Iraqi forces detain Kurdistan 24 media team in disputed Kirkuk

The detention lasted three hours and came as the Kurdistan 24 team covered clashes between Kurdish and Arab families in rural Kirkuk over land ownership disputes.

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – On Sunday, Iraqi security forces detained a Kurdistan 24 team that was covering a clash between Kurdish villagers and several Arab families in the disputed Kirkuk province.

The incident occurred in the Guli Tapa village in southern parts of Kirkuk, where a confrontation ensued over land-ownership disputes. Shortly after, a Kurdistan 24 media team, made up of a reporter and a cameraman, arrived on the scene.

Local Kurds in Daquq district, where Guli Tapa is located, claimed that the Iraqi Federal Police had supported Arab families coming and attempting to take over lands Kurds own.

Upon arrival, "we were detained by a unit of Iraq's Federal Police for three hours in a window-tinted car," said Soran Kamaran, Kurdistan 24's reporter in Kirkuk province. Kurdistan 24 cameraman Nawzad Mohammad was accompanying Kamaran.

"We were told [by the security forces] that they do not allow such incidents to be reported," Kamaran said. He added that the police unit also confiscated their equipment and still hold on to them.

The work of Kurdistan 24 media teams in disputed areas has previously been similarly interrupted.

In mid-May, Iraqi Federal Police detained and questioned Kurdistan 24 reporter Hemin Dalo and Mohammed. The team was near Kirkuk's Zanqar village, where they reported on recent crop fires that destroyed hundreds of acres of farmers' lands in the area.

Read More: Media advocacy groups condemn detention of Kurdistan 24 team in Kirkuk, call for investigation

Arabization Allegations

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.

After the fall of the former Iraqi dictator in 2003, the lands were given back to their Kurdish and Turkmen owners when the Arabs left voluntarily in exchange for a sum of money promised by the Iraqi Constitution.

However, after Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi militias pushed Kurdish Peshmerga forces from Kirkuk in late 2017, allegations of the forced displacement of Kurds began to emerge. Landowners were allegedly told to vacate their properties by ethnically Arab claimants who had Saddam-era documents.

Several Kurdish officials have accused Rakan Saeed, the Arab acting governor installed at the time, of facilitating ethnically divisive policies in efforts to tip the balance against Kurds. The Kurds have a majority of seats in the Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC) and, as a result, are entitled to choose Kirkuk's governor.

Editing by Khrush Najari