ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The head of Kirkuk police was prevented from speaking in Kurdish during a press conference held by security officials and the new governor, appointed by the prime minister.
The interim Governor of Kirkuk Rakan Ali al-Jabouri, who is an Arab and was appointed on Monday by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to replace Najmaldin Karim, held the press conference on Tuesday afternoon after a meeting of Kirkuk’s security institutions, including the Iraqi army.
The focus of his presser was to convey the message that Kirkuk is in safe hands and those who fled the military operations on Monday should return to their homes.
Police Chief Omar Khatab, a Kurd, attempted to speak in Kurdish, but was blocked by Ali Fazil Omran, commander of the Iraqi Tigris Operation whose forces entered Kirkuk on Monday.
“Speak in Arabic,” Omran told Khatab when the Kurdish police officer tried to speak in his mother language.
He was prevented from speaking in Kurdish two more times – once when a Turkmen member of the provincial council asked the commander to permit the language and again when answering a question asked in Kurdish by a Rudaw reporter.
In the end, Omran agreed to allow Khatab to speak in Kurdish after the press conference was over.
Kurdish is an official language in Iraq, alongside Arabic, as stated in the constitution.
The commanders of the Iraqi forces and the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi took down the Kurdistan flag in a ceremony on Monday and raised the Iraqi one in its place at the Kirkuk Provincial Council building.
“We have come not as liberators, but as part of the redeployment of the security institutions to the province of Kirkuk,” Omran said.
He said the Iraqi army will be responsible to protect state installations, infrastructure, and will be in control of the province’s borders, including the Kurdistan Region provinces of Erbil and Sulaimani.
Security inside the city will be provided by the province’s police forces, he said.
Interim Governor Jabouri said he is in charge until a new arrangement can be made with regard to the city’s local government.
“We are the administration of Kirkuk according to the law,” he said.
He, like the security officials, said the city’s residents who fled on Monday fearing violence, should return as quickly as possible to protect their properties from looting.