Iraq and Gulf Analysis

The Elections Law: Who Will Stand Up for Kirkuk?

Posted by Reidar Visser on Monday, 28 September 2009 12:12

Iraqis are heading towards parliamentary elections early next year where most parties are likely to tout identical messages: “Yes, yes to Unity”, “No, no to Sectarianism”, “No to Division”, “No to Quotas”… Additionally, voters will discover that politicians who for years have been declared enemies now suddenly run on the same lists, forming the most unlikely mega coalitions. Indeed, these days even some of the past architects of Iraq’s partition are likely to employ unity rhetoric. So how can Iraqis be expected to find out who is sincere about their Iraqi nationalism and who is merely posturing?

Well, they could get an excellent opportunity over the next couple of weeks. The reason is very simple: For practical reasons, the Iraqi elections commission has asked the Iraqi parliament to come up with an elections law (or a revised version of the existing one) before 15 October; if they are unable to do so the existing law from 2005 will have to be used if elections are to go ahead on 16 January 2010. In line with this, the Iraqi government has prepared a draft for a revised version of the existing law which incorporates new elements from the legislation for the January 2009 local elections – including a popular open-list system giving voters greater say in deciding which politicians will benefit from their vote, as well as a ban on the use of places of worship and images of religious leaders for election propaganda purposes. Consensus on all these issues has been achieved and only one significant question remains: what to do with Kirkuk, also known as the Tamim governorate.

Why should anything be done about Kirkuk at all? After all, back in 2005 Kirkuk was treated as if it were an ordinary Iraqi governorate. However, the mood in Iraqi politics has shifted a great deal since 2005. When it comes to Kirkuk, Iraqi public opinion has gradually coalesced around the view that Kirkuk is an integral part of the Iraqi state and even constitutes an Iraqi microcosm through its multi-ethnic and multi-sectarian demographic character. In turn, the shift towards stronger Iraqi nationalist currents has led to greater criticism of the post-2003 Kurdish attempts to define Kirkuk as a “disputed territory” and its policies to strengthen the Kurdish population presence in the city centre, which historically had a closer connection to the Iraqi plains and was culturally dominated by Turkmens. (The Kurdish migration to Kirkuk accelerated in earnest only during the 1960s; while some of the post-2003 Kurdish immigration certainly rectified Baathist attempts to manipulate the urban demography in the 1980s and later, it is widely acknowledged that this has now gone far beyond a return to the status quo ante.) According to this logic, doing nothing about Kirkuk would be the same as tacitly recognising all the changes to the area’s demographic and political balance that have taken place since 2003.

Reflecting this greater concern for Kirkuk’s status in Iraq and the perceived need to protest the policies of Kurdification (and specifically the possibility of elections being manipulated), a group of nationalist parties known as the 22 July trend last year secured the insertion into the provincial elections law of special clauses that excepted Kirkuk from the local elections pending agreement on interim arrangements that could ensure a more just procedure for choosing the governorate council. The attempt to find a solution stalled, but the point had been made: For the first time since the fateful mention of Kirkuk as a “disputed territory” in the 2004 Transitional Administrative Law, Iraqi politicians had effectively managed to reverse some of the tendency towards ever greater fragmentation in post-war Iraq.

That’s why the debate on the upcoming elections law is important too: In a similar fashion it can differentiate between those parliamentarians who think Kurdish policies in Kirkuk are perfectly acceptable and those who really disagree with the Kurds on this issue. Of course, an exact replay of 2008 and the provincial elections law is unlikely. That would be deeply unsatisfying to everyone concerned, as no parliamentarians would be elected from Kirkuk at all and it would be somewhat pathetic to put both local and parliamentary elections on hold for an indefinite period. Alternative solutions have been proposed, but so far they have not been particularly inspiring. Unfortunately, several Iraqi nationalist parties (including some with links to the now more scattered 22 July trend) have become hopelessly attached to a proposal for four separate, ethnically defined electoral constituencies – a scheme that would only undermine, and quite fragrantly so, the very Iraqi nationalist ideals these parties say they believe in. The Kurds, for their part, reject any idea of special arrangements and seem prepared to stick to this position even if it would mean that no new legislation is passed at all.

