Following the arrival of 81 Arab families from elsewhere in Iraq, farmers in Kirkuk raise questions of another round of Arabization by acting Governor Rakan Saeed al-Jabouri.
Kurds in Kirkuk claim in the past two months Jabouri through four official letters has decreed that 38 villages be given to Arabs.
"They are making us sign non-cultivation clauses. In last season's summer, we cultivated the lands with corn. They cut our electricity off. Each farmer here has had losses of $10,000-20,000. They cut our electricity off. They didn't give us electricity to irrigate our land," said Mawlud Mohammed, a resident of Shanagha.
Jabouri denied there is an ethnic problem in Kirkuk province, arguing the issues come from politicians and not the people.
"The people of Kirkuk have proven co-existence in the province, but the issue is with the political parties, not the people,” he said in a speech at a conference in Baghdad titled ‘We belong to Iraq and united for Kirkuk.’
“This issue between the political parties has to be dealt with through dialogue,” he said.
The conference was sponsored by the Iraqi Republican Group.
Confirming reports of large numbers of arrests, he explained that all those prosecuted have been criminals.
"If asked how many have been arrested, I will say thousands. But I challenge anyone to give me the name of a single person who has been arrested illegally since the implementation of law," he said.
He added that his office is open to anyone who wants to talk and work towards a solution for the province, explaining to Rudaw on the sidelines of the event that steps are being taken.
“We have formed a committee per an agreement with all parties and ethnic and religious minorities to submit their recommendations in 15 days for the sake of reaching a legal solution,” he said.
Kirkuk lies at the heart of disputes between Erbil and Baghdad. Both claim ownership of the region.
A campaign of Arabization swept over these areas in 1975. Most of its residents were deported to camp complexes. Arabs were brought in.
Since 2003, the deported Kurds have returned and the imported Arabs left. However after October 16, the imported Arabs have returned to the area.
"When they knew this wouldn't make us give up, they have now made the decision to prevent us from cultivating the lands entirely," added Mohammed.
A joint committee by the provincial council has been formed to temporarily put Jabouri's decisions on hold. There are also efforts to reach a bigger solution.
"The committee is comprised of provincial council members and members of the district councils from areas like Daquq, Dibis, Taza, Rashad and other areas," said Jamal Shakur an Iraqi PUK MP.
Oil-rich Kirkuk is mainly comprised of Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen.
"To an extent, we three ethnicities have reached the agreement for that committee to resolve the issue temporarily until a drastic solution is reached in Baghdad," explained Shakur.
Besides Dubiz (or Dibis) and Sargaran, the problem of Arabized lands has also spread to the Laylan and Daquq towns. Besides the return of Arab settlers, large numbers of Arab Bedouins have been settled in these areas.
Jabouri, an Arab, was appointed by the Iraqi parliament following a decree by then Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
The provincial council, according to the constitution, is the only body able to appoint a governor for Kirkuk that has a special status.
Updated at 4:46 pm