ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – A member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) claimed on Tuesday that, in less than a year, thousands of Arab families have settled in Kirkuk Province in what he called a new Arabization campaign by Baghdad.
“Since the events of October 16, 12,000 Arab families have been brought from the southern and central provinces of Iraq to Kirkuk," said Kamal Kirkuki, a newly-appointed KDP politburo member representing the Kirkuk – Garmiyan region.
The words of Kirkuki came during a press conference held after he was assigned a new position within the KDP during a meeting between politburo members.
On Monday, the position of Peshmerga Commander of the Kirkuk Front—formerly occupied by Kirkuki—was handed over to Nouri Hama Ali on the orders of KDP leader Masoud Barzani.
“The Iraqi government continues its Arabization campaign, but we will not give up on Kirkuk and will do our best to liberate the city from the hands of the Hashd al-Shaabi and Iraqi forces,” Kirkuki told reporters.
In response to the Sep. 25 independence referendum held by the Kurdistan Region, the central government launched a military campaign to take over the province of Kirkuk and other territories disputed by Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).
The following day, Oct. 16, Kirkuk city fell to Iraqi forces and the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias (PMF), who ousted Kurdish Peshmerga forces that had previously fought alongside them in the war against the Islamic State (IS).
In early August, landowners in Kirkuk Province told Kurdistan 24 that they were being sued by central and southern Iraqis who were given property initially taken away from Kurdish and Turkmen residents during the Ba’athist era as part of Saddam Hussein’s Arabization campaign.
In late July, Kurdistan 24 obtained information that ethnic Kurds previously holding at least 48 influential posts in Iraq's disputed territories had been replaced by those from Arab and Turkmen parties since October.
Though discord between members of different ethnic groups is an obvious factor when it comes to political positions, it should be noted that rivalries between parties which fall along ethnic lines make the issue one of local and national political dominance as well.
Editing by John J. Catherine