Friday, October 5, 2012

Kurds and Kurdistan in an event at Valparaiso University

On October 4th, 2012, my friend Rebaz Ahmed and I had the opportunity to speak to a group of about 80 retired American professionals at Valparaiso University.  These people were interested in knowing more about Kurds, Kurdistan and Iraq. It was a wonderful opportunity for us to educate people about our own people, history and cause.

An elderly lady who attended the event who was very happy to learn more about Kurds and Kurdistan. 
A summary of what we talked about:

v  Historical background: Kurds, numbering about 40 million, are a people with a homeland of their own which was divided between Turkey, Iraq, Syria and Iran after the fall of the Ottoman Empire by the allied forces. In the Sevres Treaty of 1920, a popular referendum for the people of Kurdistan to decide whether they wanted to stick with Turkey or become an independent state was agreed upon. The Sevres Treaty, however, was soon replaced by the Lausanne Treaty in 1923 after the Turks fought back for their European territories around Istanbul and defeated the Greeks and gained control of the straits that connect the Black Sea and the Mediterranean. For a jointly commissioned control over the strait that linked the two seas, the British and the French abandoned their plans for Kurdistan.
v  Definition of Kurds: Kurds are a distinctive ethnic group with their own distinctive history, language, culture, traditions, clothes, food and ways of living. They have their own homeland but do not have a state. They are not related to Arabs, Turks or Persians by ethnicity, and they are not related to Turks and Arabs by language. Kurdish is an Indo-European Language as compared to Arabic which is a Semitic language, and Turkish which is a Turkic language. Kurdish language, however, is related to Persian language. They are both Indo-European languages from the family of Iranian languages.
v  Definition of Kurdistan Region: Iraqi Kurdistan is a semi-autonomous region that has been recognized as a federal region by the Iraqi Constitution with its own administrative borders, armed forces and Regional Government (KRG).
v  Minorities in Kurdistan: Apart from Kurds, other ethnics groups also live in the region. These include: Turkmen, Assyrians, Syriac and Chaldean, in addition to Arabs who mainly moved to the region in recent years to flee the violence in other parts of Iraq. In addition to Sunni Islam (which is the faith of the majority), there are followers of other faiths including Catholic and Orthodox Christianity (Assyrians, Chaldeans and Syriac are Christians groups), Yazidees, Kakayis, and Shabaks (Shiite Muslims).
v  Education and representation of minorities: ethnic groups other than Kurds (who form about 5-7% of the region) have the right and option of sending their children to Kurdish schools, or schools that teach in their own native languages (as far as I know for sure there are Turkmen and Arabic schools as well. I am not sure about schools that teach in Assyrian, Chaldean or Syriac). And they have 11 seats in the 111 seat parliament.
v  Oppression of Kurds by the Iraqi regimes: The Iraqi Kurds were subjected to oppression by the successive Iraqi governments. Saddam Hussein most brutally cracked down on the Kurdish freedom movement in the 1980s where he killed as many as 200,000 civilian Kurds – most of them women, children and elderly people - in a series of military operations code-named Anfal and in a chemical weapons attack on the city of Halabja. The victims of Anfal were taken to southern Iraq, mass murdered and buried in mass graves of which many have been discovered since 2003 and remains of thousands of the victims have been exhumed and reburied in Kurdistan Region.
v  Issues between KRG and Baghdad: There are three main issues between the Kurdistan Regional; Government and Baghdad: Oil and gas deals, Peshmarga (Kurdish soldiers) forces, and disputed areas. The regional and central governments dispute over who has the right to sign oil deals with the energy companies that explore the oil fields. The Iraqi government wants to maintain the power to be the sole party to sign such deals while Kurdish leaders want for Kurdistan to have the right to sign such deals in order to manage their own oil fields. The two governments also disagree over who should pay for the Peshmarga forces. The Peshmarga forces have been recognized as part of the defense system of Iraq and on these rounds the Kurdish government wants Baghdad to pay their salaries while Baghdad argues that they need to be paid for by the regional government from its share of the general budget because they are regional forces. The Peshmarga are officially called the Regional Guard Forces. And the biggest issue is that of the disputed areas. Disputed areas refers to those areas – that span the provinces of Mosul, Erbil, Kirkuk, Slahaddin and Diyala – which were subjected to Arabization policies by the former regime where the demographics of those territories were changed at the expense  of the indigenous Kurds for Arab settlers from central Iraq. The Arab settlers were urged to move to those territories in particular the oil rich province of Kirkuk in return they would be provided with facilities to settle there, agricultural land (that would be taken from Kurdish and Turkmen ethnics) and other incentives.
Conclusion: 
  • The majority of Americans do not know anything about Kurds or Kurdistan. A very small percentage of them actually know a little about Kurds. For instance they know that Kurds helped the Americans in 2003 to topple Saddam Hussein. And they know that Kurds live not only in Iraq but also in Turkey and Iran. The majority of those who know this, however, do not know that there Kurds in Syria, Lebanon, Armenia, Russia and as far as Uzbekistan as well. 
  • More importantly, the majority of them do not know anything about the atrocities and tragedies the Kurds went through under Saddam Hussein most notably the Anfal Operatinos and the Halabja Chemical Attack.


Thursday, September 27, 2012

Majority of Iraqi Kurds support an independent Kurdistan: new poll

ERBIL, Sep. 26 (AKnews) – The majority of the Iraqi Kurds support the proclamation of independence from Iraq, a new poll shows.

The poll conducted by the Kurdistan Institute For Political Issues was released on Wednesday in a press conference in Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region.
The poll involved a 2500 people in the three provinces of Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and Duhok where the majority of the respondents thought it is now time for the proclamation of independence to create an independent Kurdish state in northern Iraq.

According to the poll, 56.3% of the respondents said "yes" to the questions "Do you think it is not a good time for Kurdistan Region to proclaim independence?"

The level of support for the independence of Kurdistan varied from province to province, however. Sulaimaniyah respondents rejected the idea of an independent Kurdistan for the time being with only 46.42% of the 978 respondent saying "yes" to the same question. Duhok respondents by contrast threw heavy weight behind the cause with 81.21% of the 596 saying it was time for an independent Kurdistan.

Erbil poll takers' response was more in the middle with a small majority of 54.82% of 892 supporting an independent Kurdish state for the time being.

The poll also asked why the respondents thought it was not time for a Kurdish state if their responses were negative.

Of the 2,500 poll takers 23.10% thought the US and International community support was not guaranteed. 26.37% thought a newly proclaimed Kurdish state would be under the threat of regional attack while 49.28 believed that the Kurdish region had yet some way to go before being able to survive as a Kurdish state.