Here the party politics kicks in. In the past, the Kurds have been supported primarily by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), many of whose members stormed out of parliament alongside the Kurds in protest against the provincial elections law last year. But this time, ISCI is facing a quandary. Its newly formed Iraqi National Alliance, just one month old, includes a strong Sadrist contingent. The Sadrists are arch-nationalists when it comes to Kirkuk, having fronted anti-federalism demonstrations there since early 2004 and even issuing an unusual expression of support for Maliki during his confrontations with the Kurds in neighbouring northern areas last year. As recently as last week, Talib al-Kurayti, a Sadrist from Karbala, told media that the anti-federal position of his movement remains the same as before. Accordingly, by supporting the Kurds once more, ISCI could end up seeing its newly formed coalition being ripped apart less than two months after it came into existence (Ibrahim al-Jaafari, too, has in the past been much more assertive in the Kirkuk question than ISCI) .

Indeed, ISCI politicians seem to worry over this. Hamid Mualla told Al-Hayat over the weekend that he feared a repetition of the quarrel seen last year during the provincial powers law, and expressed his hope that something similar could be avoided this time. But for those who are truly prepared to put action behind their Iraqi nationalist rhetoric, precisely this kind of a repetition would of course be highly desirable. In other words, through forcing a vote on some kind of special arrangements for Kirkuk, Iraqi politicians could make it clear for everyone to see what position different parties take on a highly specific issue, thereby cutting through the crap of empty unity rhetoric. This should be particularly interesting in terms of the ongoing coalition negotiations, because just like the Sadrists, the secular Iraqiyya list – lately reported as being involved in negotiations with ISCI – would normally take an anti-Kurdish position (as they reportedly did on 22 July 2008 as well.) Similarly, the Kurdish issue is one where the Daawa party in the past has held a position which dovetails with many of the Iraqi nationalist parties in the northern parts of the country. It would also be interesting to know the exact stance of the Sunni-dominated Iraqi Islamic Party, whose prominent representative Ayyad al-Samarraie is visiting Iran these days, technically in his capacity as speaker of the Iraqi parliament, but reportedly scheduled to hold talks at pretty high levels (including President Ahmadinejad and the national security chief Said Jalili in addition to Ali Larijani, his Iranian counterpart and apparently an increasingly important figure in Iranian policy-making on Iraq).

Of course, there remains the possibility of a presidential veto by the Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani. Indeed, this kind of veto has been used earlier, back in February 2008, when Talabani and his ISCI counterpart, Vice President Adil Abd al-Mahdi, both felt unease at the prospect of early local elections and threw out the first version of the provincial powers law; in that case both gentlemen promptly changed their minds subsequent to a quick visit by Vice President Dick Cheney. But whilst similar action by Joe Biden over coming months seems both undesirable and unrealistic, this kind of scenario would at least demonstrate clearly to the whole world where the priorities of the Iraqi president lie: Does he favour ethno-nationalist expansion over giving Iraqi voters a more progressive elections law?

Exactly what can be done still remains unclear. Iraqi nationalists will probably stultify themselves if they persevere with the idea of separate electoral constituencies, and a repeat of their initial demand from last year of a governorate-level distribution formula for seats (32+32+32+4 for Kurds, Arabs, Turkmens and Christians) would be a non-starter for the Kurds. There has been talk of a somewhat odd-looking proposal by Abbas al-Bayati (a Turkmen close to Maliki) whereby the political parties would create a single list with agreed quota representation for the various communities; the voters would then apparently vote for this particular list (and none other)! If quotas are to be used in the first place, it would probably be better to set a quota at the governorate level (perhaps with certain adjustments to the previously-proposed formula in order to make it more acceptable to the Kurds) whilst at the same time finding ways to keep voting competitive and potentially cross-sectarian. But even though this would have a certain affinity to the Lebanese system, the Lebanese block vote (voters vote for as many representatives as there are seats) would not be a good option, since in practice it often means majority groups imposing their preferred “minority representatives” without any real proportionality. So perhaps the most promising solution is one that would involve no quotas at all: It has been suggested that a roll of voters prepared back in 2004 enjoys greater legitimacy among Turkmens and Arabs than updated registers from the period since 2005. At the same time, this would involve a compromise on the Turkmen side, where some actually propose going as far back as the 1957 census.

Whilst the best mechanism for handling this remains open to debate, there can be no doubt that it would be enormously clarifying to Iraqi voters and a step forward for a more mature form of politics in Iraq if parliamentarians dared to take an open debate on the issue of Kirkuk’s representation. In the past many such debates have remained behind closed doors in consultations between “political leaders” trying to find a “consensus”, but in this case it would be useful to push the limits a little and force a vote in the parliament, and then leave the consensus issue and the pressure that comes with it to the presidency council.

40 Responses to “The Elections Law: Who Will Stand Up for Kirkuk?”

  1. Ari said

    Dear Mr. Visser,

    What do you mean with?:

    a group of nationalist parties known as the 22 July trend


  2. Reidar Visser said

    Just to recap, the 22 July parties were the Sadrists, Fadila, some of the Daawa, some Shiite independents, Iraqiyya, Hiwar, Turkmens and parts of Tawafuq. Not sure how that makes them into a “Baathist” or “Sunni fundamentalist” alliance.

