Amal eddin al-Hur, Karbala’s new governor, told Niqash that he expected the dispute over Nukhayb to be resolved in Karbala’s favour through the courts. “The local government in Karbala has many documents and records which prove that Nukhayb is part of Karbala province,” he said. “The former regime annexed it to Anbar, together with al-Rahhaliya, another region in Ain al-Tamr, when it seized power in 1968 due to the former regime’s whimsical policies.”
Al-Hur says he does not want to fuel sectarian and political conflicts with Anbar authorities over the status of the town. “Nukhayb is first and foremost an Iraqi district and it is up to the court and to the people of Nukhayb to determine its future,” he said.
Karbala's provincial council has long demanded that Nukhayb be returned to Karbala, a position that Anbar’s local government has always rejected, saying the town is part of their province. Most of the town’s population is Sunni and Anbar officials say that Nukhayb is closer to Anbar in terms of its tribal and sectarian nature.
But according to Abdul-Hasan al-Furati, head of Karbala’s former local government religious tourism committee, the residents of Nukhayb have built up close kinship relations with Karbala’s majority Shiite population.
Additionally, officials from Karbala say that the residents of Nukhayb are not receiving sufficient public services because of the town’s current affiliation with Anbar and its remote position on the province’s border. “Nukhayb is currently part of al-Rutba district of Anbar, 300 km away from Nukhayb, while the latter’s distance from Karbala is much less," said al-Hur.
Al-Furati says conditions in Nukhayb would improve if the town was annexed to Karbala because “it is closer to Ain Tamr and this will allow its people to receive services and to find job opportunities in a province closer to their place of residency.”
Falah Hassan Atiya, a law expert and a resident of Ain al-Tamr, a neighbouring town that used to be administratively connected to Nukhayb explained to Niqash that the two towns have long been closely connected. “The people of Nukhayb depend on Karbala for the supply of services such as electricity and fuel,” he said. "Many people from Nukhayb used to work in Ain Tamr before the rise of sectarian violence."
According to the Iraqi constitution the town’s inhabitants should be able to determine their own fate. Article 140 stipulates that the will of the people should determine the administrative status of disputed areas. Two years ago a tribal delegation from the town demanded annexation to Karbala in exchange for better job opportunities.
Despite the administrative conflict, Atiya says that the conflict over the town will not impact relations between Anbar and Karbala on the official or the popular level. “It’s basically an administrative rather than a sectarian issue as exists in other areas of Iraq,” he said. “The law and the courts will resolve this conflict.”