PUK acting leader Kosrat Rasul (center) walks in front of a cemetary in Kirkuk in his first return to the city since it fell to Iraqi forces on February 4, 2019. Photo: Rasul FB
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Acting Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) leader Kosrat Rasul visited Kirkuk for the first time since October 17, 2017 — despite an active arrest warrant for him — insisting that they won’t compromise the “Kurdistani” identity of Kirkuk.
“In Kirkuk, Kosrat Rasul Ali announced that Kirkuk’s situation needs to be calmed. We will never relinquish Kirkuk and it is our duty to protect all the different ethnicities,” read a statement from his media office on Monday.
It is the first visit by Rasul since the events on October 16. By his own accord, the forces he commanded were the only PUK faction that fought against Iraqi forces.
His forces suffered casualties, while also causing Iraqi casualties. Due to the incident, and eventually calling Iraqi forces occupiers of Kirkuk, an arrest warrant was issued against him by Baghdad that is still active.
On Monday in Kirkuk, he mourned twice in the city and visited the party’s local politburo office where he met cadres, according to the readout.
“Kosrat Rasul Ali talked of the importance of Kirkuk in the history of Kurds, generally, and particularly for PUK. He announced that Kirkuk is a redline,” the statement said.
Aso Mamand, the head of PUK’s office in Kirkuk, leadership council members Adnan Hamay Mina and Khalid Shuwany, and counterterrorism head Lahur Talabany were present.
“We will never compromise on the Kurdistani identity of Kirkuk,” Rasul asserted.
He added that all parties seriously need to work towards normalizing Kirkuk’s situation, which is under military rule and a resurgent Arabization process.
He insisted that Kirkuk needs to be “handed back” to the winner of elections and only they can “serve” the city and its people.
Kirkuk is in a limbo currently. The acting governor has been relentless in backing a new Arabization process, while KDP and PUK are in disagreement over the appointment of a new governor.
The PUK in Kirkuk, which won 6 seats out of the 13-seat total (including one minority quota seat) in Iraq’s parliamentary election in 2018, insists it is electorally entitled to have a governor chosen from its ranks.
The provincial council is the only body capable of choosing a governor; however, provincial elections have only been held once in Kirkuk since 2005.
The KDP, on the other hand, insists that the governor should be an independent and non-partisan, but it has lately shown flexibility towards PUK picking the next governor.
The two parties have a joint committee and are in discussion with both claiming progress.
The KDP calls Kirkuk “occupied,” claiming if Iraqi military and other factions remain in Kirkuk, even a Kurdish governor would be useless.
The province’s previous governor Najmaldin Karim of the PUK fled during the October 2017 events to Erbil and then renounced any ties to PUK while also denying any membership in KDP — his former party.