  3. Ari said

    Dear Mr. Visser,

    It is really not that difficult:

    Fundamentalists: Sadrists,Fadila,Tawafuq(or what do you call them? secular democrats??)

    Baathist: Parts of Iraqiyya, Parts of Turkmen(We all know what the Baathists have done in Iraq the last 30 years, sadly I don’t find that back on your articles. For you the history of Iraq begins in the year 2003, FOR ME NOT!!).

    It’s really sad that after so many years of studying Iraqi politics this is still NOT clear for you.

    Do you know what the plans of Sadrists/Fadila and Tawafuq are for the Iraqi society?(The Iranian revolution will be a picnic compared to their plans!!) Because I get the felling that you PREFER(!!!) those by you called “nationalists” above secular and democratic parties.

    I wish the best secular and democratic future for Norway, why don’t you wish the same for Iraq? SAD!!!

  4. Reidar Visser said

    You seem to be suggesting an Iraq with almost no people in it. Most Iraqis will tend to have some kind of past link with the Baathists or Islamist sympathies. Even the 2005 constitution says clearly that membership of the Baath in itself is not a crime. The Baath party also did many positive things for Iraq before it gradually became more and more narrowly based in the 1980s and 1990s, almost tribal in the end. Most of its worst excesses were committed in this period.

  5. Ari said

    So in your words we as Iraqi people have 2 options:

    1. Bath party

    2. Muslim brotherhood/Shia theocracy.

  6. Reidar Visser said

    Absolutely not. But I don’t think you can realistically seek to exclude those trends completely either, as you appeared to suggest in your initial post.

  7. Salah said

    I do agree with Reidar of “the Baathists” and the tyrant regime.

    Looking to the political history of Iraq in 1950 then should also band and not allowed Iraqi commonest party inside Iraq due to the crimes they done during Abdul Kareem Qassim in Mussil and other places?

    The problem inside Iraq now they can not forgot that Ba’ath was finished after the tyrant hold complete power in 1979, there was no party its was a militarized regimes hold the power not hesitating to kill any one (regardless) his tribe, religion, ethnics and believes, it was as one my friend call them gangsters control very rich bank.

    Let not forgot that ba’ath party 70% 0f his members are from south Iraq. Early 1980 during Iraq Iran war there was official party document circulated telling that most Shiite’s senior party members working more aggressive against the community than other party members!

    This taking us to new story about ibrahim al-ja’afari telling while he was student he worked “hard” with student union the tyrant issue special order request to be highbred in city centre hospital when all medical graduates required by law to serve one year in rural areas?

    Any way Iraqis if they like to be respected for their work this should translated how they can serve Iraq and Iraqi, so far there few but at most they failed.

  8. Ari said

    Dear Reidar and Salah,

    I was wrong, YOU were right.

    The Bath party did transform Iraq(from 1968 till 2003) in a big an beautiful PARADISE. Iraq is the BEST country in the world if you look at the standard of living of it’s people.


    please come back to power, WE MISS YOU!!!

  9. Salah said

    No one suggested or disagrees with you about the tyrant and his brutality against Iraqis all, but Not the “Tikrities” whom enjoyed liverish life under the regime time before and after 2003 billions handed to them to settle around the world enjoying the rest of their lives.

    By generalising all “Ba’athests” should be out of life in today Iraq without recognising so many of them they worked hard to developed, gave their best to the country just because their name listed in party list is just complete nonsense,

    Six years passed we saw tens of parties and individual’s who for so long keep crying for injustice by many old Iraqi regimes left Iraqis lived in misery despite all the resources & richness that land had witch far enough to cope with 50millions not 20 millions as today.

    Six years passed we saw few who worked for he Iraqis, most of them came to take their personal revenges from Iraqis not from the regimes gangsters who sill at large inside and out side.

    I would like to see those criminals who tortured and killed Iraqi in dentations centres all around Iraq in north south and other places be brought to jutes and get them pay their crimes as they helped the regime with their curl behaviours with their citizens.

    What we saw is same acts and same style of behaviours with most Iraqi till now so is it also here “Ba’athist” or they are from Badar, Sadarsits and other factions and parties.

    We got what they called themselves Islamist parties who trying to copy their handlers in Iran version of governing people, is that Iraqi what they needs now to see? Following a revulsion that made the life of other nation just as bad as many kingdom and sheikhs in the region.

