ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi security forces on Thursday demolished the homes of four Kurdish families in the disputed city of Kirkuk in what locals claim is discriminatory action meant to intimidate Kurds into leaving the region.
The incident occurred in the Arafa neighborhood, northwest of Kirkuk, an ethnically diverse city long plagued by tensions with the province having undergone multiple systematic campaigns of demographic change to “Arabize” the region and obstruct the Kurdistan Region’s claim to it.
The security forces arrived in the area with bulldozers and other heavy machinery early Thursday, and without warning, brought down the walls of four homes, all of which belonged to Peshmerga families, along with a small store just down the street from them.
One local told Kurdistan 24 that the officer in charge had said the reason behind the action was the houses were trespassing on property owned by Iraq’s North Oil Company, a public entity that operates in Kirkuk and is parented by the national ministry of oil.
However, according to locals, members of other ethnicities, like Arabs and Turkmen, are guilty of the same infringements but the authorities have yet to crack down on the other groups as they have on the Kurds.
Speaking with Kurdistan 24, one resident drew parallels between their woes today and those they experienced under the Ba’athist regime before 2003.
During the reign of Saddam Hussein, the government forced many Kurds to leave Kirkuk and handed land deeds to ethnic Arabs in an aggressive campaign to “Arabize” the province. After the fall of Hussein, many owners of such pieces of property were allowed to return to the region and resettle their rightful lands.
However, the current situation has led many to fear another campaign aimed at weakening the Kurdish position in the province. The worries have only grown since the events of October 2017, when Baghdad installed a new governor in Kirkuk province.
Rakan Saeed – ethnically Arab – has reigned over the area since then after the Kurdish Najmaldin Karim was forced to leave following the assault of Iraqi forces on Kirkuk. Since then, reports have piled on as one Kurdish community after the other is forced to leave their areas with self-proclaimed owners using the same deeds they had during the reign of Saddam Hussein.
Kurds, the largest ethnicity in the province, and the holders of the absolute majority on the provincial council, have been vocal of what they state are racially-motivated policies by the new acting governor.
On Tuesday, around 200 Sunni Arab citizens arrived in a town close to 50 kilometers northwest of the capital city, demanding Kurdish residents vacate their properties claiming the lands belonged to them.
The claimants were also purported to have been using Saddam-era deeds.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany