Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim [L] and Rebwar Talabani [M] take part in a session of the Kirkuk Provincial Council that voted to join the Independence referendum vote on August 29, 2017. Photo: Rudaw/Sartip Othman
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region - The office of the Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim has denied a news story from Turkmen television that he suggested expelling the Turkmens and Arabs from the province after the referendum.
The denial came after the Turkmeneli TV channel published a video report about a session of the Kirkuk Provincial Council held on Tuesday. The majority of the members voted to join the Kurdistan independence referendum, but it was opposed by some Turkmen and Arab parties.
The video report shows Karim as he is speaking to the acting head of the Kirkuk Council Rebwar Talabani, both of whom are Kurds.
Karim is recorded telling Talabani that “We will expel them later on, right?”
Talabani responds with laughter.
The Turkmen TV channel claimed that the two Kurdish officials were discussing expelling the Turkmens and Arabs from Kirkuk.
A statement from Karim’s office published by the local media denied he discussed the fate of the two components in the session.
It said that some members of the Council had told him that they wanted to take part in the session regarding the referendum but they refused to do so for fear of negative media coverage.
“Therefore the Kirkuk governor said that 'We will remove media people during the session and we will later brief them about the details in a press conference,’ ” the statement released to the media on Saturday read.
The session was public, and was broadcasted live on TV and social media. A Rudaw reporter and Talabani confirmed to Rudaw that no media outlet was removed from the session.
Asked about the content of the exchange that took place between him and Karim, Talabani told Rudaw English on Sunday that he does not recall specifically what they “joked” about in that particular case.
However, Talabani categorically denied that they discussed expelling other components from the province, adding that their Kurdish-led Brotherhood faction in the Council also includes Arabs and Turkmens.
Karim’s office was not immediately available to comment.
Karim told Rudaw last month
that Kirkuk should have special status when it joins the Kurdistan Region, or a future independent Kurdistan, calling on the Kurdistan Region to reassure them that other components are dealt with as “partners,” and that their national and cultural rights such as education are protected.
He called for a transitional period, at least for the first 10 years, when these components can be given deputy positions within Kurdistan’s presidency, parliament and the government.
The Kirkuk Provincial Council voted on Tuesday in favor
of holding the Kurdistan Region’s referendum on independence in the Kirkuk province. Some Arab and Turkmen parties, including the Iraqi Turkmen Front, the largest Turkmen party in Iraq, opposed the vote.
In addition to the Kurdish representatives in the Brotherhood faction, two Turkmen, three Arabs and one Christian member voted in favor of the motion.