    We have the chance here, we either move forward and stand up by choosing the right people to lead the nation or we keep hold ourselves prisoners of our old thoughts.

  10. Salah said

    وقضية خلطهم للأمرهذه تتوضح عندما تكتب عن الأدب في العراق السابق أو تتذكر لحظة جميلة عشتها في بغداد ، تبدأ الاقلام المسمومة بنعتك بأبشع الأوصاف لا لشيء إلا لأنك لم تتفق مع أفكارهم المريضة التي لاتريد للآخر أن يقرأ عن ساحة النصر وازدحامها عصر كل يوم ،أو عن شارع الرشيد وحركة الناس الطبيعية فيه ، أو باصات بغداد التي تتنقل بين أحيائها أو اغنية ما لفؤاد سالم تنطلق من محل لبيع الملابس في شارع النهر ، لايريدونك أن تكتب عن الجانب الآخر من الحياة ، يريدون فقط أن تكتب عن الطاغية وما فعله بالعراق وكأن لا حياة كانت هناك في زمنه ولا زواج ولا ولادات ولا وفيات ولا مدارس ولا أطفال ينجحون الى المتوسطة ، ولا علاقات حب في سن المراهقة البريء ،ولا أدب جيد كان يكتب بعيداً عن الأدب البعثي ولا حتى اغنيات جميلة لطالب القره غولي كنا نتداولها في جلساتنا ، يريدون أن ننكر كل ذلك ونكتب عن السوداوية التي في عقولهم ، وإن لم تكتب فالإتهام جاهز لك ،عدو الإنسانية أو مناهض لـ ( الثورية) .

    الدولة العراقية سقطت برمّتها في عام 2003 ، والطاغية سقط أيضاً وأُعدِم ، والعصر التكريتي الدموي إنتهى الى غير رجعة وأصبح تاريخاً محكياً ومكتوباً من وجهات نظر عدة، متى يا ترى سينفض التورابوراويون الغبار الاسود من على أدمغتهم وينظروا الى المستقبل ليصنعوا فِكرة ؟ .


  11. Ari said

    Yes Salah, I agree with you, we need secular democratic non-Bathist politicians, like Jalal Talabani.

    I am still waiting for you comment on this Mr. Visser.

  12. Reidar Visser said

    Ari, to many Iraqis south of Kurdistan, your ”secularist” Talabani is pursuing primitive policies of ethno-nationalist expansion aimed at the destruction of governing capacity in Baghdad whilst turning a blind eye to rampant corruption and tribalism in Kurdistan. Iran seems to be quite pleased at the net outcome.

    I concede that Barzani is worse on all of the above variables.

  13. bb said

    It seems that the Maliki=horns-and-tail meme has run its course so perhaps we should not be surprised that a Talabani=source-of-all-evil is taking its place in the blogospere.

    For the record, both the major Iraqi Kurdish parties, the KDP and the PUK have long been affiliated with the Socialist International. On the spectrum, their origins are from the secular Left and today they are democratic socialists. Which should be very familiar to any northern European.

  14. The anti-Kurd bias in Visser’s reporting is deeply troubling as well as counterproductive. Strong opposition to Kurdish national aspirations will undoubtedly strengthen hardliners in Kurdistan such as Masoud Barzani. No doubt the ruling parties in Kurdistan are deeply flawed, but the emergence of Nawshirwan Mustafas Gorran-list proves that Kurdistan may still emerge as a genuine mulitparty democracy.

    However I remain mystified on one central point in Mr Vissers argument: if the goal is to do away with secterianism and election quotas, why not allow also Kirkukis to vote as individuals without a quota-system?

  15. Reidar Visser said

    Jan, there’s nothing anti-Kurdish about my writings, I’m just criticising the megalomaniac tendencies of the policies of the PUK and the KDP and the way they destroy the political climate in Iraq. We used to criticise this kind of extreme ethno-nationalism on the Balkans in the 1990s, so why not criticise it in Iraq today? I find it really difficult to understand how people who claim to be progressive and who know anything about history can justify the Kurdish position on Kirkuk for example. There is no contradiction between making these criticisms and acknowledging that the Kurds have suffered terribly in the past.

    As for quotas, I am certainly not advocating them. The main point is that there is not a level field in Kirkuk right now and Iraqis are right to protest this one way or another.

    BB, many strange parties have affiliations with the Socialist International, let’s look at specific policies instead.

  16. Bb,

    Talabani is old, he already said he will retire and many people believe he should, and he did not make good example of a secular politician, that doesn’t make him center of the blogosphere or =source-of-all-evil, you have twisted logic.
    BTW where do you stand regarding including Baathists in the political process, are you with exclusion or inclusion?

