Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim sat down with Rudaw in Erbil to discuss pressing issues of the Iraq and the Kurdistan Region, including areas claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil such as Kirkuk. He spoke about the planned Kurdistan referendum on independence, local politics involving Arab, Turkmen and other parties, as well as Kirkuk’s relations with Baghdad and the United States.
He believes the Turkmen Front does not reflect the views of all Turkmen, noting that the party didn’t receive all votes of the Turkmen in previous elections. He argues that Arabs and other groups should be given the same attention of Turkmen in the area, and that locals realize it was the Kurdish Peshmerga who were able to provide security in the diverse city.
Karim propose that the vice president in the presidency of the Kurdistan Region should be given to other communities for at least the first 10 years or another length of time to be determined. Refuting claims of the Kurdification of Kirkuk, he revealed Kirkuk authorities demolish tens of houses daily which the Kurds build on trespassed lands and the area now has improved stability.
Rudaw: What preparations have been made for the referendum in Kirkuk?
Governor Najmaldin Karim:
The most important step to take in preparations is really for the Electoral Commission in Kurdistan to be ready. As far as we are concerned, they have met with his Excellency the President and High Committee of Referendum. The preparations done here have also been done in Kirkuk. The voters’ list should be available. Kirkuk’s list is available here [in Erbil]. The voters’ list of all Iraq has been submitted to the Commission. What remains is for us to initiate the campaign, and this will be done through meetings with all parties including the Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Chaldeans and Assyrians. In our meetings with them, we will be reassuring them of what this referendum is for. There will be no changes on the 26th when people wake up. The process had finished and votes would then be counted. I am sure the vote will be yes for Kurdistan’s independence. Concerning Kirkuk, we are committed to Article 140. Our Provincial Council sent a letter to Baghdad in June, after the flag was raised, calling for Article 140 to be implemented so that the referendum is held.
The Kurdistan Region has said that representatives or provincial councils of the Kurdistani areas outside the Kurdistan Region’s administration should submit a request in order for the referendum to be held in these areas. Have you made this request? When do you officially submit this request, if you haven’t yet?
We have not been officially asked to do so. It is up to Kurdistan’s High Electoral Commission to officially call upon to do this. We can
Thank God, Kirkuk is calm nowadays, credit to the Peshmerga, security (Asayesh) and police forces that belong to all nations [of Kirkuk]. This process will certainly proceed easily and safely.
then submit this request, and there won’t be any problems. I want to remind you that Kirkuk called to return to the Kurdistan Region through a vote at the Provincial Council in 2008. This is more than voting for the referendum. I am sure the Provincial Council will meet and vote for this whenever this request is directed to us.
Where in Kirkuk province the referendum will be held? How will you determine these borders? What towns and cities will be incorporated? Who will decide this?
The referendum cannot be held only for the Kurds. That is if it is held. Kirkuk is a province that is not only the Kurds’. There are Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Chaldeans and Assyrians living there. It has different communities. That is why it will be held in Kirkuk as a whole. However, Hawija might not be liberated by September 25. That is why more than 85 percent of Hawija people live in Kirkuk nowadays. Whoever is in Kirkuk and has their name registered in the voters’ list is entitled to participate in the referendum.
So you are prepared to hold the referendum and set up voting stations in the entire Kirkuk province with the exception of Hawija then?
Yes, in Dubiz, Daquq, Sargaran, Pirde, Shiwan, Qarahanjir and Laylan.
How do you ensure the security of voting stations, local and foreign observers of the process?
The history of Kirkuk post-2003 is clear. Security situations in Kirkuk have never been as good. I was there in 2010 and 2014 for elections in which I was a candidate. Explosions happened on the days of the elections. There were two to three explosions a week. There were car bombs and suicide bombers. Thank God, Kirkuk is calm nowadays, credit to the Peshmerga, security (Asayesh) and police forces that belong to all nations [of Kirkuk]. This process will certainly proceed easily and safely.
Some communities in Kirkuk, especially the Turkmen, are said to have made obstacles, reportedly saying that they don't want the referendum to be held in a Turkmen-majority place. How will you settle this?
