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.

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