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Everybody’s business is nobody’s business in Kirkuk
by KurdMedia (reposted)
Tuesday Apr 5th, 2005 3:28 PM
What is happening in Kirkuk can only be described as tragic. What is going on in Kirkuk amounts to the end of civilization in an ancient city, the city of Babagurgur, the eternal fire.
The ethnic communities in Kirkuk, particularly the Kurds and the Turkomans, claim the ownership of this ancient city - the Kurds, for example say the city has a Kurdish identity, historically home to the Kurdish people and must therefore be administratively part of Kurdistan.

However, none of the communities in Kirkuk make any effort to promote the city culturally, socially or economically, invest in the city, make compromises for the sake of their city or take any effective steps to reduce tensions between the ethnic groups that make up the population of the city.

The ethnic communities of Kirkuk behave in an irresponsible and greedy way, consistently trying to exploit the political situation and capitalize on the special status of the city as home to five diverse and at times hostile ethnic groups: Kurds, Turkomans, Arabs, Armenians and Chaldeo-Assyrians.

Kirkuk has probably the worst local government, which is rendered ineffective and powerless by futile intercommunal rivalries. The elected city council, comprising Kurdish, Arab, Turkoman and Assyrian members, is indecisive, ineffective and lacks the political will to put an end to the self-destructive splits among the ethnic communities it claims to represent.

The newly elected council held a meeting on the29 th of March to elect the governor, the deputy governor and the head of the council. After briefings by the interim head of the council, the governor and the commander of the US forces in Kirkuk, the representatives of the Turkoman Front and the Arab bloc stormed out of the meeting hall in protest over the distribution of a number of executive posts. The remaining councilors, comprising Kurdish, Turkomans and Chaldeo-Assyrians with an overwhelming majority of seats in the council, continued the meeting but miserably failed to take any decision in the absence of the minority bloc.

This intercommunal deadlock has been going on for two months and there are no signs of any progress towards solving the problems. The disagreement, in the words of a Kurdish council member, has dragged on for too long and is paralyzing the city, its local government and adversely affects the council services.

At the level of Iraq, Kirkuk belongs to nobody and nowhere. The city is the victim of its vast oil resources, unique ethnic composition and hostile policies of successive Iraqi governments.

The city has been and still is the major stumbling block between the Iraqi government and the Kurdish people and its leadership. The Kurds insist that the city has a Kurdish identity, that it is part of Kurdistan and therefore must be administratively attached to the Kurdistan federal region. The central government, the Turkomans and the majority of the Iraqi Arab population ridicule the Kurdish demands and publicly describe them as unrealistic, dangerous and therefore unacceptable.

The governor of Kirkuk, Abdul-al-Rahman Mustafa, attributes the problems and ethnic tension in the city to the refusal of the central government to implement Article 58 of the interim Iraqi Administration Law. The article calls for the reversal of the effects of the ethnic cleansing project of the former regime, in particular the return of the displaced Kurdish families to Kirkuk and the return of the Arab settlers in Kirkuk to their original homes and places.

In my opinion, the implementation of the article may greatly contribute to the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk, it will undoubtedly reduce intercommunal tension and redress most of the concerns of the Kurds. However, the article can offer very little help to bring the two sides, the Kurds and the central government, together. There is no provision in the article to address the issue of the identity of the city, the main demand of the people of Kurdistan.

But there are rumours circulating among in some quarters in Kirkuk to the effect that the Kurdish leadership has again deferred the issue of Kirkuk. If this is proved to be true then it is a major blow to the hopes and dreams of the Kurdish people throughout Kurdistan.

“It seems that our leaders have again sold our city”, said Kakasur, a veteran peshmerga and now a shop owner. He said, “Every time the people liberate Kirkuk, the leadership hand it back to the government, this is unfair to say the least and we are very upset.”

