Post-referendum Kirkuk remains disputed and claimed by both Baghdad and Erbil. File photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Iraqi government has given political parties and officials of Kirkuk one month to proportion out government posts with 32-percent for each Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen. Kurdish officials are calling it unconstitutional and an effort to target Kurds.
"According to the constitution, something cannot be imposed on us from Baghdad for us to implement. Concerning the 32 percent [division of governmental posts], we accept it only when it is from top to bottom," Jamal Shukr, chief operator of PUK's office in Kirkuk, told Rudaw.
Kirkuk has special status in the 2005 Iraqi constitution.
Shukr added that they have data that the number of Kurdish employees in government departments and bureaus does not even reach 10 percent.
The remaining 4 percent of Kirkuk’s government posts is allocated for Christian parties and other components.
The 32-percent ratio was proposed by former Iraqi president and PUK leader Jalal Talabani to further coexistence and strengthen unity in the diverse province following the US invasion in 2003. Talabani died in 2017.
Kurds, however, insist that if the system were to be implemented, it should include all bureaus and departments, not solely the high-ranking positions.
"It cannot be expected for Baghdad to take any step at this time to resolve either the Kirkuk [issue] or the issues facing the Kurdistan Region. We believe that it is necessary for Kurds to organize themselves," Sheikh Sadiq, head of Kurdistan Communist Party's office in Kirkuk, told Rudaw.
Sadiq adds that it is unfortunate that the Kurdish parties have neither met nor spoken concerning the matter, and even if they should meet, not much can be done without the presence of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
KDP’s offices have all been confiscated or turned into military compounds by the Iraqi forces and Iranian backed Hashd al-Shaabi. Some have been looted and burnt down.
The KDP has decided not to run for elections in Kirkuk, claiming it is an occupied and sold-out city, arguing that without normalization, fair and free elections cannot be held.
"Baghdad wants to impose a de facto because we have heard Baghdad announcing that if we do not reach a settlement then they will come and divide [the posts themselves]. Let them divide them, but no one will recognize that," said Adnan Kirkuki, spokesperson for KDP's Kirkuk and Garmiyan leadership council.
Kirkuki added that such a step would amount to a legal and constitutional violation, something the Iraqi government “has become famous for.”
Turkmen are eyeing the position of Kirkuk governor, a position filled by Rakan Ali al-Jabouri who is a Sunni Arab following the ousting of Najmaldin Karim, the Kurdish governor, by the Iraqi Army following the events of October 16.
Many major security and governmental positions have had their Kurdish members ousted and replaced by Sunni Arabs and Turkmen.
“Our position is clear, and we want the posts to be filled and for problems not to remain, but under the condition that the current governor remain,” Ismail Hadidi, the deputy head of the Arab Political Council in Kirkuk, told Rudaw in December.
The current Kirkuk governor has issued many letters and decrees allowing for the return of Arabs to Kurdish lands, and at one point ordered the eviction of Kurdish residents of two Kurdish neighborhoods based on an order from the times of Saddam’s regime.
He denied it, saying it was a misunderstanding.
Iraqi Security Forces and Iran-backed Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries took control of oil-rich Kirkuk and other disputed or Kurdistani areas in October. Both Baghdad and Erbil claim the areas.