documents from Saddam’s era, under whom several Arabization campaigns took place in the area as part of a systematic demographic change in the disputed territory.
Footages sent to Kurdistan 24 shows dozens of cars carrying what were described as Arab citizens parked in the Palkana village of Sargaran. Clashes erupted between Kurdish villagers and the newly-arrived individuals, with several military vehicles seen on site in attempts to control the situation.
#HappeningNow: Kurdish villagers in Kirkuk's Sargaran town accuse Iraqi security forces and militia groups of supporting demographic change by coming along with Arab families to help them occupy Kurdish houses in the area. #Iraq #TwitterKurds pic.twitter.com/AkqW82AOuw— Kurdistan 24 English (@K24English) May 14, 2019
“They occupied and settled in the Kurdish houses that had been evacuated since the Oct. 16 attack by Iraqi forces and Shia militias, in 2017,” a villager told Kurdistan 24 during a live broadcast, whose name was not mentioned.
“They arrived; they [ethnic Arabs] are more than one hundred people,” he added.
The newcomers are using documents from the Iraqi Baathist regime era to claim the land, documents given to them during the Arabization campaigns carried out by Saddam Hussein to change the Kurdish demography of the disputed territory.
Throughout history, the province of Kirkuk has undergone severe systematic campaigns of demographic change to ‘Arabize’ the region and obstruct the Kurdistan Region’s claim on it.
“The thing is that their move is supported by the current Kirkuk administration led by Governor Rakan al-Jabouri, Iraqi security forces, and militias,” another villager of Palkana told Kurdistan 24 by telephone.
Sargaran is a strategic area located near oil fields and pipelines, some 50 kilometers northwestern of Kirkuk city.
Ramzi Hamid, a member of the Sargaran sub-district council, confirmed to Kurdistan 24 that over 25 vehicles arrived in the village carrying Arab citizens, and occupied some empty Kurdish houses.
Over 50 vehicles full of Arab families, about 200 people, supported by Iraqi security forces and militia groups, entered Sargaran town to occupy Kurdish house as part of a systematic demographic change campaign, local villagers complained to Kurdistan 24.#TwitterKurds #Iraq pic.twitter.com/IejvtW5xzb— Kurdistan 24 English (@K24English) May 14, 2019
“This threat has been there for a while. Every year during our harvest, these Arab families come and try to occupy and claim the land,” Hamid said, expressing his deep concerns.
“We have already notified those who are above us, like Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC), and those who are above them as well,” he continued. “This threat should be stopped.”
Local villagers told Kurdistan 24 correspondent Soran Kamaran in Palkana Village that security had detained a number of people from both sides to control the situation.
In a statement, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) faction in the Iraqi Parliament, which holds 25 seats, strongly condemned the "chauvinistic" move. The KDP accused Governor Jabouri and Iraqi military authorities in Kirkuk of encouraging systematic demographic changes in the province.
The Kurdish faction also stated that Palkana and 16 other Kurdish villages in the area are under persistent threat of forced demographic change.
"These actions will have implications on the political situation in Iraq," the statement reads. "We will combat these actions via the constitution and rule of law."
Editing by Nadia Riva