A small percentage of 1.25 did not respond to the question.

The majority of the respondents (by a small margin) also prefer a referendum to be held in order for the people of the Kurdish region to decide and proclaim independence instead of a Kurdish leader going ahead and announcing that Kurdistan is independent.

In response to this particular question of whom should announce the independence of Kurdistan only 27.49% said the President of Kurdistan Region, 20.79% said the Parliament of Kurdistan Region while the rest, 50.40% said the people of Kurdistan should do that in a referendum. 

Also 1.5% abstained from responding to that question.

Sources:

Mohammed, Fryad. "Majority of Kurds Are for Independence." AKnews. Ed. Raber Y. Aziz. N.p., 26 Sept. 2012. Web. 26 Sept. 2012. <http://www.aknews.com/en/aknews/4/327676/>. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Minister of Natural Resources, Thank you for “saving national resources”

Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)'s Minister of Natural Resources Ashti Hawrami made a rare interview with an Erbil-based newspaper, Rudaw, that was published on Aug. 29 in which he accused Nawshirwan Mustafa, the current leader of the main opposition party, Gorran, of signing oil contracts in 2006 – while he was a member of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party  – that would give large shares of revenues to an exploration company in Sulaimaniyah that would monopolize the exploration in the province. He said as of his appointment as Minister of Natural Resources he had revoked that contract and had signed five deals instead of one for exploration of the same area of land in Sulaimaniyah which together would bring Kurdistan 100 times more revenue and would encourage competition among the companies. He complained that instead of being thanked for saving so much money, he was attacked by Mr Mustafa's Gorran for corruption.

I am not surprised that Mr Hawrami wants to be thanked for what he is being paid for to do. It is just a syndrome in this country that affects officials' memories once they are in power they forget that they are there to serve people not to do them favors for which people normally show gratitude. However, on behalf of all my fellow citizens, I would like to thank Mr Hawrami for doing us the favor of saving so much money, but I would also like to make the following points regarding his remarks:
·         Gorran Party has rejects such claims that Mustafa has sisgned any contracts. They say Miustafa never had a government position in order to sign a contract, and the Minister say at very beginning of the interview that the contract was signed "at the request of Mustafa" and then later on he says it "was signed by Mustafa", I wonder which is it?
·         While Hawrami talks about a mysterious 5 percent share going to two people (whom I am sure are not from Mr Mustafa's party or Mr Hawrami would not have hesitated to revel their identities) secretly, the oil revenue despite all the improvement and money savings the Minister talks about is not transparent and nobody actually knows where does the money go to.
·         The claim that the previous contract would earn Kurdistan only $40 million instead of $5 billion under the current contracts sounds to me like pure propaganda because the two figures are just no close in any way so that someone can steal some extra money from the oil revenues and fool everyone. Besides, no one would be so fool as to sign a contract that is worth $500 million for only a $5 million bonus for the region knowing for sure that all secrets sooner or later would be disclosed.
·         The Minister is so desperately in need of some pats on the shoulder as he repeats the question: "Why he did not thanks us.." for this and that. If the minister really thinks that Mustafa was involved in money laundering and corruption, then it is so naïve to expect from him to offer any gratitude for someone who discloses his scandals. Wouldn't it?
·         Mr Hawrami also refers to other contracts signed between Mustafa and other companies in which 20 percent would go to unknown people. So much for such accusations! If there is any evidence please provide it so we can believe it and so corrupt officials can be tried!
·         Mr Hawrami claims that KRG's oil contracts were approved by the parliament and 111 MPs  "voted in favor of it" and among them "SOME"  Gorran MPs. Well, I don't know what to say about this statement! If there were SOME Gorran MPs who voted in favor NOT all (there are 25 Gorran MPs in parliament apart from other opposition MPs), then he is contradicting his previous statement where he said 111 MPs voted in favor of the contracts because the Kurdish parliament is formed of 111 seats not more.
·         Now look at this quote: "During my visit with Mr. Mustafa… I also asked him if he was suspicious about the transparency of oil revenues in Kurdistan and his answer was that I appeared honest and clean in performing my duty. I asked him why he didn't say the same thing on TV so people know the truth, but he said "why would I praise a government that I wish to overthrow?" how credible! Are we really supposed to buy that? It is nice to praise oneself by putting words into others' mouths, huh?
·         And this part is puzzling to me when the minister says $4.22 billion out of $5 billion in oil revenues will be used by the companies on projects? What projects? And are they public service projects? It seems that the KRG has only received about $730 million out of the $5 billion revenue an of which only $350 million as the minister says is obvious that was spent on water projects while the rest he has no idea about. However, it is not the rest of the $730 million that is a riddle to me, but the rest of the $5 billion. What exactly does that mean that about $4.22 billion of the revenues will be used by the companies on projects? I am assuming they mean more oil exploration projects and in which case all the $5 billion revenue Mr Hawrami claimed that would go to the KRG is not actually correct and that the companies still keep about 80 percent of the revenues.

Note: I read this interview with Ashti Hawrami on EKURD.NET which had reposted it from Rudaw Newspaper's website. I tried to find the original page on Rudaw but it seems that it has been removed or there was something wrong with the website that did not show the page. When you search the headline you can still find the link to the page on Rudaw newspaper's website, but when you click on it you will get an error message saying the page is not found. The article however was re-posted by a many websites before the original article disappeared on Rudaw's website.

For the full interview on EKURD.NET click the link below: http://www.ekurd.net/mismas/articles/misc2012/8/state6450.htm

A photo that says a lot more than words about the peaceful nature of Kurds

I saw this photo on Facebook of a village Kurdish woman using the remains of a chemical bomb used by Saddam Hussein against the Kurds in the 1980s as a vase to plant flowers in. It is really inspirational!

The photo reminds the world that Kurds are peaceful and want the world to be a better place. I was really inspired by the creativity of the woman. Who in the world would think that a bomb can actually be useful one day to plants flowers in?

The photos sends some very strong messages to the world that:
  • "We are peaceful"
  • "we can make the world a better place if we turn our weapons down and celebrate the beauty of coexistence"
  • "We are not after revenge even though we were oppressed"
  • "We value brotherhood with our fellow Iraqis. As long as we are left in peace we will not harass anyone,"
I especially liked the irony that Saddam Hussein's chemical bombs were supposed to terminate life, not only of Kurds, but also of animals, trees and wild life, but this woman has used that same bomb shell to create life. 