  17. Thanks for your reply, Reidar.

    As you know Kirkuk has been at the centre of Kurdish/Arab conflicts as long as the state of Iraq has existed. Disagreement on Kirkuk was the point over which Mustafa Barzani fell out with Saddam Hussein back in the early 1970s. I have yet to meet an Iraqi Kurd who does not think Kirkuk should be part of the Kurdish region. So when you state that
    “When it comes to Kirkuk, Iraqi public opinion has gradually coalesced around the view that Kirkuk is an integral part of the Iraqi state and even constitutes an Iraqi microcosm through its multi-ethnic and multi-sectarian demographic character.”
    you are obviously not including Kurds in your definition of Iraqi public opinion.

    And let us leave the question of who is or is not progressive out of it.

  18. Reidar Visser said

    Most of my research on Iraq covers the 1920s when Kirkuk was dominated by Turkmens (as was Arbil, although the process of Kurdification was much more advanced there). To the extent that Kurdish movements in the north appear at all in the sources (if I remember correctly this was mainly around Sulaymaniyya; Dahuk was far more docile and backwards back then), it is largely perceived by the British as a collection of tribal uprisings, although I am aware that historians have detected Kurdish proto-nationalism at this point. But the main argument I would like to make is that the idea of annexing Kirkuk to a Kurdish entity is far more recent, and above all the product of the ideas of one man in the 1960s, Mustafa Barzani. I am questioning whether perhaps the Kurdish people are doing themselves great disservice by focusing so strongly on Kirkuk when they have great possibilities for having a prosperous, self-governing federal region within the area that is already recognised by the other Iraqis as theirs.

  19. Indeed, a compromise with a special status for Kirkuk city would be a better solution than adding the whole province to the Kurdish entity. However I see no Kurds willing to be that flexible – not even Nawshirwan. Still, if the Arab side(s) would show flexibility on the whole issue of disputed areas, they might also be met with movement on the status of Kirkuk from Kurdish politicians.

  20. bb said

    There is an obvious solution to the Kirkuk issue for the 2010 elections, that is, the election in the province be placed under the control of the UN run International Mission for Iraqi Elections which oversaw the 2005 elections and constitutional vote.

    However, since the results would almost certain demonstrate yet again the clear Kurdish majority in the province that was shown three times in 2005, it is unlikely that July 22 and its blogosphere fans would agree to this straightforward solution! It is their awareness of the substantial Kurdish majority that has forced July 22 to demand Lebanon-style quotas in the province, so the last thing they want is an election or even a new census.

    Faisal Kadri: Am not sure my opinion from Australia on this issue is worth anything, but from my reading the Baath Party was a secular, nationalist, modernising “socialist” movement. But unlike the Iraqi Kurdish parties whose socialism was from the Left, the Baath followed the German nationalism socialism model of the 1920s and 30s. Which probably explains why it was vulnerable to takeover by Salah’s Tyrant and his Tikriti clan.

    All this by way of explanation as to why I believe “Baathists” should certainly be included in the new democratic process. The Party itself has been banned (I think in the constitution?)but in my view this frees up previous members from the taint of the Saddam era to develop a political agenda incorporating their secular, modernising, nationalist goals within the new democratic framework. Essential to the maturation of the Iraqi state politics in the 21st century, in my view.

    btw, appropos of the previous discussion re the UN and the Iraq elections, you might find the report of the UN’s IMIE on the 2005 elections very informative.

  21. Reidar Visser said

    BB, what the other communities are concerned about are demographic changes in the 2003-2009 period, manipulation of voter registers etc – the sort of thing that isn’t addressed by observations of the elections themselves. At any rate, if you read the report you link to closely you will see that the IMIE mostly had the role of a pundit; it had limited staff, no powers and could only recommend and comment. It was the Iraqi electoral commission that basically ran the elections.

  22. Salah said

    Salah’s Tyrant and his Tikriti clan.

    It’s more appropriate to call him Aussie’s loved Tyrant and his Tikriti clan.

    Checkhere,here and here will help your short mind

  23. Reidar, you claim that the whole question of Kirkuk was constructed by old man Barzani. Many observers agree that it was under the leadership of Mustafa Barzani that the Kurdish movement delveloped a national perspective, as opposed to tribal perspective(s).

    However Kirkuk was part of the Ottoman vilayat of Mosul which (except for the city of Mosul itself) was claimed for Kurdish selfrule by the Barzani-movement since the 1930s. The Kurdish urban movement was centered in Suleimaniyah, but the tribally based Barzani-movement was centered in Badinan. The friction between these tendencies define the Kurdish movement in Iraq to this day,as witness regional elections in July.

