Kirkuk demography under threat
Thounsands of Arab IDPs relocated in the city
Although before 2003 the central government of Iraq was forcing Kurdish families out of Kirkuk and relocating Arabs from the center and south of the country in the city in an attempt to change the city’s demography, this process was supposed to be undone after the fall of the Saddam Hussein’s Baathist Party.
However, Arabs continued to move into the city and settle there due to the security deteriorations in the south and center of the country. Now the security threats increase due to the war Islamic State imposed on the country.
The authorities in Kirkuk and the political observers see this move as a threat to the demography of the city.
Some 21,800 Arab families were moved to Kirkuk before 2003 as part of the Arabization process, out of which 14,000 have been compensated by IQD20 Million (approximately US$17 thousand) to return to their home towns. However, only 2,000 families have left Kirkuk while the rest are still there.
During 2003-2014, some 9,000 Arab families resettled in Kirkuk and registered at the city’s refugees and immigration department, while there are many more families who are currently there without informing the authorities.
Additionally, after the events of June 10, 2014, when the ISIS took control over wide areas in the northern provinces of Iraq, some 71,000 more Arab families fled to Kirkuk. This is in addition to many families who have not registered with the immigration department.
This makes a total of more than 100,000 Arab families in Kirkuk only within the past 11 years, which approximates to some half a million people.
Kawez Mala Parez, a Kurdish political observer says only a small number of the Kurds who have been pushed out of Kirkuk as part of the Arabization process before 2003 have returned to their homes in the city.
According to Parez, some 58,802 displaced Kurdish families have registered to return to Kirkuk, some of whom have received the compensation pay of IQD10 million, i.e. half of the compensation for the Arabs, while most of them have never actually returned to the city.
“Additionally some other Kurdish families of Kirkuk have left their hometown during the past 11 years and have resettled in other places inside Kurdistan Region,” said Pare. “The last parliamentary elections of Iraq showed that more than 100,000 Kurdish voters from Kirkuk are living in Kurdistan Region, while the families of an overwhelming majority of the Kurdish high rank- ing officials of Kirkuk live outside Kirkuk, and even abroad.”
Kamil Salayee, Mayor of Kirkuk, says due to the restrictions by his office for the settlement of the Arab displaced families inside the city, more than 5,000 families are currently residing in the city illegally.
He also says the majority of the other 60,000 families who are legally in the city have fake documents.
“Some groups have faked the mayor’s stamp and have been giving permanent residence permits to the Arab families and have been transferring their food ration cards from their places of origin to Kirkuk,” says Mayor Salayee. “They are doing that for an amount of money ignoring the fact that they are betraying the sacred land of Kurdistan, since this significantly harms the issue of returning Kirkuk to the Kurdistan Region administration and proving its Kurdistani identity.”
According to the Iraqi constitution all Iraqis are free to live in any province or city in Iraq including Kirkuk without restriction. However, Kirkuk Mayor believes that Kirkuk is a special case and should be differentiated from other cities, and the ethnic components of the city should not be allowed to try to increase their community sizes to change the demography of the city.
“The immigration of Arab families to the city, even if justified in a way or another, is eventually an attempt to change the city’s demography and hence it is a dangerous process that should be stopped.”