This photo appeared on a Facebook account by the name Fariba Mimmi

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Housing prices in Kurdistan higher than prices in California: repoft


A very impressive report about the incredible housing prices in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq by my friend and former colleague Mohammed Salih. 

Some highlights:


  • In some areas, housing and property prices are higher than housing prices in California.  
  • In some areas, prices have increased by 80 percent
  • The increase has mainly been caused by foreign investment
  • Kurdistan has attracted more than $20 billion in foreign investment since 2007 
  • Over $10 billion of the $20 billion investment has been in the housing sector
  • Over 140,000 housing units have been built in recent years yet prices keep going up


Friday, August 17, 2012

Maliki flexes muscle as he orders closedown of KRG representative office in Baghdad


Tensions between the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the central government in Baghdad were taken to a new height on Wednesday when authorities in Baghdad closed the KRG representation office in Baghdad at the request of the Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's office.

Iraqi officials said the office did not have legal support to exist in Baghdad. However, Kurdish officials in Baghdad said the office had the legal paperwork that was signed by the Prime Minister himself.

Yet, it is evident that the closure of the office was politically motivated and grounded in the recent tensions between Baghdad and Erbil as the office has been there for seven years now. The office was set up in 2006 after a visit by Maliki to the capital of Kurdistan Region, Erbil, where he agreed with Kurdish leaders on the opening of the office to coordinate relations between the two governments.

Mohammed Ihsan, the KRG representative to Baghdad said that the order they received for the closure of the office explained that the KRG-Baghdad relations were directly handled between the two governments and therefore a KRG representation was not necessary in Baghdad.

The closure of the office was quickly condemned by Kurdish MPs in Baghdad as an "illegal and unconstitutional" move by Baghdad. Mohsen Sadoun, a senior member of the Kurdish Blocs Coalition (KBC) in the Iraqi Parliament said the "The Iraqi government has to provide explanations for the decision [closure of KRG office].. this decision was illegal and unconstitutional… that is an official office… that has been in Baghdad for seven years."

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
The timing of Baghdad's action shows the extent to which Iraq's Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is upset by KRG attitudes on a number of issues including oil deals, growing Kurdish-Turkish relations and KRG support for the rebellion in Syria against the Shiite minority regime about which Iraq has kept silent amid regional and international condemnations and calls on Bashar al-Assad to step down.

Kurdistan's Oil Deals

Kurdistan Region has continued its oil deals with world energy giants. Recently the French giant Total also moved in buying a 35 percent stake in two exploration blocks in Iraq's Kurdistan region. The move set off immediate response from the Iraqi government which has desperately tried to bar companies from dealing directly with the semi-autonomous region.

The Iraqi government warned Total to cease its dealings with the KRG or lose its share in a major oilfield in southern Iraq.

United States Exxon Mobile and Chevron, Russia' Gazprom  are already working in the region.

Also, earlier this month, London-listed Genel Energy increased its stake in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region after it acquired a 23 per cent stake in the Bina Bawi exploration license. The deal was approved by the KRG and the acquisition was completed at $175 million.
The UK-Turkish firm has interests in seven exploration and production licenses in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq. Among the license are two major producing fields; a 25 per cent stake in the Tawke field, Duhok province, and 44 per cent in the Taq Taq field of Erbil province.

The firm also holds a 25 per cent interests in Peshkabir, 40 per cent in the Duhok, 18.75 per cent in Miran, 20 per cent of the Chia Surkh as well, all of which are located in Duhok province.


What added to Baghdad's rage was that Mehmet Sepil, the chief executive of Genel Energy said the central government had lost its energy fight against the KRG in Arbil. "Let's take a look at companies operating there currently: Exxon, Chevron, Total and Gazprom. These are some of the largest oil companies in the world. What's more, Exxon, Total and Gazprom are also working in Baghdad [oilfields]. Baghdad says it will put those who operate in northern Iraq on a blacklist, but the largest companies in the world are working there. This issue is over. In addition, Baghdad operates too slowly, so the oil companies are escaping from there and moving to the north. The energy fight is over today. The important question is when Baghdad will admit this." He said.

Sepil also predicted that Kurdistan "will see a large consolidation. The number of [oil]companies in northern Iraq, which is between 40 and 50 today, will fall to between 10 and 15 in two or three years," Sepil said, adding that the region has already proved its potential. What is happening in northern Iraq is typical, according to Sepil. "First the small companies penetrate, they find the oil, and sell [the field] after benefiting from it. Now this is the process taking place in northern Iraq."

Kurdish-Turkish Relations

Recent rapprochements between Turkey and Kurdistan Region have sent waves of resentment across the Shiite dominated government authorities in Baghdad. Earlier this month, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu visited Kurdistan and made a side trip to Kirkuk, an oil-rich and disputed city which Kurds have been trying to incorporate into their, angering the Iraqi government.

The Iraqi government condemned the visit as a "blatant interference in the Iraqi internal affairs" and said Davutoglu had violated the sovereignty of Iraq. Baghdad harshly criticized the Kurdish government for facilitating the Turkish official's Kirkuk visit. Baghdad also said it will review relations with Turkey. And on Aug. 15, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry denied a Turkish leader, who had plans to visit Kirkuk, visa into Iraq.

Following the Turkish FM's Kirkuk visit, Baghdad has been complaining that Turkey treats Kurdistan Region as independent from Baghdad. Maliki told a Turkish TV channel that Turkey is "dealing with the (Kurdistan) region as an independent state, and this is rejected by us,"

If Turkey "wants to establish good relations, its relations with the region must be built through the gate of Iraq," Maliki said.

Kurdistan's support for Syrian Kurds

While the rest of the world has condemned Bashar al-Assad's brutal crackdown on civilians in the country, the Iraqi government has remained silent. Further to that, the Iraqi government rejected in July an Arab League call for the Syrian President to step aside from his post. Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said the decision was an intervention in the Syrian affairs.

Iraq's rejection to call on Assad to go drew criticism from the Kurdish leaders in the country. Spokesperson for the KBC, Moayyed Tayyib, said "What is happening in Syria is that the regular Syrian army is committing horrible crimes against the Syrian people.. And when these horrible crimes are committed, it is no longer an internal affair in any country"
The Iraqi government also shut down borders in the face of fleeing Syrians who sought refuge in Iraq from the violence in the country and sent army troops to a border crossing area that was controlled by the Kurdish Peshmarga forces. The border crossings were only opened after pressure mounted on al-Maliki from within the country to provide shelter for the refugees.

The deployment of troops to the Fish Khabur area on the Syrian border, in Duhok province, nearly broke out into a deadly fight between the two forces had it not been for a US intervention to play down the disputes.