No party represents the people of a specific place. Kirkuk is a mixture (of all communities). Where in Kirkuk is the Turkmen Front
There is currently a campaign to make people doubt the process. There might be some reasons that make people doubt it.
doing this? They cannot do this and the Turkmen people will not listen to them. The Turkmen people say ‘leave me alone, I will go to vote’. They can [choose to] not go if they don't want to. It is up to them whether they vote yes or no once they go to the polling stations. People cannot be prevented from doing so.
So the Turkmen of Kirkuk do not listen to the Turkmen Front?
There are more Turkmen people in Kirkuk than the votes the Turkmen Front secured in past elections.
So the Turkmen Front does not represent the Turkmen people in Kirkuk?
The Turkmen Front represents some Turkmen people in Kirkuk. So, yes it doesn't represent all of them.
Have they made any agreements or arrangements with other communities in Kirkuk about the holding of the referendum in the city?
Turkmen brothers and sisters come to us and we explain to them how we see the future of Kirkuk after the referendum. They know about our position, how we have worked and dealt with Turkmen and Arab nationals in Kirkuk. We need to campaign for it not only among Turkmen and Arabs, but also among ourselves. This is important so people are reassured. There is currently a campaign to make people doubt the process. There might be some reasons that make people doubt it. But we should make them certain. This is the duty of all. We should go to people of all communities, not only the Turkmen and Arabs.
What guarantees have been given to the Arab community in Kirkuk, who are not substantially less than the Turkmen of the city? They both call for partnership not shares. What is the partnership of the Kurds, Turkmen and Arabs like in south Kurdistan?
With respect to providing guarantees for the rights of communities, in most of our meetings with different channels in Kurdistan and
A Turkmen or Arab national might become president of Kurdistan after 5 or 10 years, whether it be the Kurdistan Region or the State of Kurdistan.
Iraq, we cannot just tell the Turkmen, Arab, Chaldean, Assyrian or even our own people to come to the Kurdistan Region, telling them it is heaven and everything will be good. Words are not enough. This parliament or another parliament that will be elected soon, should truly [address] the subject of returning Kirkuk to the Kurdistan Region. Kurdistan, after it becomes an independent state, should determine their future so that they are certain. How is this determined? The rate of Turkmen can be obtained in Turkmen areas. The person representing a place in the parliament will represent some people. This way, you make them elect their representatives themselves and encourage competition among themselves as to who wants to be a representative in Kurdistan’s parliament.
So their shares will be protected?
Their shares will be protected. In addition, the vice president in the presidency of the Kurdistan Region should be given to other communities for at least the first 10 years. Or this timeline should be determined. This should be the same in the presidencies of the parliament and the government. Then a Turkmen or Arab national might become president of Kurdistan after 5 or 10 years, whether it be the Kurdistan Region or the State of Kurdistan.
As the governor, what do you promise non-Kurdish communities? How do you reassure them that their rights will be protected and that they will have shares in the government and not only be participants in the process of governance?
No, being participants is not adequate. They will not come to work with you wholeheartedly if they don't feel that they too have shares, in which case they will always be looking for another party. Other people will play with them in this case. Now we see this happening. Partnership is very important. One party alone cannot do partnership. The other party should be prepared to become
There is Article 140, and we will be committed to the Iraqi constitution so long we are a part of Iraq.
partners and be working with you sincerely. This is very important. I am not saying there haven’t been shortages or that there are some complaints that are inappropriate. This is all true. This can be achieved only through meetings and negotiations. It cannot be obtained by, because of your frustration at me, meeting with a party that is hostile to us and has nothing to do with Kirkuk. This is in favor of a country or a party.
You met with prominent Arab politician Sheikh Anwar Al-Asi on August 8. What did you promise them? What guarantees have you given to the Arabs of Kirkuk with respect to the referendum?
