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Mosul protests pit state governor against federal forces

Adel Kamal
During popular protests against US troops, Ninawa’s provincial administration appeared to be pitting itself against the Iraqi federal government as the governor joined demonstrators in breaking through…
11.05.2011  |  Mosul
المظاهرات الشعبية في مدينة الموصل
المظاهرات الشعبية في مدينة الموصل

“The governor knows that carrying this flag is a crime punishable by law,” Kareem wrote. “The penalty is even more severe for a high-ranking official such as Atheel al-Nujaifi. If carrying this flag during a demonstration is not a reflection of his own opinion, then how should we interpret his defence of the protestors?”

Another dispute between the state and federal governments was already brewing. In a special session on April 24 the Ninawa provincial council refused to accept the newly appointed police commissioner for the state. Major General Mehdi Sabeeh Hashim had been appointed to replace the former Ninawa police commissioner, Major General Ahmed Hassan al-Attiyah, who was dismissed without explanation.

Hashim comes from the central Iraqi province of Wasit and the appointment was made by Baghdad, the decision having been made by the Iraqi prime minister, who is also currently the acting minister of the interior.

“The council has used its legal powers to veto al-Maliki’s decision to appoint an officer from outside the province,” Abdul Raheem al-Shammari, head of the Security and Defence Committee at the Ninawa provincial council, said.

According to Iraqi law, the appointment of a police commissioner is the jurisdiction of any provincial council. When the correct procedure is followed, the province’s governor nominates five candidates, from which the council as a whole selects three names. These three names are then sent to the Ministry of the Interior in Baghdad, where one successful candidate is chosen.

As a result of the Ninawa council’s veto, Prime Minister al-Maliki reversed his decision only a few days later, appointing a new police commissioner for Ninawa from within the state. Major General Ahmed Hassan al-Jubouri, who eventually got the job, comes from the Qayara district within the Ninawa province and was one of those originally nominated by the provincial council.

Al-Nujaifi’s participation in the Mosul protests also has ramifications for the balance of political power within the state government. The Hadba list is a voting bloc, comprised of a number of smaller parties, headed by al-Nujaifi. In the 2009 provincial elections, the Hadba list won 19 seats on the 37-seat council and now dominates decision making in Ninawa.

Sources close to Sheikh Abdullah Hamidi al-Yawar, the head of one of the largest of the parties that make up the Hadba List, the Justice and Reform Movement, say that there was criticism of al-Nujaifi’s participation in the Mosul protests from these quarters too.

Ninawa’s governor was simply trying to gain more popular support, al-Yawar, who belongs to the Shamar tribe, an ethnic group with wide influence in western parts of the Ninawa province, apparently said. And this was even though the protestors had originally been against him, with some demanding his removal from office.

A source from inside the Ninawa provincial council, who declined to be named, told NIQASH that: “within the Hadba list there is a real struggle between the governor and al-Yawar about the demonstrations. This conflict,” the source warned, ”may lead to the disintegration of the list.”

Ninawa’s governor, it seems, is playing a tricky political game. After the 2009 provincial elections, representatives of the Kurdish population in Ninawa won only 12 seats. The Kurdish parties in Ninawa have accused their Arabic counterparts in provincial power of racism against Kurds and of injustice in the settlement of border disputes: in the past, the semi-autonomous state of Iraqi Kurdistan has talked about annexing Kurdish-dominated parts of Ninawa. And Kurdish security forces – the Peshmerga and the Asayish – have moved into the 16 Kurdish-dominated administrative districts of Ninawa.

This has raised Arab ire and part of the demands of April’s protests, some of which the state’s governor attended, included the withdrawal of Kurdish forces.

The council source that spoke with NIQASH suggested that a new alliance between the Hadba list and the Kurdish parties is looking more and more likely. A meeting between the relevant parties on the issue is planned for next week. Should the alliance be formed, it would be a win-win for both the Arabs and the Kurds. The Kurdish parties have been boycotting the council because they felt they did not receive enough administrative posts in the new state government.

If the two groups manage to forge a new alliance, then Kurdish politicians would be given more administrative power and in return, the Kurdish security forces would withdraw from Ninawa. This may however come at al-Yawa’s expense – his brother occupies the post of deputy governor of the state.