The government claimed to have sent the troops to control the Syrian border to prevent the infiltration of militants from and into Syria and also to prevent fleeing Syrian from entering Iraqi territories. Apparently, Maliki believed that the Kurdish control of about 15 kilometer long border line made it possible for Iraqis to smuggle arms and support into Syria for the opposition forces in particular the Kurds who had taken over some towns and districts in the northeastern Syria.

Maliki's military movement came after Kurdistan Region's President Massoud Barzani said Syrian Kurds were being trained in Kurdistan and would be sent home to "defend" their territories.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Turkish FM’s Kirkuk visit: A tit-for-tat for Barzani’s efforts for a Kurdish region in Syria



Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu paid a surprise visit to the disputed oil-rich city of Kirkuk last week after holding a meeting with the Kurdish leaders in Erbil about the future of the Kurds of Syria following a possible collapse of the Syrian regime setting off criticism from Iraqi officials.

TheIraqi officials considered the unexpected visit a “blatant interference in the Iraqi internal affairs” while Turkish officials said it was a “peaceful” visit to the city where the FM met with the Turkmen community with whom Turks share close ethnic and historic ties. Following the visit, Iraq summoned Turkish ambassador to protest the visit while Turkey summoned the Iraqi ambassador to tell him that the Iraqi government’s statements were “unacceptable”

When a high ranking foreign official such as Davutoglu visits, without notice, a disputed city in Iraq that is claimed by each of the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen communities that has been the source of tensions between Baghdad and Erbil for years, it may be deemed inappropriate. It may also be seen as the “peaceful”  visit that Turks claim, but I think there is something else behind it: a tit-for-tat for Kurdistan Region’s support for the creation of a Kurdish region in Syria, especially when Barzani admitted training Syrian Kurds in Kurdistan Region to send them home to “defend their areas”. Kurdish leaders also continued their support for all Kurdish groups in Syria even the one that Turkey accuses of having links with the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) rebel group that has been fighting the Turkish state for almost three decades.

Barzani’s late July remarks when he told Al Jazeera that the Syrian Kurds were beingtrained in Kurdistan Region so that they can go back to Syria and “fill any security vacuum” that might come forth in the wake of the fall of the Syrian regime, upset the Turks so much that immediately after that they threatened to use military force to intervene in Syria if a Kurdish region was established where the Democratic Union of Kurdistan (PYD) – a Kurdish armed group allegedly affiliated with the PKK – had any control. The Prime Minister Recepy Teyyip Erdogan also appeared on TV saying Davutoglu will visit Kurdistan Region to “share Turkey’s sensitivities and determination on this issue” with local administration officials.

Prior to the visit, a senior Kurdish official from Barzani’s party said that Turkeyshould not push away any Kurdish parties in Syria, even the PYD.

Turkey has been viciously fighting PKK and is desperately trying to eliminate the group through military force. The creation of a Kurdish region in Syria is seen by Turkey as a potential threat to Turkey because it fears that the PKK will use the Kurdish region of Syria to attack Turkey. PKK is already using the Kurdish region of Iraq as a launch pad to attack Turkey and Kurdish leaders have made it clear that they will not fight alongside Turkey against the PKK despite their presence in the northern mountainous territories of Kurdistan on the Turkish border. Barzani once said that the blood of a Kurds should never be shed by another Kurd in response to Turkey’s pressures on Barzani to fight against the PKK.

Davutoglu’s Kirkuk visit shows the extent to which Turkey is ready to go to prevent the creation of a Kurdish region in Syria. On the surface, Turkish officials may say that they do not oppose the creation of a Kurdish region in Syria provided that it is not controlled by a group linked with the PKK. But in reality, they oppose a Kurdish region in Syria because that will no doubt encourage Turkey’s own Kurdish region in the southeast will be demanding the establishment of a similar region, not to mention that it might open a new front for Turkey to fight the PKK.

Davutoglu’s Kirkuk visit was a reminder for Barzani and Kurdish leaders in Iraq that “we can meddle in Kirkuk if you keep supporting the creation of a Kurdish region in Syria where even PYD can exist”, that Turkey will support the Turkmen in their claims of Kirkuk being a Turkmen city which the Kurdish leaders have been trying to incorporate into the Kurdistan Region since 2003 and which the Kurds fought over it for decades with Saddam Hussein.

History shows that Turkey has the potential to intervene and divide the ethnic groups as in the case of Cyprus in 1974. Davutoglu spoke to the Turkmen community as if Turkey was going to establish a Turkmen region in Kirkuk. Turkey has considered Kirkuk a historically Ottoman and the property of the Turkmenminority. “You waited for us too long, but I promise you won’t wait for us that long in the future.” He told the Turkmen community of the city stressing on Turkish support for the Turkmen.

More importantly, Davutoglu implicitly said that Turkey recognizes Kirkuk as a Turkmen city and will act accordingly when it comes to disputes between the ethnic groups of the city. “Today we [Turkish authorities] decided to make Konya city in Turkey and Kirkuk sister cities. I am a Turkmen of Konya and for that reason I feel your pain very well... Wherever there is a Turkmen, we have felt responsible towards them and protected them and we will always do so” Davutoglu told the Turkmen rally.

Davutoglu chose a Turkmen city of Turkey instead of a Kurdish city or just any other Turkish city, to be a sister city of Kirkuk. Normally, when two cities are said to be sisters, they are such because they share something vital. In the particular case of Kirkuk and Konya, that shared characteristic, according to Davutoglu’s speech is the Turkmenness of Kirkuk and the Turkmenness of Konya.



Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Attack on Sulaimaniyah donkey statue sparks outrage

ERBIL - An attack on the statue of a donkey in Sulaimaniyah, the second largest city in Iraq's semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region, has set off outcry among artists and journalists who deemed it as an assault on freedom and the "terrorization of thought".


pay kar The statue was unveiled earlier this month in central Sulaimaniyah city’s Nali Park - that has been named after  famous Kurdish poet who wrote a famous poem about donkeys - by a political party in the region called the Donkeys’ Party.


The statue shows the head and shoulders of a donkey dressed in a suit, shirt and tie. It is a 1.8 by 1.1 meter bronze statue that took Zirak Mira, a Kurdish sculptor, seven months to create.


Donkeys’ Party leader Omar Klol had hoped during the unveiling ceremony on April 13 that the statue would help people better understand the four-legged animal and treat it with respect.


Klol believes that donkeys offered help to the Kurdish armed struggle against the former Iraqi governments in the second half of the twentieth century when Kurds were fighting for greater political rights.