We have given the guarantee that the future of Kirkuk will not be determined by the referendum. The people of Kirkuk will decide the future of Kirkuk, i.e. the Kurds, Turkmen, Arabs, Chaldeans and Assyrians. There is Article 140, and we will be committed to the Iraqi
Quebec is different because its people are French. It has a special status and its people have ore rights. Kirkuk should have a special status too
constitution so long we are a part of Iraq. Article 140 encompasses places outside the (Kurdistan) Region, the places we consider part of Kurdistan. We have said this and will be doing it this way. We said to Anwar Asi, Turkmen and Arabs that this is our message which I believe. A year ago, if you remember, I suggested a temporary solution to Kirkuk [establish a region for Kirkuk], so that not everything is in the hands of Baghdad. This drew much criticism. Those who had observations about this are about to change their opinion.
Regarding your past suggestion, what is being done for Kirkuk to become an autonomous region whose rights and the rights of its communities are protected within the framework of the Kurdistan Region. Can this be done?
I think this can be done. If the people of Kirkuk vote in favor of entering the Federal Republic of Kurdistan or the Kurdistan Region, then Kirkuk should be dealt with differently just like Canada which has seven federal regions. However, Quebec is different because its people are French. It has a special status and its people have ore rights. Kirkuk should have a special status too. For example, anything done in Kurdistan should be done in Arabic and Turkmen languages. The future constitution should clearly explain things like school, representations and the media so that we can live together happily and so that Kurdistan doesn't face problems and calamities. Saddam committed Anfal and launched a chemical attack on us. We should give reassurances to these communities so that they are with us, including the Turkmen, Arabs and other communities.
Do you have any plans to meet with the president of the Kurdistan Region either in Kurdistan or in Kirkuk to discuss and come to an agreement on these things?
I discussed this subject with my friends in Kirkuk today. There is an intention to do this.
Will it be done in a near future?
Could 700,000 IDPs turn to Kirkuk without any incidents if it wasn't because of the Peshmerga forces and security situations?
Will everyone be meeting all together?
All the communities will be represented. We have suggested this and will be informing you whenever it is arranged so that you can come and broadcast it live.
The Turkmen Front has called upon Masoud Barzani to visit them or Kirkuk to discuss the question of the referendum. Has this been discussed?
The Turkmen Front is one of the Turkmen parties. There is the Adala party, Turkmen Eli party, Haq party and Qarari Turkmen party. They [the Turkmens] also have many parties. They all have the right to ask questions to Masoud Barzani, the KDP and the PUK so that they become certain and things are clear to them. I think it is the duty of the Kurdish leadership to meet with these communities including the Turkmen Front and other different parties so that they understand one another and become certain of things.
The Iraqi army, which was stationed in Kirkuk, abandoned the city many times before the Peshmerga took on the responsibility to protect the area. Then the Dijla forces too abandoned Kirkuk to ISIS militants. Now it is the Peshmerga protecting the city. Have you capitalized on this and told the communities of the city that it is you protecting the security of Kirkuk?
Today before I came to Erbil, representatives of the Shamar tribe visited me to thank the administration, provincial council of Kirkuk
The Turkmen have the right to claim the presidency of the provincial council and representations. I believe that these positions can be given to the Turkmen.
and the Peshmerga forces for protecting their security, rights and lives. People think the Shamars don't live in Kirkuk. But they do. Could 700,000 IDPs turn to Kirkuk without any incidents if it wasn't because of the Peshmerga forces and security situations?
Did the Shamar tribe speak about their participation in the voting process of the referendum?
Yes, we will call upon all of these people once a final decision on the coming of Masoud Barzani and other colleagues is made. Barzani won’t be alone. We will invite all of them.
These words are all good for other communities. But the Kurds are being criticized in return, which might have an impact on the referendum in the future. They might say, they promised something, but didn’t deliver. They might say their rights have been compromised. For example, with respect to the subject of the president of Kirkuk provincial council, the Turkmen say this position is theirs, but the Kurds are running it.
