In the recent resurge of discussion of the planned 2010 census for Iraq, there has been much focus on the decision of the ministry of planning to scrap the “ethnicity” field from the questionnaire. This move has prompted strong Kurdish reactions since the Kurdish leaders see the results of such a census as relevant to the settlement of Kirkuk and other so-called “disputed territories” as per article 140 of the constitution. (Typical of the complex Iraqi situation, though the minister of planning is in fact himself a Kurd!) What has received less attention, however, is that the move by the ministry has been based on a ruling by the Iraqi federal supreme court that specifically tackles the relationship between the 2010 census and article 140.
In its meeting on 19 October, the federal supreme court dealt with a request from the secretariat of the Maliki government relating to the upcoming census. The question from the government is framed as follows, “Does the census planned for December, which includes a field called “ethnicity” on its questionnaire, have any relationship to article 140 of the constitution [on disputed territories such as Kirkuk]?”
The answer from the court is interesting: It says the census law of 2008 falls within the ordinary decennial censuses that were held in Iraq in the previous century, ending with the 1997 census. The court specifically says that the upcoming census has no relationship whatsoever to article 140, and that article 140 calls for a separate count in the disputed territories. The December 2010 census, by way of contrast, is for all of Iraq.
Based on this ruling from the court, the ministry of planning has apparently resolved to go ahead without the ethnicity field, since it has limited relevance for planning purposes, all Iraqis being equal in terms of government services etc. It is an interesting ruling that should perhaps serve as a warning to the Kurds about what sort of miracles the king they are currently in the process of making will be in a position to deliver at the end of the day.