A video screenshot recorded in November shows a Kurdish market damages following the Iraqi takeover of the diverse town of Tuz Khurmatu, south of Kirkuk. Photo: Rudaw TV
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – An ongoing UN probe to investigate the allegations of human rights violations in Tuz Khurmatu is being thwarted by the Shiite militia and the Iraqi forces that have controlled the diverse town since October 16, a Kurdish official claimed.
Hasan Baram, the deputy head of the Khurmatu office of Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) who now resides elsewhere in the Kurdistan Region, told Rudaw that a December 7 visit by the UN Mission in Iraq to investigate the allegations failed to visit the Kurdish areas that have become target for lootings and abuses by the forces who drove out the Kurdish Peshmerga.
UNAMI was not immediately available for comment at the time of publication.
The UN investigating team stated on Tuesday that it discussed the situation in Khurmatu with both Iraqi and Kurdish officials, including with representatives of the Khurmatu displaced who staged a protest in front of its headquarters in Erbil earlier this month. It added that they will focus on areas where Kurdish officials and the displaced claimed the violations took place.
Baram, from the PUK, said that if the UN’s next visit decides to be guided by the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi forces in the town, it is better for them not go at all.
He said the UN must not allow the Hashd forces to become their “tour guides” and instead visit the Kurdish areas in Khurmatu. He added that last time the UN visited the town; they just listened to the “murderers,” a term he used for the Iraqi forces and the Shiite militia.
“We hope that they will produce a realistic and accurate report this time,” the Kurdish official said.
The UN statement also condemned mortar attacks against Tuz Khurmatu which resulted in a number of death and injuries, including civilians. The Hashd forces accused Kurdish militia who call themselves the “Liberation Army” of the mortar attacks, and they have since vowed to carry out a military operation east of Khurmatu. Kurdish officials and eye witnesses have denied these accusations; instead they blamed it on an “unknown force,” who believed to be ISIS remnants.
The Kurdistan Region parliament on December 7 labelled acts of violence in Khurmatu by Iraqi forces and the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi as "genocide" and "ethnic cleansing"
in a special session where the Kurdish MPs, and Khurmatu officials presented evidence for about two hours, discussing the plight of tens of thousands of Kurds who fled the city since October 16.
Speaking to Rudaw on October 21, five days after the fall of Tuz Khurmatu, Iraq’s minister for the displaced, Darbaz Mohammed, said the city was "out of control" and it was "unsafe"
for Kurds to go back. He asserted revenge killings had occurred.
Rights organizations, including Amnesty International
, also recorded acts of killing and looting in the city.
A Rudaw field investigation on November 26 found that thousands of houses in Kurdish neighbourhoods had been looted, burned and bombed, or appear to have been appropriated by the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi.
Video: Inside Tuz Khurmatu: Kurdish homes targeted under Hashd rule
The Office of the Iraqi Prime Minister earlier this month assigned the Ministry of the Displaced to work with the Iraqi federal police and the Hashd forces to return the displaced, but a UN report in early December stated that only 2 percent have done so.
Khurmatu, about 60 km south of Kirkuk, is within the administration of Salahaddin Province in northern Iraq.
Ahmad al-Jabouri, Salahaddin Governor, who visited Khurmatu this week, stated that the security situation in Khurmatu is normal and safe while advising the displaced to return home.
Media access to the town is restricted to a few Iraqi media outlets close to the Iraqi government or Shiite parties. All Kurdish parties have withdrawn their offices from the town, and an attempt to form a committee by the Iraqi parliament to investigate the allegations bore no fruit.