I don’t know what Turkmen has told you this. But I will tell you the truth. The Turkmen have the right to claim the presidency of the provincial council and representations. I believe that these positions can be given to the Turkmen. But it is not right for a Turkmen
We know this election was held in 2005 in which the Arabs were deprived. The Arabs didn't participate in the election.
party to exploit this alone. There are other Turkmen from other parties who want these positions too. In regard to the position of the presidency of the provincial council, the position of the president of the provincial council was given to the Turkmen when the 2014 elections were held in which I was a candidate. He became president of the provincial council when I became governor. We were working together and secured good achievements for Kirkuk – the developments you see in electricity, water, roads, bridges and other services. I got many votes. I could have gone to the parliament and worked there. Members of parliament have ministerial ranks, while governors have deputy minister ranks. The people of Kirkuk asked that I remain with them.
Will you give this position to the Turkmen Front?
This position is that of the Turkmen, not the Turkmen Front.
They say they have nine members in the council.
It is not dependent on the number of members. We know this election was held in 2005 in which the Arabs were deprived. The Arabs
The Turkmen Front attack and regard the Turkmen who speak [out] as traitors.
didn’t participate in the election. We were prepared to see one out of these nine members coming forward. But they put forward three candidates. In this case, whoever you elect will be from the same list.
Why can’t a vote within the provincial council decide a Turkmen candidate for this position?
The provincial council is prepared to do this. But they don’t select one candidate. This would have been done, but it is their fault. The former president of the council, Hassan, should have settled this and then gone to the parliament.
The Turkmen might say this: How will they give us positions of deputy president of the Region, deputy president of the state and the parliament when they are not willing to give us the position of the president of Kirkuk provincial council. If they don’t give us this right now, what guarantees are there for us to be part of the state in the future?
There are some people, I am not saying they are Turkmen. Here I am separating the Turkmen from the people who speak this way. It was up to the provincial council. He could have very easily stayed until someone else was being appointed. He should have stayed in his position if no one was appointed.
As governor of all communities, why don’t you help them come to an agreement?
I have tried. But they can’t agree among themselves. It is the Turkmen Front which make most complaints. The Turkmen Front attack
We demolish tens of houses daily which the Kurds build on trespassed lands. Many of these lands are of the government.
and regard the Turkmen who speak [out] as traitors. An indigenous Turkmen from Kirkuk was threatened by death for quitting. A Shiite indigenous Turkmen from Kirkuk who didn’t agree with them. For your information, of the nine members spoken about, two have quit, seven are left.
One thing that hurts the Turkmen is that they say the Kurds have seized their lands, saying the Kurds have built 10,000 houses on their lands. Why don’t you return this right to them?
These actions have not taken place since I started work here. But let’s speak about the truths. One Turkmen from Tishin neighborhood came up to me, who is a member of this provincial council. He brought people to me, complaining about two provincial council members that the Tishin area has seized their land. They are Shiites affiliated with Shiite parties. They came to complain against them. We demolish tens of houses daily which the Kurds build on trespassed lands. Many of these lands are of the
The US is not against it. The US has not said they are against it
government. In the past, the Iraqi government retook lands from people over oil and security reasons. But it compensated them much or less. These places are recorded under the government name.
Two people came up to me yesterday who are members in Kirkuk Business Chamber. They are both indigenous Turkmen. I didn’t know why they were there. I was told these two had come (to see me) and I asked for them to be allowed in. They came and thanked me. And I asked why? They said the trespass on our land in Almas area, a house was about to be built on it, the land was 1,000 square-meters within Almas area which is an expensive and important place in Kirkuk. He said thank you for going there to demolish it and didn’t allow them to build the house. This was while I didn’t know whether the land was of the Kurds’ or the Turkmen’s. I am against trespassing on lands, whether they are of the Turkmen or the Arabs’, or the government’s or the Kurds’.
Is this the same for all?
Surely, it is the same for all.
Can you demolish the house of an official backed by a party?
The we demolished was that of a person backed by a big official.
It is often said that Kirkuk is a small Iraq because all communities live there. Hence, it is the focus of the region and the world. You are a person who is known to the international community. You worked in the United States for a while, and you were recently in the United States. Why is the United States against the referendum?
This question is discussed a lot. The US is not against it. The US has not said they are against it. The US Ambassador came to my home in Kirkuk. In my visit to the US, I saw the Deputy Secretary of State in the National Security Council in the White House, two senators and four congressmen. I saw many people. They are not against it. Rather, they think it is better for it to be held after the Iraqi elections are held.