He has on several occasions said that the donkey played a very important role in the Kurdish liberation movement and described the animal as the Kurdish fighter's “only friend” during the struggle for Kurdish rights. Donkeys were used to move fighters' weaponry and food supplies from the villages to their hideouts on the jagged mountains.


“I can't describe the way I feel today which is similar to the feeling I had on my wedding day,” Klol said during the ceremony.


“Kurdish government, parliament and other governmental institutions failed to help our party establish the statue, but Mira was the only person who raised the donkey’s head high in central Sulaymaniyah.”


But the statue lasted unharmed for only 10 days and was attacked by unknown people last night. There is damage to one of the donkey's eyes as well as its tie. The attack followed a verbal attack on the city of Sulaimaniyah on Facebook, stating that erecting such a statue was a foolish thing to do. Unknown groups also threatened to remove the statue.


But for creator of the statue Mira, the physical and verbal attacks on the statue and Sulaimaniyah city is a “terrorization of thought”.


"They [the attackers] have not stopped by this and have launched a verbal attack against Sulaimaniyah where the statue was placed, which shows that the Kurdish community has not developed in this respect yet.”


The Kurdistan Artists Syndicate (KAS) issued a statement following the attack.


“We condemn any attack or assault on the artistic works on any political, religious or social pretext." The syndicate also called on the court and the relevant parties to take legal steps against the perpetrators.


Also, a number of intellectuals, artists and journalists launched a campaign to support the donkey statue and criticize the attack. The campaign group described the attack on the statue as an attack on freedom and creativity in a statement circulated by the Kurdish media.


“After threats and insulting the artistic work of Mira, here the hands of the dark put their threat to action and distorted the statue,” the statement said.


“We condemn this attack and consider it as an attack on artistic freedom and creativity.”

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mysterious death of Sulaimaniyah mayor accused of corruption casts doubts on officials in the region


On April 14 in the afternoon,
 Hama Salih was reported dead by the Asayish.
ERBIL - Zana Hama Salih, mayor of Sulaimaniya city, the Kurdistan Region’s second largest city, who was arrested by the Asayish (Kurdish security police) last week on corruption charges, died in prison in mysterious circumstances. Authorities said he committed suicide, as he waited for the day of his trial, by hanging himself.

The alleged suicide of the mayor has now raised doubts that he was in fact murdered by other officials who may have been involved in the corruption and feared that Hama Salih might talk.

Hama Salih was accused of accepting bribes, as well as the illegal selling of plots of land worth about 400 IQD ($325,000) in Sulaimaniyah. He was arrested on such charges on April 8. An attempt by the court to try him was blocked after relatives of the official gathered in front of the court and protested. He was then moved to Sulaimaniyah Asayish Directorate for investigation.

The relatives claimed that Hama Salih was not arrested on legal grounds, but was rather arrested on political grounds. The same day, they gathered in front of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) headquarters in the city to protest Hama Salih’s arrest and efforts to try him. The PUK is the major ruling party in the Sulaimaniyah province. The security agencies are controlled by the PUK.

Following the incident, the opposition forces in Kurdistan quickly voiced their suspicion that the incident may not have been suicide and called for an investigation into the death.

The vice president of Kurdistan Region, prime minister and the parliament each ordered a separate committee to look into the incident.

Hawlati Newspaper reported that minutes before Hama Salih died his wife had visited him. “I visited Zana yesterday [Saturday, the same day he was announced dead] and stayed with him until 2pm. He was very well and optimistic that he would be released [on bail]” the newspaper quoted Hama Salih’s wife.

The body of Hama Salih was moved to the forensic department for an autopsy to establish whether his death was suicide. A period of 48 hours was set for the autopsy to be conducted and the results revealed. The relatives however wanted an autopsy in Baghdad rather than in Sulaimaniyah.

Mohammed Nouri, Sulaimaniyah Forensic Department’s chairman, said the inspections and checks were still ongoing though there were no signs oftorture.

Hama Salih’s family and relatives took to the streets following his death and called for an investigation into the case. They were highly suspicious of Hama Salih’s death. One brother of Hama Salih, Rahman Hama Salih, went so far as to say the relatives knew who was behind the death of his brother.

The relatives also wanted to see the room in which Hama Salih was held. There were allegations that the room is four meters high and Hama Salih’s belt and shoe laces were taken from him as part of the regulations in the prison to prevent detainees from such suicide attempts.

Sherzad Hafez, a member of a parliamentary committee formed to look into the incident, suggested that Hama Salih might have been strangled. According to reports, Hama Salih hung himself from the bathroom window using a wire.

“Zana is said to have hung himself in the bathroom where there is only one faucet that cannot stand the weight of anyone stepping on it [to reach for the window] especially that the mayor had a heavy body and the window is rather low from the ground, this cannot form the necessary weight for self-hanging," said Hafez.

"It's not clear where did Zana got the wire by which he hung himself and how [the wire] got into the room because there was only the refrigerator wire in the room which is still there."

Hama Salih's relatives were finally convinced by a representative of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani to bury the corpse on condition that an independent committee be formed to look into the incident and they family members beallowed to see the room in which Hama Salih was kept.

Ali Karim, head of the Kurdistan Institute for Human Rights, wrote on hisFacebook page that “Hama Salih’s case is yet another test for the rule of law and governance in the Kurdistan Region".

“In order for the executioner and the victim not to be confused and in order to respect the will of the people of the Kurdistan Region who want to know the truth as it is, we call for a fair and transparent probe into both the death of Hama Salih, Sulaimaniyah mayor, and the charges on which he was arrested," wrote Karim.

Spokesperson for the PUK politburo Azad Jundyani said: “The conclusions of the investigation are not out yet. We can't view the case only from the perspective that there might be other people behind the incident. Why not view it from the psychological perspective that a official who was at the prime of his work but faced a case that involved investigation [and corruption charges] thus had to take this decision [suicide].”

Sulaimaniyah’s prosecutor general Judge Farhad said: “We'll try to settle the mayor’s case with criminal and forensic evidence.” He also called on anybody, in particular the family of the late mayor, to provide any information orevidence to the court in a bid to establish the facts.


The burial of MR Zana Hama Salih (Courtesy of Hawlati Newspaper)
The burial of MR Zana Hama Salih (Courtesy of Hawlati Newspaper)
The burial of MR Zana Hama Salih (Courtesy of Hawlati Newspaper)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

My interview with an American forum moderator about the removing of the three zeros from the Iraqi Dinar and its effects


By Ward Welch
Erbil, Kurdistan, Iraq  April 12, 2012

Ward Welch: Mr. Aziz, thank you very much for taking my questions today.

