ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Some Makhmour residents wish for Peshmerga forces and KRG offices and institutions to return. They complain about what they call the militarization of the town by Iraqi forces.
“Well the circumstances differ in that there is no longer the [KRG] government. It has been reduced to a mere military base. The people have returned because they do not have another option,” Halkawt Namiq, a resident of the town told Rudaw.
The town of Makhmour is part of the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil. It is 60 kilometers southwest of Erbil city.
In August 6, 2014, the town was taken by ISIS, who were ousted by Kurdish Peshmerga forces on August 8, 2014. The town had faced Arabization during the previous Iraqi regime.
“The people are living through instability. They are living through a very concerning setting because there are no Kurdish forces in the town. It is akin to the people being hostages,” Kaweiz Salim, a resident of the town told Rudaw.
Now, military vehicles and a large presence of Iraqi forces can be seen in the bazaar. This militarization has caused anxiety and has affected the livelihoods.
The situation of the town, however, is better than that of Tuz Khurmatu and other disputed territories that fell to Iraqi forces and Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries in October.
Khurmatu has had its Kurdish mayor ousted, Kurdish houses burnt, confiscated, and looted. The Kurdish population has been targeted, an event dubbed as a genocide
by the Kurdish parliament.
“There were two sides. One was us. We wanted to be an effective side in protecting the properties of the people,” Rashad Galali, head of PUK’s office in Makhmour, told Rudaw, explaining that those remaining in the town obstructed Makhmour’s situation becoming worse than Khurmatu.
He added that the other direction wanted to evacuate the city to tell the Red Crescent and UN that it was the Hashd al-Shaabi and Iraqi Army that kicked the people out. He criticized them for leaving the city without putting up a fight.
The Kurdish parties have all returned except for the KDP. They are able to hoist their party flags, but they are not allowed to hoist the flag of Kurdistan.
Lack of administrative powers and government institutions in the town has been criticized by the people. “Not as the Regional Government, but rather as a political party, all the bureaus and institutions in Makhmour were withdrawn by a party decision to Erbil,” Abdulrahman Mohammed, a resident told Rudaw.
He added that if it had been a governmental decision, then they should show the number and date of the decision to see what justifies the evacuation of institutions, offices, and services like the municipalities of health and schools.
However, some of the KRG’s bureaus, offices of the KDP, and the abodes of the Peshmerga have been taken by Iraqi police and army. Hashd remains outside of the town.
The Kurdish residents want their parties to return without political rivalry, arguing that their cross-party differences will cripple their efforts to resolve issues.