London, Asharq Al-Awsat- The Kurdistan National Assembly Speaker (KNA), Adnan Mufti disclosed that over 7,000 Arab families, who the former regime had used as a means to change the demographic map of Kirkuk with a policy of deliberate Arabization of the city, have decided to return to their places of origin in return for a generous compensation in accordance with Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution relating to the normalization of the situation in the multi-ethnic city. Deputy speaker of the KNA, Kamal Kirkuki spoke in Arbil (350 km north of Baghdad) and said that “the number of Arab families currently residing in Kirkuk who have registered their names in preparation for their return to their places of origin comes to 4,007 families.”
Speaking to Asharq Al-Awsat from his Abril office in a phone interview yesterday, Mufti said, “a plot of residential land and a grant of 20 million Iraqi Dinars (IQD – the equivalent of approximately US $15,000), in addition to compensation that will be paid to all citizens returning to their original cities. Their possessions in Kirkuk will be valued at generous prices and will not be undermined,” furthermore reaffirming that, “there will be no coercive action taken, it will all be legal and in accordance with Article 130 of the Iraqi constitution.” He explained that, “the city of Kirkuk and the rest of Iraqi Kurdistan’s cities are open to all Iraqis to live and settle in. They are Iraqi cities and every Iraqi citizen has the right to reside in the place of their choice provided that it does not alter the demographic map. Evidence of this is that there are thousands of Arab families residing in Kurdistan’s cities, however these families did not come with the implementation of polices such as the aforementioned, or with Arabization intentions and other such polices that the former regime had practiced.”
Mufti affirmed that “the process is fully constitutional and does not flout any laws, and that the families that want to return to their original cities are the ones who approached with their requests and that there were no coercive measures taken.” He strongly negated, “that there were Kurdish families, Iraqi or otherwise, that have been repopulated in Kirkuk.” He added that, “there are rumors circulating from unreliable sources claiming the existence of Iraqi, Iranian and Turkish Kurds that have been relocated to Kirkuk with the purpose of using them in the referendum. I challenge any party to present us with a name that comes from outside of Kirkuk and that doesn’t belong to one of the city’s original residents. We face the problem that there are Turkmen and native Kurds to Kirkuk who are living in Abril and Sulaimaniya who refuse to return to Kirkuk because of its security situation, and are moreover requesting compensation and financial privileges to return once again to their homes.”
The speaker of the KNA confirmed that the Kurdisatni parliament and government, “will respect any decision taken by the citizens of Kirkuk after the execution of the process of normalization, census and referendum, meaning, after the implementation of Article 140 with all that it entails if the citizens opt against joining the region of Kurdistan,” he added, “According to the attested historical documents and maps, Kirkuk is part of the map of the Kurdistani region and if we now consider the region to be comprised of three provinces, after the referendum it will be included in the map of the region, in the case where its citizens decide upon that.
For his part, Kirkuki confirmed in a press conference in Abril with Agence France-Presse (AFP) that the “the registration of the names of families living in Kirkuk and the surrounding areas who had arrived and settled as a result of the former regime’s Arabization policy to change the city’s demography was still in progress,” without revealing the total number of Arab families that had settled in the multi-ethnic Kirkuk.
It should be noted that the Kurds are requesting that the oil-rich city be added to the Kurdistani region while the Turkmen and the Arabs oppose that.
The Supreme Committee in charge of implementing Article 140 of the constitution has decided last Sunday upon the necessity of “the return of the Arabs, who had come to reside in Kirkuk to their places of origin in central and southern Iraq, in addition to providing them with the appropriate financial compensation.”
The committee, headed by Iraqi Minister of Justice, Hashim al Shebli, has issued the decision to return the Arabs who had arrived in Kirkuk and transfer their ration cards, and that they may return to their old jobs in their places of origin, in addition to giving them a plot of residential land and IQD 20 million. Kirkuki confirmed that “the execution of the resolution is binding and no one is capable of standing in the way of its implementation,” while Turkmen member of the committee, Tahseen Kahya said, “the resolution is optional, not compulsory.”
Article 140 stipulates the “normalization and census and concludes with a referendum in Kirkuk and other disputed territories to determine the will of the citizens, to be implemented at a date no later than 31 December 2007.” Kirkuki warned those, “who believe they are capable of standing in the way of Article 140 from the remaining dissolved Baathist party and the perpetrators of the crime of Anfal [also known as Operation Anfal, the anti-Kurdish campaign led by Saddam Hussein’s Baathist Iraqi regime between 1986-89] that their fate will not be much better than those who led the al-Anfal campaign.”
More than 1,000 Arab figures, both Sunni and Shia participating in the fourth Arab conference have rejected this. The conference was held last Sunday in Kirkuk and was the largest one since the destruction of Iraq. During the conference, the threat of ‘resorting to violence’ in defense of the historical presence of Arabs in the city was voiced.