For years now we've been hearing about the CBI's plan to "remove the zeros" from the Iraqi Dinar and equalize the value of the IQD with the other major currencies of the world, including the American Dollar. With the success of the recent Arab summit in Baghdad, and the imminent release of Iraq from the United Nations sanctions (Chapter 7), what are your thoughts concerning this subject?

Raber Aziz: I think the removing of the zeros will have its own benefits and consequences for the country alike. It will be good for Iraq to remove the zeros because this address; when the Iraqi dinar is strong in the face of US dollars it will help keep inflation down as much as possible. It will also facilitate, for Iraq, economic cooperation with the international banks as it will increase the international confidence and credibility of it the new Iraqi Dinar. Also, it will reduce the size of the bank notes in circulation and will simplify Iraq's payment system.

But the having a new and strong Dinar is expected to have consequences as well. one of the consequences will be money laundering. The CBI has said the zero-removing process, which is expected to take place in September as it has announced, will see the bank  re-print 30tr dinars ($26bn) and the process of switching currency will last a full year where both the old and new currencies will be dealt in the market. This is too long a period and could witness lots of money laundering, as well as fraud.

Ward Welch:  With Iraq taking its place in the world as a completely sovereign nation and a major power in the Arab world, how can Iraq continue to trade with the world using a highly undervalued currency? Certainly the impetus of the GOI and the CBI must be to rectify this condition very soon or risk losing billions of dollars (trillions of IQD) in foreign investments in Iraq.

Raber Aziz: Iraq cannot continue to trade with the world using the current undervalued currency. Iraq's current money, printed after the 2003 US-led war, is 150 times bigger in quantity than the Swiss edition of the Iraqi Dinar used in the country. Iraq's smallest bill used in the markets is the 250 Dinar bill (approximately US$0.2) and this is definitely not a good currency for the country that sells over 2 million bpd of oil (roughly over 6 billion US Dollar per month). Besides, Iraq is planning to increase its oil production to reach at least 6 million bpd in the next few years and ultimately 12 million bpd. That's even three times and six times the size of Iraq's current revenues. This will mean Iraq's annual revenues will hit US$210 in the coming days and over US$400 billion ultimately. And for this, Iraq requires a currency with strong value in the world market.

Ward Welch: With this new economic power in hand, will this increase the desire of Kurdistan to gain complete independence and sovereignty?

Raber Aziz:   The desire of the Kurds to become independent is, and has always been, there with or without the economic power in hand. Every single Kurd dreams of an independent Kurdistan state. Though economic boom is a factor for any nation to proclaim independence, in the case of Kurdistan there are other factors that determine whether the Kurds want to be independent from Iraq or not. The first of these factors will be an international recognition of a Kurdish state. Who is ready to recognize a Kurdish state in north of Iraq? Kurds first need guarantees that if they proclaim independence their state will be recognized on an international level and be protected by some of the world's super powers, among them the US. Another factor will be the Kurds' relations with the regional nations. Kurdistan, I mean the greater Kurdistan that spans Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, and the Kurdish part of Iraq as well, is a landlocked country. Kurdistan cannot survive without strong friendly relations with these countries in case they wanted to become independent.

Ward Welch: How will this rebirth of economic power in Iraq effect the relationship between the political blocks? (Will the new wealth encourage them to put religious, secular, and tribal differences aside and truly work together?)

Raber Aziz:  I don't think that it will result in the political blocs putting their differences aside. Iraq's Prime Minister Mr Nouri al-Maliki who has been controlling power over the past few years has unfortunately been playing on a very sensitive cord, namely sectarianism. He has appointed many of his Shiite Dawa Party officials as ministers or high-ranking officials in the government and has been running many other ministerial and senior positions like the ministries of interior, defense, national security as acting minister despite him being the PM. He has been rejecting candidates of the rival al-Iraqiya list, the main Sunni bloc in Iraq, for the empty ministries each time with a different excuse since the end of 2010 when the political blocs finally, after an 8-month impasse came to a power-sharing deal, in Erbil, to form the new cabinet. And, last year, his Shiite dominated government started removing Sunni academics on charges of belonging to the former Baath Party. They detained about 600 former Iraqi army officials on charges of planning a coup by the end of 2011 when the last US troop left Iraq, and also started hunting down other top Sunni leaders in the country on terror charges, among them VP Tariq al-Hashimi for involvement in 150 armed attacks. Therefore, it is not easy to undo these, and thus the sectarian disputes which are in fact the core of the political disputes as well, will remain.

Ward Welch:   Thank you very much for your valuable time sir.

Raber Y. Aziz is a Kurdish journalist and blogger from Erbil, the capital of the semi-autonomous Kurdish Region. He works for AKnews as English News Editor and is formerly their Managing Editor. You can follow his blog at http://kurdishobserver.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Sheikh Muhammadawi warns Kurds to leave Arab areas or face death



ERBIL- The leader of the Brave Sons of Iraq, Sheikh Abbas al-Muhammadawi, has warned Kurds in Baghdad and other Arab-majority areas to leave or be killed.

The Brave Sons of Iraq, a Shiite group, gave one-week for Kurds to leave Arab cities after which they threatened to carry weapons against the them.

Iraqi media circulated a statement from Abdullah al-Muhammadawi, a spokesperson for the military wing of the group, the 9th Division of Badr.

The group stated that they would also carry weapons against Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani and those who are with him.

“Who has warned is excused” concluded the statement, meaning that following one week period given, the killings would begin if Kurds did not leave the Arab areas.

The threats come as tensions between Baghdad and Kurdistan Region escalate over accusations that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is becoming an autocrat and a dictator.

Muhammadawi said in a press release that Kurds in Baghdad and other Arab majority areas should be “displaced to and moved to Kurdistan region, and must ask for visas if they want to enter Baghdad or any other Arab land in Iraq as retaliation for the way they deal with Arabs who want to enter Kurdistan.

“Kurds must know who gave them prestige and value” he added.

Muahhamadawi’s statement quickly set off criticism from Kurdish MPs and organizations. The Kurdish group Supporters of Change called on Kurdish MPs in Baghdad to file a lawsuit against Muhammadawi on charge of terror for his threats to kill Kurds.

Mohammed al-Afandi, secretary of the group called on the authorities in a statement for “severe measures about it, and restrain the groups that are trying to undermine security and safety in the country.

"This behavior is contrary to law and the constitution.”

Following al-Afandi’s call, the Kurdish Blocs Coalition (KBC) member Saman Fawzi said Muhammadawi’s threats against the Kurds go under the label of “terror”.

