Officials warn of security threats in Iraq's disputed territories
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Local officials in areas disputed by the federal Iraqi government and the Kurdistan region warn that the security vacuum created after the fall of the Islamic State still exists in many areas and that the return of Kurdish Peshmerga forces is required to protect civilians, notably Iraq's minorities.
"The people are suffering because of political instability in Iraq," said Mahma Khalil, mayor of the city of Sinjar (Shingal), in the northern embattled province of Nineveh.
The Islamic State took over Shingal in 2014, formerly home to large numbers of the Yezidi (Ezidi) religious minority which suffered heavily under the group's brutal rule.
Baghdad declared a military victory over the Islamic State in December 2017, but in a harsh response to the Kurdistan Region's independence referendum later in September, Iraqi forces and Iran-backed militias pushed the Peshmerga from disputed territories. Since that time, security has deteriorated in many of the areas, with the Islamic State staging regular insurgent attacks.
"Cooperation between Iraqi security forces and Peshmerga forces is necessary and it is the only effective move to put an end to the atrocities committed by ISIS and other armed groups in Shingal and the rest of the disputed areas," continued Khalil.
"There is ongoing communication and coordination about the security situation between Iraqi Ministry of Defense and the Peshmerga Ministry."
Major General Abubakr Ahmad, a spokesperson from the Peshmerga Ministry told the news website of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) that there is indeed such communication and coordination between the militaries of the federal and regional governments.
"We are waiting for the final decision to be made in order for Peshmerga to return to the areas to be agreed upon by Baghdad."
On May 13, another attack by suspected Islamic State militants killed two Kurdish civilians in the villages of Ahmed-Taher and Habib in the disputed district of Khanaqin, located in Diyala province.
On May 20, Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi met with Kurdish representatives in Baghdad's parliament to discuss the latest developments in the disputed areas between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government.
In a press conference following the meeting, Bashir Hadad, the Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, said among the topics discussed in the meeting were "the critical situation of the Sargaran and Palkana sub-districts along with the abuses taking place against the Kurds in the rest of the disputed areas around Kirkuk and Khanaqin."
According to Hadad, the delegation of Kurdish parliamentarians had asked the prime minister to put an end to the "illegal and unconstitutional" actions of the acting Governor of Kirkuk, who continues to issue administrative procedures against the Kurds that live in Kirkuk and its surrounding villages.
Recently, multiple Kurdish communities have been forced to leave their homes because others have made claims to the land using the same deeds they were given during previous Arabization campaigns enacted during the reign of Saddam Hussein.
Editing by John J. Catherine