Why do they think it is better this way?
They want the prime minister to become prime minister again. And this is no secret.
If the referendum is held, will it have an impact on the votes of the prime minister?
I believe it doesn’t affect that. The Prime Minister [has been] successful [in the fight] against ISIS. People will vote for him. There is
The US, UK and EU can say all together, “They support the right of self-determination for the Kurds, but Iraq is coming out of the ISIS war now...
no opposition between these two questions. They say if it is held, the role of Iran will increase in Iraq, but if it is held after the election, its role will be less. But I don’t understand why the role of Iran will decrease if (it’s held) a year from now, or after seven to eight months. There is no plausible reason behind this yet. I think they have also seen Masoud Barzani, officials of the Kurdistan Region and the parties to discuss this question. Their position is that they in turn should tell them what time is suitable: Tell us whether you respect and the time you set and support the referendum then and respect whatever its outcome might be. The subject has stalled there.
If the Kurds delay the referendum until after the Iraqi elections are held, how will this work? What should the United States do in order for the Kurds to accept this demand?
I believe the referendum should be held on September 25 without anything done. The US, UK and EU can say all together, “They support the right of self-determination for the Kurds, but Iraq is coming out of the ISIS war now, there are some places [still held by ISIS], let these places be liberated and after the elections, we have no opposition to this or support you in holding your referendum and respect it.” They can also give two or three months’ space after the election so that a new government is formed. I believe we cannot give up on the referendum if something like this is not done.
How should they do this? How should the Kurds understand this? Is it necessary for them to do this officially?
I believe a letter should be sent to the government, whether it is for the presidency of the Kurdistan Region or the Council of
I know Tillerson has asked for this, and the presidency of the Region has said in a statement that we will be holding the referendum on time.
Ministers. The letter should be read out and say, “We have agreed and convinced the Kurdish leadership to delay this process.” In return, we will be doing this. I believe this way. But it cannot be done without having anything officered in return.
Has the Kurdish leadership called for anything like this in return for delaying the referendum, with them saying the timing for it isn’t right?
I have heard Masoud Barzani speak about this subject on several occasions. Other officials like Kosrat Rasul and Nechirvan Barzani say: Tell us when should we hold it if now is not the time? Set the date for us.
Has Masoud Barzani asked US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson for this?
I am not really aware of the specifics of the conversation between Masoud Barzani and Tillerson. But I know Tillerson has asked for this, and the presidency of the Region has said in a statement that we will be holding the referendum on time. It seems that this promise hasn’t borne any fruit yet.
You have spoken with US officials. Why don’t they accept this request? Why don’t they promise something or write a letter calling for the referendum to be held after the Iraqi elections are held?
When we met with the US Ambassador [to Iraq] in Kirkuk, and with the president’s envoy for the war on ISIS, we went to Vienna
When the Ukrainians wanted to declare independence in 1990, George Bush was there who said that independence for Ukraine was like national suicide.
together, he had gone there too. I met with the assistant of the secretary of state in the State Department. I also met twice with the president’s envoy in the home of the Iraqi ambassador in Washington in the presence of Falih Fayaz. I also met in the White House with the president’s envoy for the war on ISIS [Brett McGurk]. In these meetings, I suggested this to them. In fact, they thought it was a good suggestion. But why has this not been done yet? I don’t know. I also have a witness. There was someone with me. They thought it was a good suggestion.
The referendum is just more than a month away from now. Do you think the United States will work harder on this question?
I hope this is going to be done. They don’t only deal with us as the Kurds. Rather, they will also be dealing with Baghdad — all the
The future and destiny of the Turkmen in Iraq is especially with the Kurds. And it is the responsibility of the Kurds to reassure them.
different parties in Baghdad, Iran and Turkey. These all will have an impact. But let’s not forget something, it is very wrong to expect that the party we meet with is the one that says, “Go hold the referendum and we will support you in every regard.” This has never happened, especially in the case of the US. When the Ukrainians wanted to declare independence in 1990, George Bush was there who said that independence for Ukraine was like national suicide. This is what he said on August 1, 1990. Jim Baker said the same thing about Yugoslavia in Belgrade in June 1991. He said this will cause genocide and internal war. So don’t expect them to come and say…
Is it a convention in diplomacy for a country to give you a letter, sign it and tell you: Go hold your referendum and declare independence next year?