“Even the Baathists did not go this far in their threats and intimidation of Kurdish people,” he said.

Fawzi said the Kurdish MPs are working on a lawsuit against the Arab leader.

The threats were also condemned by al-Iraqiya list, the main Sunni bloc in Iraq. Their spokesman, Maysoon al-Damluji, described the statements as “mere harbingers of bad will that aims at breaking up Iraq”.

She added: “Kurds are an integral part of the Iraqi society and the Kurdish leader displayed a pivotal role in fighting dictatorship and in the establishment of the principles of democracy in Iraq.

"The mountains of Kurdistan and the honorable Kurdish people hugged the opposition [during the time of Saddam Hussein], among them the Wifaq Movement, Supreme Islamic Council in Iraq, the Dawa Party and a large number of other opposition forces and Iraqi patriotic figures.

"And they [Kurdish people] have faced big risks for that.”

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office said the day before yesterday that any Iraqi citizen has the right to choose the place they want to live and it is the Iraqi government’s responsibility to protect them.

The Badr Organization also announced that it has nothing to do with Muhammadani whose military wing carries the same name, Badr division.

Qasim al-Araji, a leading member of the Badr Organization, told a press conference that the Badr Organization does not have any armed wings, and that “Muhammadani is not related to us.”

“We call on the security authorities to prosecute any group that spreads terror and tries to provoke hatred between the sons of one nation” he added.

Soon after the media hype about Muhammadani’s threats, the sheikh backtracked on his remarks regarding killing Kurds in Baghdad and other areas.

“I did not threaten Kurds living outside the Kurdistan Region or pose their lives to danger. The majority of my friends are Fayili Kurds," he said.

But in any case, the threat is still there. Kurds from the semi-autonomous region have relatives in Baghdad and family members who work in Baghdad - in the political arena or in other cases have paperwork that needs to be done in Baghdad such as a US visa, UK or other visa interviews.

Besides, Arabs of Iraq do not require visas when they enter Kurdistan Region. This year, over 100,000 Arabs from southern and central Iraq visited Kurdistan Region during the three-day Nawroz festivities.

"And many of them have bought properties in Kurdistan, in particular housing projects that the Kurdish government launched over the past few years to address the housing crisis in Kurdistan Region. But the with the big number of Arabs from other parts of Iraq buying from these projects, the housing crisis is much the same."

 A report published by Hawler Newspaper last year said that 25% of the housing units tendered by the Kurdistan Region’s Investment Board to companies so that people of the region could buy them to ease the housing crisis was in fact bought by Arabs from Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq.

The only thing that might be disturbing for the Arabs who come to Kurdistan Region might be the strict measures taken by security forces such as the inspection of the cars of Arab families who come to Kurdistan.

This is justified when taking into account the security situation in other parts of Iraq where al-Qaeda and other armed groups carry out daily bombings and attacks.

The security, stability and economic development in the Kurdish region, which has been spared of such violence since 2003, has been because of the strict security measures.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Efforts mount to remove Maliki


ERBIL – Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has been accused of running an autocracy and dictatorship, may face a vote of no confidence if he continues his current political behaviors, claim political parties.

The accusations against al-Maliki increased recently after his Shiite-dominated government started firing Sunni academics from universities on charges of belonging to the outlawed Baath party, detained former Baath Party affiliated Sunnis on charges of planning a coup after the withdrawal of the US forces and chased after Sunni politicians with terror charges.
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki
He also went against the allies in Kurdistan Region over long awaited issues of oil and gas. The political crisis erupted between Baghdad and Erbil recently after Kurdistan Region stopped the export of crude oil in protest against the federal government's non-payment of dues owed to foreign companies operating in the region.

The Kurdistan Regional Government claims to have asked Baghdad to pay the foreign companies some $1.5bn (1.7tr IQD), while the latter stated it would pay only $450m (522bn IQD).

On Sunday, Maysoon al-Damlouji, the spokesperson for al-Iraqiya bloc - the main Sunni bloc in the Iraqi parliament - said the list was seeking a consensus to remove al-Maliki from his position.
Al-Iraqiya Spokesperson Maysoon al-Damluji
Damlouji said a national consensus would be sought to withdraw confidence if Iraqiya and the Kurdish Blocs Coalition (KBC) were able to collect 163 votes. He added, Iraqiya has also established ongoing dialogue with parties in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's own National Coalition (NC) bloc for this purpose.

Damluji's statement was immediately echoed by Kurdish observers. Falakaddin Kakayi, a former KRG minister, said Kurds may join other Iraqi forces in an attempt to remove the prime minister if he continues his current political behavior.
Falakaddin Kakayia has been known as a close personality to President of the Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani,
"I believe that if Maliki continues his current behavior, and dealing with the Kurdistan Region, then I think the Kurds in the future will join those parties who are after such a bid."

Maliki has been accused of creating more issues in Iraq than solving them - those of a national level that affect all Iraq and others regarding Erbil-Baghdad relations.

On a national level, the PM has rejected al-Iraqiya's candidates for the ministerial positions they were entitled to under the 2010 Erbil agreement, when political parties came to a power-sharing deal following an eight-month deadlock.

But ever since, Maliki has been working as acting Defense Minister, National Security Minister, Interior Minister and acting intelligence chief – and this has been described by the political parties as a monopoly of authorities.

Bukhari Abdullah, a Kurdish political sciences academic said: "The administration of these positions is not Maliki's specialty and this is a serious indication that Maliki's behaviors have lead him to a dictatorship. "Over the last two years he has even entered disputes with parties who are his allies too. His disputes are not only with the Kurds and the Sunni Arabs, but also with some of the Shiites as well."

President of Kurdistan Region, Massoud Barzani, also criticized Maliki for his "autocratic" rule last month in an address during the Nawroz festivities in Kurdistan Region. 
Barzani with US Vice President Joseph Biden
He also warned that if problems between Kurdistan Region and Baghdad remained unsolved then the Kurdish leadership would take action according to the will of the Kurdish people.

Barzani also said during a U.S. Congress address last week: "Iraq is heading towards a crisis, autocracy has emerged; control of the majority of state institutions is growing every day.

"After I am back [to Kurdistan] we will seriously make efforts to find radical solutions for them in a specified time frame. "We will not be convinced with futile promises like before."

MP Salman al-Musawi, who is close to Nouri al-Maliki, said Sunday that the Iraqi PM has instructed all Iraqis to remain silent about the ongoing crisis with Kurdistan Region, to preserve the historic relationship which brings together Shiites and Kurds.

