Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—The Iraqi government declared the disputed town of Tuz Khormatu a disaster zone following the recent string of bombings targeting protestors bemoaning the deteriorating security situation in the city.
The bombings killed and injured hundreds of people, including the head of the Iraqi Turkmen Front, a number of its leaders, and members of the Saladin provincial council.
Niyazi Oglu, a Turkmen representative to the Saladin provincial council, informed Asharq Al-Awsat: “Among the measures that the ministerial committee, protestors, and government representatives agreed upon is to provide the [town] with the necessary infrastructure to convert it into a governorate.”
Oglu welcomed the steps taken by the ministerial committee, saying this represented “a step forward in the government’s handling of the disputed province of Tuz Khormatu,” which has recently become an easy target for terrorists.
He said: “What is important is that the ministerial committee came with decisions from Baghdad. This is a sign that [the government] is seriously intent on finding solutions for what has recently befallen the province.”
“The government has decided to deploy a rapid reaction force to handle the security situation until a 700-strong Turkmen awakening force is formed in addition to an emergency police force combining all elements of Tuz Khormatu,” he added.
Oglu said: “These solutions, if adopted, will end the demonstrations.”
For his part, Mohamed Al-Bayati, a prominent Turkmen leader told Asharq Al-Awsat: “Many of the decisions taken by the committee surprised us as they were more than what we wanted.”
“Tuz Khormatus is a sensitive city and a disputed area; thus any mobilizations by the Peshmerga forces can cause unnecessary problems and disputes,” he added.
He stressed that the Turkmen “do not want to clash with [our] main partners in the province. Therefore, we resorted to the central government to find a solution for the province.”
In related news, Saladin provincial council said that the presence of the Pehmerga forces in Tuz Khormatu will complicate things and hinder solutions.
At a press conference, Ahmed Ali Kareem, the Saladin provincial governor demanded that the Peshmerga forces pull out of the province and be replaced by local police forces.
“We will never allow a new force to tackle the security file in Tuz Khormatu and we hold the Dijla Operations Command responsible for the security breaches because it is in charge of the security file in the city.”
Tuz Khormatu is a town in Saladin Province located south of Kirkuk. The majority of its residents are Turkmen with Kurdish and Arab minorities. The town is located within a territory which Kurds demand be annexed to their regional government in the north amid opposition from the central government in Baghdad.