The district of Makhmour is one of the predominantly Kurdish districts in Ninawa Province whose administration recently announced a boycott of the new provincial government. As tensions continue to rise in the
On April 13, the district which is located 115 km from the province’s capital city, Mosul, and has a population of 173,000 people, announced its boycott of the provincial administration dominated by the Sunni nationalist Hadbaa list, as did the districts of Shikhan and Sinjar.
The Hadbaa list, which secured a majority-securing 19 seats in the recent provincial election, assumed all the key administrative positions, excluding Kurds from power and provoking the boycott.
The Kurdish Brotherhood list which came second in the election, winning about 25 percent of the vote with 12 council seats, announced the boycott and has threatened to annex areas with a Kurdish majority to the Kurdish Region unless the Hadbaa list reconsiders its decision and includes Kurds in power.
“The Brotherhood list represents one million people in the province, but Hadbaa decided not to respect the voice of one million people,” the mayor of Makhmour, Barzan Sa’eed Kaka, told Niqash, comparing the Hadbaa ideology to that of Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party.
Kaka said that the Kurdish Brotherhood is now demanding that Baghdad pressure the Hadbaa list to reverse its decision but that if it does not, a case opposing the step will be filed with the Iraqi Federal Court. If the court does not reject the make-up of the new council, “we will demand that the Kurdish parliament and Kurdish leaders make preparations to annex these districts to the Kurdistan Region,” he said.
For the moment Kaka is not optimistic of a positive outcome and says that U.S officials are backing the Hadbaa list. “The U.S. consul visited me recently and told me that Hadbaa has the right to control all the key administrative positions since Hadbaa came first in the provincial elections,” he said.
He expressed surprise at the consul’s stance, saying “we should respect the Iraqi and U.S soldiers who died in Mosul for the sake of democracy and coexistence.”
Kurdish voices in the province have now warned the new governor against making a provocative visit to Makhmour, where there say he would face great hostility. On May 8, al-Najifi was prevented by Kurdish forces from entering Bashiqa, a Kurdish-controlled town northeast of Mosul. Furthermore, last Wednesday, hundreds of armed Kurds stopped the Mosul police chief, a Sunni Arab, from crossing a bridge into the disputed Dibaga area, 53 km from Makhmour.
Kurds in Makhmour, who compose 80 percent of the district, say they do not feel part of Ninawa province, pledging their allegiance to the Kurdish Region instead. Many already head to Erbil for all their necessities and universities studies.
“Makhmour is part of the Kurdish Region and the border which divides Makhmour from the region is artificial,” declares a checkpoint upon entering the district.
The Iraqi army in the region, which is largely made up of Kurds, maintains local security together with Kurdish forces, known as the Asayish.
Nasir Latif, a 28 year old primary school teacher from Makhmour who like many other teachers in the area receives his salary from the Kurdish Regional Government, says that even if Kurds are given key administration positions it will not change the local desire for annexation to the Kurdish Region.
Meanwhile, some local Arabs in the district say they do not oppose annexation to the Kurdish Region either.
“We have no problem if Makhmour merges with the Kurdish Region,” said Muhammad Abdullah, a 52 year-old Arab, who owns a shop selling chicken. “Although as Arabs we prefer if Makhmour remains part of Mosul, the majority of people here are Kurds and they want Makhmour to be part of the Kurdistan region.”
Most of the Arabs in the district are original descendents of the area and were not resettled as a result of Saddam’s desire to Arabize the area.
“We have had enough. We [Arabs and Kurds] have been exploited by the authorities for decades,” Abdullah told Niqash, adding that Arabs and Kurds in Makhmour want reconstruction and better standards of living, not warfare.
According to Latif, the teacher, relations between Kurds and Arabs in the area will remain strong whatever the outcome of the larger political battle. “There may be small-scale fighting between Kurdish forces and the Hadbaa list in Mosul city, but in Makhmour, I don’t think so since there are strong ties between Kurds and Arabs here,” he said.