No, this doesn’t exist. But since they come and meet with you, asking you to hold it after this, they should do something like this in turn.
Will the referendum be held on time if they don’t do this? Will it not be delayed if there is such a request from inside the region too?
My understanding is that it will be held on time on September 25.
You spoke about the role of Turkey and Iran. Because of some of the Turkmen, Turkey might be more relevant to Kirkuk. What is the role of Turkey in delaying or preventing the referendum?
Before I answer your question. In 1990, [former Minister and Foreign Affairs and a deputy PM] Tariq Aziz had a press conference with
Iran truly came to the aid of Kurdistan in August 2014, delivering weapons and aid. We should never forget this.
the Turkish foreign minister in Ankara. Aziz was asked from there how the conditions of the Turkmen were in Kirkuk. In response, he said there were no Turkmen in Iraq. The Turkish foreign minister was next to him, but didn’t respond to his remarks. Turkey has internal problems. It has different parties. MHP [Nationalist Movement Party] uses many of Turkey’s issues against the AKP [Justice and Development Party] and the government. The future and destiny of the Turkmen in Iraq is especially with the Kurds. And it is the responsibility of the Kurds to reassure them. Turkey has also expressed its opposition, saying this will destabilize the situation of the region.
I read a topic in al-Monitor today, in which the Turkish Consul who was in Mosul when ISIS came was arrested with some other people. He appears to be with the CHP. He speaks about how Turkey should have a policy [to deal] with the Kurds and come to an agreement with them. And this is because the conditions between the Iraqi Kurdistan and Turkey are in favor of both parties. Turkey’s dealings with Kurdistan amount to $8 billion annually. Turkey has changed a lot since 1991. Turkey was against Operation Provide Comfort. It was also against the 1992 elections. Turkey was always making problems for the US and NATO planes in Incirlik base. Eventually, Turkey became the best partner to the Kurdistan Region and outside.
So you mean Turkey cannot cut relations with the Kurdistan Region because of its interests?
I think it is because of the interests of both sides. This police will also reassure more than 20 million Kurds in Turkey.
Has Turkey contacted yon about this subject? Have you exchanged ideas on it?
No, I have not been contacted.
Has there not been an effort to do so through the Turkmen, especially the Turkmen Front as mediators?
No. I have spoken with the Turkish Consul one or two times. But nothing has been said officially about the referendum and I haven’t gone to speak with them officially on this topic.
What is the influence of Iran on the question of the referendum and on Kirkuk too?
Iran is a special case. First, Iran truly came to the aid of Kurdistan in August 2014, delivering weapons and aid. We should never
Kurdistan will be the best neighbor to Iran and Turkey. There is no doubt about this.
forget this. During the opposition years, when we were fighting Saddam and when there was Kurdistan revolution, Iran sheltered hundreds of thousands so the people of Kurdistan from 1975 until 1991. Then people gradually came back. This is all important. That is why there are important relations. The border between us and Iran is all Kurdistan from both sides. We hope that Iran accepts the federal republic of Kurdistan in the same way it did the state of Azerbaijan as its own Azeri population is three times the Azeri of Azerbaijan.
Iran has many interests and companies in the Kurdistan Region. Do you think Iran also is against the question of the referendum only in the media?
I think Iran has a reflective leadership. They reflect on everything. Building a Kurdistani state is not something small. That is why
The Prime Minister supports us with his words in meetings. But they are not implemented. In Iraq, the person who is appointed minister thinks he owns the ministry.
there is danger, there is this idea of being considerate to Iraq. Kurdistan will be the best neighbor to Iran and Turkey. There is no doubt about this. The best neighbor to them is Kurdistan.
But they are concerned this will have an impact on other parts of Kurdistan in their own countries. Will the state of Kurdistan meddle in the affairs of other parts of Kurdistan?