    But Kirkuk has also been a center of Kurdish consciousness, and Edmund Ghraeeb writes (The Kurdish Question in Iraq – 1981, p 29) : In a referendum, the Iraqi people voted for Faisal to be king of Iraq, although the two provinces inhabited mainly by the Kurds were opposed, in Kirkuk the majority of the population voted against Faisal, and in Sulaymaniyya the election was boycotted”.

    This indicates that Kirkuk had a Kurdish majority in 1921, and that there at this time was a general feeling of separate identity from the Arab provinces.

  24. Reidar Visser said

    Jan, a couple of quick observations on this, written on the basis of what I can recall from files that I have worked with earlier. Firstly, remember that the Mosul vilayet in its 1914 incarnation had existed only a few decades; before that it was sometimes part of the Baghdad vilayet, and at times existed separately but in a much smaller area without Kirkuk. Kirkuk, for its part, oscillated between sometimes being a part of the Baghdad vilayet and sometimes forming a vilayet of its own (Shahrizor). But even more importantly, no one is disputing the dominant Kurdish role in the countryside of Kirkuk, it is Kirkuk the city we are talking about. All the key British observers from the 1920s define Kirkuk as a Turkmen-dominated city; indeed some saw Arbil too as a Turkmen centre, but noted that in contrast to Kirkuk it was undergoing Kurdification. There is more about this at; you can also check the League of Nations reports on the Mosul vilayet from 1924-25, describing the town as overwhelmingly Turkish in culture.

    Also, if I remember correctly, the 1921 opposition to Faysal was caused by the combined resistance of Kurds in the rural areas and Turkmens in the town, who remained pro-Ottoman and later Kemalist for a few years before converting to Iraqi nationalism.

    Finally, as you probably know, the Kurds are unwilling to use the 1957 census as a basis for discussion of the status of the city itself because it shows that the Turkmens were still the biggest group at that point.

  25. Salah said

    Today in news:
    عائلات مسيحيةتغادر كركوك اثر تفاقم عمليات الخطف والقتل

    More of historical info:

    SOITM Presentation in the conference “Kerkuk Problem and the article 140: Defining alternatives
    The views of Kerkuk’s Turkmen and Arabs” in the European Parliament

  26. Salah said

    the Baath followed the German nationalism socialism model of the 1920s and 30s.

    bb, are you suggesting the Baath like Nazi?

  27. Salah said

    the Kurds are unwilling to use the 1957 census as a basis

    Reidar, under the constitution are they allowed to do so, while 1957 used by Iraqi governments in may occlusions?

  28. Reidar Visser said

    Salah, the old censuses have no role under the constitution, the relevant clauses of the Transitional Administrative Law, confirmed under the constitution, call for the holding of a new one. A law was passed last year for a census to be hold this year but it has been put on hold until October 2010.

  29. Salah said

    he artillery bombardment, which took place late on Thursday night, hit several villages near the towns of Sidcan and Zarawa on the edges of Arbil province on the Iraqi-Iranian border, said the website of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), a Kurdish party headed by the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

    The Iranian shelling left no human casualty but caused material damages, including the killing of scores of livestock, the website said, citing a Kurdish security source.

    Also on late Thursday, the Iranian artillery pounded several more villages in the area of Qandil Mountain in Sulaimaniyah province, the source said.

    Authorities in the Iraqi Kurdish region frequently accused Iran of shelling bordering areas with artillery rounds as part of its fighting against the Kurdish guerrillas of Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan (PEJAK), who took up arms for self-rule in the country’s Kurdistan province in northwest.

    Iran accuses the PEJAK rebels of using the Kurdish areas in northern Iraq as a safe haven and a launch pad for their attacks against Iranian government.

  30. bb said

    No Salah, wasn’t referring to the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi)but to “national socialism” as a political movement that came to the fore in Germany, Italy and Britain in the 20s and 30s.
    My point was the Baath followed this model as opposed to the marxist/communist model of the, on the spectrum the Baath were of the right, not the left. Both movements of course were based on one-party states, which meant they were both susceptible to takeover by the extremes and the corruption of totalitarian rule.