"On the Kurdish side, [they] must understand that our position comes from our sense to keep a good relationship with Kurds and that does not mean or is interpreted as a position of weakness," he said.
  

Barzani warns that autocracy and dictatorship is no longer accepted in Iraq


President of Kurdistan Region Massoud Barzani told a US Congress audience last week that Iraq was heading towards dictatorship as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is controlling the majority of the state institutions. Below is a translation s his address with a link to the video on Youtube.

"My Washington visit came upon the invitation of the US government. Yesterday, I met with President Obama and Mr. Biden and other US officials, we talked about the current situations in the region in general, but the Iraq and the relations between the [Kurdistan] Region and Baghdad were tackled in detail. We conveyed our opinion very frankly that Iraq is heading towards a crisis, autocracy has emerged; taking over the majority of the state institutions is growing every day. Therefore, the situation requires a solution and we have called on the Iraqi political forces to sit together and solve the situation, or as I said earlier in Kurdistan during the Nawroz, that "eventually, we will be obliged to go back to the opinion of our people. Whatever our people decides we will do that"

"Of course, their opinion [US officials] was that they cared about the situations in Iraq, Mr. Obama personally stressed several times that 'We emphasize on our commitment to Kurdistan Region and the achievements, and we support the solution of the issues' and after I am back [to Kurdistan] we will seriously make efforts to find radical solutions for them in a specified timeframe. We will not be convinced with futile promises like before"

"It should be clear to everyone that the current Iraqi government was formed on the Kurds shoulders and with Kurdish blood, this is one. Second, unlike before, Kurds will not leave Baghdad for other people. It is the people who are against the Kurds who have to go out of Baghdad. Therefore, yes we have issues, some of which are related to the way of governance regarding Iraq as a whole; autocracy and controlling all state institutions is by no means acceptable. Others are related to issues between the [Kurdistan] Region and Baghdad such as the Article 140 [of the Iraqi constitution] for which we as Kurds showed maximum flexibility. And the issues of Kirkuk and other territories, the Peshmarga, oil and gas. It is now openly said that federalism should not be there while one of the conditions for Iraq to stay united is that it has to be a federal, democratic and plural Iraq. The Constitution itself states that commitment to this constitution is a condition for Iraq to remain united. They [Baghdad authorities] are playing with fire; they are playing with the fate of a nation. Therefore, we will never accept the return of dictatorship top Iraq. We Kurds, as I said, have only found 3 or 4 thousand remains of a total of 182,000 Kurds, the majority of whom are women and children, in the deserts of southern Iraq. We will not accept these catastrophes happen to Kurds or dictatorship re-emerge in Baghdad again"



Monday, April 2, 2012

Increased attacks against Shabaks in Nineveh


ERBIL, April 2 (AKnews) – Militant groups have increased attacks against Shabaks who are being actively targeted in the northern province of Nineveh amid failure of security forces in the province to protect the minority group.

Over the last month, there have been at least six deadly attacks against Shabaks in Nineveh province. Some of them have been covered by media outlets, which are mainly Kurdistan-based, while others have kept the public in the dark.

On Sunday, a Shabak secondary school headmaster in Mosul was shot dead by a gunman in the school library - the story was not covered by the media. Zakariya Yahya al-Ali was the headmaster of al-Mas'oudi Secondary School for Boys in Mosul's al-Ta'mim neighborhood.

"A gunman pretending to be the guardian of one of the school boys, who wanted to talk to the headmaster, entered the school and asked where he could find Mr Ali.

"The man was shown the way to the library where Ali was. He shot him three times. One of the deadly bullets went through his throat," said one of Ali's brothers.

Media coverage of the Shabak killings has been relatively low and officials have withheld information or avoided mentioning the ethnicity of the victims.

All the attacks against Shabaks have targeted civilians, in the majority of the cases, ordinary self-employed people unlike assassinations in Baghdad and Anbar where mainly security personnel and government employees are targeted.
  • Last month, an explosion in Mosul's Nabi Younes area left five casualties. One of the dead was later revealed to be a Shabak student from Jilwa Khan village. Nabi Younes is located in an area known locally as Souk al-Akrad (Marketplace of the Kurds) because the majority of the residents are Kurds and Shabaks.
  • On March 4, a Shabak man was gunned down with a silencer in the North Garage area in Mosul. He was identified by Shabak News as Husam Al-Dean Shehab Mawlood .
There were also at least nine deaths among Shabaks after two separate attacks in January this year.

On January 16, at least 8 Shabaks were killed and four others injured in a car bomb attack in Bartilla district, east of Mosul city.

The car went off in the Al-Ghadeer residential complex that is resided predominantly by the Shabaks. A second car bomb set to explode in a nearby neighborhood was disarmed by security forces.

On January 18, militants in Mosul city shot dead a Shabak man and wounded his brother as the two were leaving home for work.
Shabaks are a mainly civilian and peaceful minority, who are not much involved in the government. The only motive for armed groups to attack them is that they are Shiites and support Kurdish nationalism.

There are an estimated 450,000 Shabaks in Iraq, according to the United Nations, with 90% of them living in Nineveh, the provincial capital of Mosul - which is one of Iraq's most dangerous cities.

Since 2003, the area has witnessed some of the deadliest militant attacks, and in recent months has become the scene of daily armed attacks.

"In general the Shabaks are targeted because they belong to Kurdish nationalism and the Shia Shabaks are the most targeted," said Salem 
Khudr al-Shabaki, the head of the Shabak Advisory Board in Nineveh.

"The al-Qaeda and remnants of the Baath Party are behind these massacres," al-Shabaki added.

Shabaks are not only suffering at the hands of the armed groups. They also complain about discrimination by, and Arabization policies of the mainly Arab Nineveh Provincial Council.

Khudr al-Shabaki says Nineveh Provincial Council is deliberately Arabizing areas inhabited by ethnic Shabak people through the distribution of land to Arabs.

In June 2011, Nineveh provincial council handed out approximately 6,000 residential lots among state employees in the Nineveh Plain district. Shabaki said the land was largely given to Arabs at the expense of Kurds and Shabaks.

The council said the lots were allocated through a random draw. However, if this was the case this would still result in a large number of Arabs moving into Shabak areas because the number of Arabs across the region is higher than those of the minority group.

There is great sensitivity around the issue of demographic shifts in the province.

During Saddam Hussein's rule thousands of families from minorities were pushed out of their homes to be replaced with Arabs.

Shabak families were forced to migrate to Harir in Kurdistan region in the 1980s, after refusing to register their nationality as Arab.