It will certainly not. After all, the state of Kurdistan will become a protector (model) so that Iran and Turkey too will view their Kurdish population in an objective manner. The Kurds of Iran and Turkey have not asked for separation; on the contrary, they asked for this in the past. But they don’t even believe in it nowadays. That is why I think improving their own conditions and having dialogue with their own people in their parts of Kurdistan will strengthen our relations. Moreover, the Kurds of these places can come and live in southern Kurdistan then if they don’t like where they live.
What are relations like between Kirkuk and Baghdad at the moment?
Unfortunately, our relations have become very weak. We have held several meetings with the Prime Minister, other provinces, and council presidents and even in person. In the meeting, it was decided that the powers of the eight ministries which have been given
There are provinces in southern Iraq with 10 to 15 percent less than the number of IDPs we accommodate, nevertheless receiving more aid than we do
to provinces will also be granted to Kirkuk. The legal committee of the Council of Ministers will meet when we want to enforce these powers. And this legal committee is old. It is a group of people who don’t believe in decentralization, federalism or things like this. They make something up out of the blue, saying that since you haven’t held elections since 2005, this doesn’t apply to you. In response, we say that decentralization is an executive system that facilitates work. How are elections connected to this subject? That is why we really have reached deadlock with Baghdad.
We are trying and have been trying several times. The Prime Minister supports us with his words in meetings. But they are not implemented. In Iraq, the person who is appointed minister thinks he owns the ministry. It has been like this even in the past. Ministers work according to their own desires. The Council of Minsters fulfils what the Prime Minister wants and leaves the rest for the ministers.
In addition to the salaries of Kirkuk employees, does Baghdad send any other budget shares to Kirkuk?
Since when it hasn’t been sent?
Since the middle of 2014, but more so since the beginning of 2015.
You said that there are 700,000 IDPs living in Kirkuk. Has Baghdad delivered sufficient aid to these people?
The Hashd al-Shaabi forces cannot form brigades in Kirkuk. It is okay if they form brigades and send them to other places.
Since the beginning of 2014, the aid we have received from Baghdad for these 700,000 people was 12 billion Iraqi dinars (about $10.2 million). Fallujah was captured by ISIS in December 2013. This is while there are provinces in southern Iraq with 10 to 15 percent less than the number of IDPs we accommodate, nevertheless receiving more aid than we do.
There are rumors of new brigades being formed in Kirkuk. How would you deal with these new brigades which are affiliated with the Hashd al-Shaabi forces? Will they not pose a danger?
The Hashd al-Shaabi forces cannot form brigades in Kirkuk. It is okay if they form brigades and send them to other places. People are
And this law states that no flag should be higher than the Iraqi flag. It doesn’t say that there should be no other flags.
free to voluntarily join the army if the decision is for the Hashd al-Shaabi to merge into and become part of the Iraqi army as called for by Muqtada Sadr publicly. And people support this.
Some kidnapping incidents have been recorded in some areas, especially in Tuz Kurmatu. Do you expect more complications from the Hashd al-Shaabi forces?
Khurmatu was unfortunately separated from Kirkuk in 1970s. That is why we don’t control the security situation of Khurmatu. It is vested with its [local] government. There is a combination of all entities in Khurmatu: the Hashd, Peshmerga, KDP, PUK and Asayesh. But the town became calmer after the events of April 2016.
Do you have something to say on the trial of the deputy president of Kirkuk’s provincial council by the executive court over the raising of Kurdistan’s flag in Kirkuk?
We don’t know what will happen. It might be argued that this court, by virtue of being an executive court, is not entitled to investigate this subject. It is a political subject. After all, we are certain that an independent and impartial court will support us because there are no sections in the Iraqi constitution that deals with the flag. I think a law was passed in the Iraqi parliament in 2014 about the flag. And this law states that no flag should be higher than the Iraqi flag. It doesn’t say that there should be no other flags. After all, according to the Iraqi constitution, if there is disagreement between the federal government and provinces or regions and it [the subject of the disagreement] is not specified in the constitution, this right is given to provinces and regions.