  31. Brent said

    Hi Reidar, I think the Kurds dont want to use the 1957 census for the following reason…

    …This was made clear after the announcement of the results of the aforementioned
    census of 1959. When a number of Kurdish citizens inquired from the Census &
    Registration Department in Kirkuk, they discovered that they had been falsely
    registered as Turkman in the column for “mother tongue” by the census officials. This
    applied especially the popular Kurdish districts as most of their inhabitants could not
    speak or read Arabic, and the officials arbitrarily filled in the forms on their behalf.
    Some of the citizens lodged complaints with the appropriate authorities; others went
    to court to change their registration by legal means. N. Talabany, op. cit., 1999, 41,
    I would also like to add the Mother Tongue of Kirkuk Population Based on the 1957 Census
    Kirkuk city Kirkuk Governorate Total population
    Arabic 27,127 82,493 109,620
    Kurdish 40,047 147,540 187,593
    Turkish 45,306 38,065 83,371
    Aramaic 1,509 96 1,605

  32. Brent said

    Also I found this to be very informative as to the history of Kirkuk.

    Click to access Galetti.pdf

  33. Reidar Visser said

    No one is disputing the Kurdish influence in large parts of the countryside, we are talking about the town. On that issue, I would rather trust Soane’s observations from the 1920s in the second source you link to instead of the quite strained argument presented by N. Talabany (note the author’s name) in 1999. Also note that the only source for the alleged Arabisation between 1930 and 1970 in the second source (introduction) is the very same Talabany! In the more detailed narrative later on there is just one big lacuna for the entire monarchy period and the 1960s.

    All in all, I have yet to see a convincing argument that Kirkuk had any predominant Kurdish character historically. And I have seen a big number of attempts, trust me!

  34. Brent said

    You seem to take sides here by simply discounting N. Talabany presumably because of his name. You offer no other reason. You stated the Kurds are unwilling to use the 1957 census as a basis for discussion of the status of the city itself because it shows that the Turkmens were still the biggest group at that point. Yet its clear that it is because of the fruad commited during the census. Kirkuk and the surrounding area is or has had a Kurdish majority at times past and present.
    At a quarter of a league from the western city, the seraglio of the
    governor is located at the entry of a suburb where the richest inhabitants
    and the main officers live. The barracks are situated next door the palace.
    The Kerkut population (upper and down city, suburb) but not including
    the garrison military men, reaches about twenty five thousand people of
    whom three quarters are Kurds.
    A. Clément, “Excursion dans le Kourdistan Ottoman Méridional de Kerkout à
    Ravandouz,” Le Globe. Journal Géographique organe de la Société de Géographie
    de Genève pour ses Mémoires et Bulletin, t. V, fasc. 3, (1866):

  35. Brent said

    Also the arabisation is clear, it Isnt alleged. How else can you explain this.
    A quick comparison of the contents of this table, with the other census held in
    Iraq following the Arabization program in the Kirkuk Governorate, shows clearly
    the extent of the Arabization program which the regime has implemented. As a
    result, the percentage of Arabs in the Kirkuk Governorate has increased from
    28.2% of the total population according to the 1957 census to 44.41% according to
    the 1977 census. At the same time, the percentage of the Turkman population has
    decreased from 21.4% to 16.31%. The population of the Kurds decreased during
    the same period from 48.3% to 37.53%.

  36. Reidar Visser said

    This is getting slightly repetitive. I feel that we are back at the same question: Why is it so hard to find a piece of non-Kurdish scholarship that backs up the argument you are making? I just wonder how you can let a single nineteenth-century traveller override the collective interpretation of all leading officials of the British-mandate as well as nineteenth-century travellers like JS Buckingham and Claudius Rich (who both claimed that the town was dominated by Turkmens and Turkmen culture; Shiel, mentioned in your source, had a similar impression.) I don’t mean to get essentialist over the racial aspect here: Of course there were lots of inter-marriages and cultural exchanges. What I find more important is that the sources tend to characterise the area in terms of its Turkish culture and above all its links with Baghdad and the plains. Kurdistan was mostly seen as the mountainous country further north.

    I suggest you read David McDowall’s History of the Kurds. Although the author is pro-Kurdish he sees no point in taking the idea of a Kurdish Kirkuk at face value and describes it as an impromptu negotiation demand by Barzani in the late 1960s.

    As for Arabisation, please read my comment once more. I did not deny Arabisation post 1970. I have never denied that. I said the evidence for Arabisation in the period 1930-1970 was lacking. There is none in your comment either, which relates to the situation in the late 1970s. No one is contesting the fact that there was Arabisation in the 1970s.

    I am happy to keep this thread open but only if new credible pieces of evidence are presented. Also, I am afraid I simply don’t have enough time to reply to straw-man attacks like the last one you made about Arabisation.

  37. Checking out what David McDowall actually says, I find your rephrasing highly inaccurate, Reidar. In my edition (reprint 2005) he describes (p. 156 ff) how Sheikh Mahmoud Barzinji claims Kirkuk for the Kurds in the 1920s. Mulla Mustafas claim vs Saddam Hussein to Kirkuk and other areas (pp 314 ff) in the 1960s come out as a continuation of Barzinjis earlier claims.

