With Arabs feeling that their rights have been violated by the Kurds since the fall of Saddam Hussein, and with the Kurds controlling the largest share of Kirkuk’s provincial council following the 2005 elections, it has not been surprising to see the emergence of a new strategic alliance between the Arabs and Turkmen. By uniting the two sides are seeking to keep the province out of Kurdish hands.
Muhammad Tamim, representative of the Arab gathering in the province, told Niqash that “the proposal submitted by Arabs and Turkmen in Kirkuk province demands that Kirkuk be considered a special region to be jointly administered by the three ethnicities.” He added that the proposal expressed “our opposition to the annexation of Kirkuk to the Kurdish Region… and of our rejection of attempts to destroy our history.”
The proposal, described by Kurds as “new from old,” was not accepted by Kurds despite the wide support of politicians and Iraqi parliament members. Adnan Danbous, a member of parliament for the Iyad Allawi’s al-Tawafuq List, stressed “al-Tawafuq’s support for the dual proposal submitted by Arabs and Turkmen viewing Kirkuk as a special region to be governed by its major components,” adding that “the proposal will ease ethnic tensions.”
Arab tribes in Najaf city also expressed their support in a large demonstration, condemning the idea of the annexation of the oil-rich province to the Kurdish region.
Muhammad al-Suhail, a tribal leader, and one of the demonstration’s organizers, told Niqash that “annexing Kirkuk and other disputed areas is a call for fragmenting the unity of the country and its minorities.” Sheikh Munaf al-Thahabi, a representative of the Sadrist movement reiterated Suhail’s reasoning and “held Kurds responsible for fuelling ethnic tensions and conflicts in the city of Kirkuk and in other cities with mixed ethnicities such as Diyala and Mosul.” Denouncing the Kurdish insistence on article 140 of the constitution which calls for a referendum on the status of the province, al-Thahabi said that “there are one and a half million Kurds living in Baghdad; should we wait for the formation of a committee on article 140 to resolve the issue because in the future Baghdad will become a disputed area?”
However, according to Dalshad Marwan, head of Kurdistan’s Regional Representation office in Baghdad, the Arab-Turkmen proposal contravenes constitutional provisions regarding administrative divisions saying that “the implementation of article 140 related to the normalization of conditions in the city and other disputed areas is the ideal solution to the crisis.” Marwan questioned the importance of elections saying: “why should elections be held if there are allocated quotas for Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen and predetermined administrative divisions?”
The Kurds continue to insist on what they describe as their “historical rights in Kirkuk province,” stressing that thousands of Arabs were brought into the city in the 1980s under Hussein’s arabization policy.
Pending a resolution regarding article 24 which calls for a temporary power-sharing agreement in Kirkuk, Muhammad Khalil, official spokesman for the Arab bloc within Kirkuk’s provincial council, told Niqash that more talks were now planned between the Kurdish and Arab blocs. Khalil explained that “meetings will be held between the two lists to review what has been/has not been agreed upon in addition to the distribution of powers between the two parties,” related to an agreement reached between the two sides on December 2, 2007.”
Under the agreement signed between the Arab Iraqi Republican Gathering and the Kirkuk Brotherly List, local authority was to be divided among Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen at a ratio of 32% for each and 4% for Keldo-Assyrians until the election date. It was only following this agreement that the Arab bloc returned to the provincial council following a boycott, followed shortly after by the Turkmen. However, the two parties, the Arabs and Turkmen, still accuse Kurds of blocking the full implementation of the agreement and not granting them the full administrative powers that were agreed upon.
The Kurds, however, say power is rightfully theirs. “The 2005 elections resulted in 26 seats for the Kurds out of a total of 41, while Arabs won six and Turkmen eight,” said Rizkar Ali, the Kurdish head of Kirkuk's provincial council. “They have attempted to raise doubts regarding the size of our representation, but the election results are a clear indication. All electoral appeals made by Arabs and Turkmen were not considered by the Independent High Commission because the election results were fair.”