File photo shows Iraqi parliament deputy speaker Aram Sheikh Mohammed [L] meets with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in May, 2015. Photo: Iraqi PMO
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi parliament deputy speaker Aram Sheikh Mohammed has called on Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to deploy additional forces of the Iraqi army to Tuz Khurmatu, southeast of Kirkuk where he said acts of “revenge” and kidnappings, among others, have created an environment of “fear and panic" that have denied thousands of the displaced people to return home, about three weeks after Iraq and Shiite militia controlled the diverse city.
The rights group Amnesty International had reported 11 people killed in Khurmatu as of October 24. It, and the United Nations mission in Iraq, reported that more than 100 houses had been set on fire in Khurmatu, mainly targeting the Kurdish-populated areas. Kurdish officials say these figures are much higher.
Mohammed, who is a Kurdish official from Gorran party, stated that a “large number” of people, especially from Khurmatu, have fled their homes due to “irresponsible actions and acts of revenge by some,” that has caused material and human losses. He said he is sure that similar abuses, including kidnapping and killing, have occurred elsewhere in the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad.
“This gave birth to an environment of fear and panic,” that stops the displaced from heading home, Mohammed added in a statement published on Thursday.
The United Nations said on Thursday that as of November 2, more than 183,000 people were displaced in the disputed areas, including 79,000 from oil-rich Kirkuk city.
Iraqi forces and the Hashd al-Shaabi took control of Kirkuk from Peshmerga fighters on October 16, as part of punitive measures taken by Baghdad against the Kurdish vote on independence held on September 25.
The Kurdish official said that they have been in contact with local officials and military commanders of the security forces and the Hashd al-Shaabi to bring the situation under control, but the situation remained “unstable” in Khurmatu and there was “no indication showing the return of stability and reassurances,” needed for the displaced to feel safe in their home town.
He demanded PM Abadi, who is commander-in-chief of all armed forces, to deploy special forces of the Iraqi army to take control of the security of the city in cooperation with the local police force.
He said that in his contacts with the Hashd commanders in Khurmatu, he had received the signal that the Shiite militia as well supported sending the Iraqi army to the city.
Iraq’s minister for displaced persons, Darbaz Mohammed, on October 21 described the situation in the multi-ethnic town of Tuz Khurmatu as “out of control” and unsafe for Kurdish residents to return to at this time.