The political landscape in Kirkuk has been further complicated by ongoing rivalry between the two main Kurdish political parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). “The unholy competition for position and power between the KDP and the PUK has considerably weakened the Kurds in Kirkuk”, said Jamal Mohammad, a resident of Rahimawa, a flagship Kurdish neighbourhood in Kirkuk.

Unlike other Kurdish cities within the Kurdistan region, where either KDP or PUK is in control, the situation in Kirkuk remains unclear and undecided. The two parties are engaged in a fierce competition to gain control over the city. According to the residents of Kirkuk, the KDP and the PUK resort to all means, including bribery and in some cases intimidation to advance their goals at the expense of each other.

Mamosta Aram, a teacher in one of the Kurdish schools said, “If you don’t sign up for membership of one of the parties, you will find yourself isolated, jobless, homeless and deprived of all your rights. It is as bad as that".

Although the relation between the two rival parties has improved at Kurdistan level, the Kurdish infighting is still continuing in Kirkuk, albeit less fiercely than in the past. “They resort to all possible means to pull the carpet under each others feet”, continued Mamosta Aram.

Historically Kirkuk has received little attention from successive Iraqi governments in terms of investment. Its vast oil resources were simply stolen by the central government in Baghdad and no investment was made to develop the city. The result was catastrophic for Kirkuk, which remained poor, underdeveloped with very little services and facilities.

Ironically, the city was at the centre of Saddam’s wrath. For25 years, the dictator vehemently implemented a policy of Arabization of Kurdish and Turkoman citizens, forcibly expelling tens of thousands of families from the city, confiscating their homes and killing or imprisoning many of them.

Despite their dilemma and dire situation that lasted for more than two decades, the city’s population survived the Saddam era by shear stoic patience and love, dedication and devotion to their city. I have heard that many Kurdish families returned to Kirkuk only weeks after deportation by the government to all areas of the country, thereby putting their lives in grave danger.

Sadly, there is no indication that the situation in the city is improving. The services usually offered by the local government is meager and very primitive. There are still power cuts and in some areas there is very little supply of drinking water. The roads and streets are full of holes and ditches that make driving very hazardous. There is no sewage system in Kirkuk, making it one of the dirtiest places on earth. Rubbish is virtually everywhere as every street and every corner is used by everybody as a dumpling ground.

After spending three weeks in Kirkuk, I decided to write an article about the traffic in the city. But suffice to say here that it is chaotic, disorderly and adheres to no rule at all. The priority is always to the most adventure loving, inconsiderate and foolish drivers who readily break the law and put the lives of other drivers and pedestrians in danger.

The city’s high streets’ pavements are also unenviable. Makeshift tea kiosks are set up on the pavement to serve sweet teas "on the go". The shopowners extend their shop space by utilizing the pavement. Barbershops dry their towels and sheets on special rails outside their shops and sole traders sell their goods in huge baskets, trolleys or even animal drawn carts on the pavement. The result is chaos again, forcing pedestrians to use the street instead of the pavement. The strange situation affects the flow of the traffic and at times causing congestion. The drivers sound their horn out of habit or sometimes necessity but their concert is sometimes interrupted by huge loudspeakers of the police telling the drivers not to park, or move their vehicles immediately if the have done so.

Who is responsible for all this in Kirkuk? I tried to find the answer but to no avail. The Arabs blame the Kurds who blame the Turkomans who blame the Kurds and so on. The local government is not functioning properly and it tends to shift the blame on the central government for not allocating enough budgets for the reconstruction of the city. The Directorate of the Roads and Bridges says it is the local government’s responsibility to repair the roads and the bridges. The municipality is short of funds and the police is preoccupied with the security and has no time or personnel to deal with other issues. In short, everybody is unhappy and everybody is accusing everybody else for the disorder, chaos and the dire situation in Kirkuk.

What is happening in Kirkuk can only be described as tragic. What is going on in Kirkuk amounts to the end of civilization in an ancient city, the city of Babagurgur, the eternal fire.