  38. Brent said

    Sorry for being repetitive but here is another. It should explain why people find it difficult to find a piece of non- kurdish lit. It would seem natural that Kirkuk, after long being controlled by the Ottoman Turks, should appear that way but as you can see from below the Kurds were there just integrated into Turkish culture at the time.

    The leading aristocratic families either were in fact Turks or, even if
    their origins were Kurdish, nevertheless considered themselves to be such.
    The most important of these families were: the Naftchizadas who, as their
    name implies, owned and exploited the ancient oil seepages; the
    Ya’qubizadas, landowners, who were alleged to be of Kurdish Zangana
    origin; and the Qirdars, who were both land-owners and merchants. In
    addition there were several soldiers and civil servants who, though not
    members of the old and wealthy families, had reached high office in the
    Ottoman service and had returned to their native province after the
    dismemberment of the Empire. The leading Kurd was Saiyid Ahmad-i
    Khanaqah, a member of the Barzinja family, but unlike the majority a
    Naqshbandi; he kept open house at this well-endowed takya and not
    unnaturally exercised great influence over his peasant compatriots, who
    formed the largest racial group in the liwa as a whole

    C. J. Edmonds, Kurds, Turks and Arabs. Politics, Travel and Research in North-
    Eastern Iraq 1919-1925, (London: Oxford University Press, 1957), 264-267.

  39. Reidar Visser said

    Jan, sorry for the delay. It is good to get the opportunity to dust off McDowall’s book! I rely on the 1996 edition.

    First, lest anyone cries foul, McDowall is fundamentally sympathetic to the Kurdish cause, as the prefaces to the book explain in great detail. Hence his observations on the Kirkuk issue will hopefully have a greater chance of resonating with pro-Kurdish readers than those from other sources.

    P. 117
    “…the economic (and social) argument was the close commercial integration between Mosul, Baghdad and Basra. Furthermore, the Turkoman towns on the edge of the Mesopotamian plain, most notably Arbil and Kirkuk, along with the peasant economies around them, fell naturally within this view of Mesopotamia…”

    P. 118
    “[Mark Sykes] preferred … an autonomous Kurdistan excluding Kirkuk, Altun Kupru and Arbil where the largest urban communities were Turkoman”.

    P. 165, and this relates to Shaykh Mahmud in 1919
    “the notables of Kirkuk apparently ‘felt that the path of progress lies in the direction of Baghdad, not in that of Sulaymaniyya. Moreover there is no trace of Kurdish national feeling in Kirkuk”.

    P. 327, relating to negotiations with Baghdad in 1969
    “Despite the relatively recent arrival of most of the Kurds in Kirkuk town and its oilfields, the KDP felt passionately that it should be included in the autonomous area”.

    P. 329, relating to the 1970 peace accord
    “Mulla Mustafa accused the government of resettling Arabs in the contested areas, Kirkuk, Khanaqin amd Sinjar, and told the government he would not accept the census results if they indicated an Arab majority. He also dismissed the offer of the 1965 census, which he said was forged. When the government proposed to apply the 1957 census to Kirkuk, Mulla Mustafa refused it, since this was bound to show that the Turkomans, although outnumbered in the governorate as a whole, were still predominant in Kirkuk town.”

    I am unable to find any explicit reference to the effect that Mulla Mustafa’s claim to Kirkuk “came out as a continuation” of the Shaykh Mahmud uprising. I also had trouble finding an unequivocal reference indicating that the town itself was a central aspect of Mahmud’s pretensions (note that Kirkuk was also a province or liwa and sometimes you must see from the context whether the reference is to the town or the province), although he was certainly feared by the local inhabitants. It is possible that Shaykh Mahmud may have claimed paramountcy over some rural tribes around Kirkuk. At any rate, and this must be the significant point in our discussion, as the above quotations attest to it seems clear that the population there had no interest in his adventures, whatever their exact territorial scope.

  40. Rereading McDowall is always useful, the amount of information he has collected and sifted thorugh is simply amazing.

    The point where i found you misrepresenting him was however not about the population of Kirkuk, but about how Kirkuk came to be such a central part of the Kurdish agenda.

    You write:
    … he sees no point in taking the idea of a Kurdish Kirkuk at face value and describes it as an impromptu negotiation demand by Barzani in the late 1960s.

    I have not found such a statement in McDowalls book, to the contrary I found him referring to Barzinji’s claims on Kirkuk forty years earlier than the negotiations beteween Mustafa Barzani and Saddam Hussein.

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