The Iraqi flag flies in the hand of Kirkuk’s Peshmerga statue, guarding the northern gate to the city. File photo: Hiwa Hussamadin/Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraq’s Federal Court has rescinded decrees made by Kirkuk’s acting governor that authorized the appropriation of Kurdish lands. The governor is in further hot water with the integrity commission issuing a warrant for his arrest.
Since October 2017, acting Kirkuk Governor Rakan al-Jabouri has issued 14 separate decrees seizing land owned by Kurds and giving it to Arabs, a move Kurds condemned as a revival of the Baathist-era Arabization policy.
The federal court looked at the matter at the recommendation of Iraqi President Barham Salih and ruled to annul Jabouri’s decisions.
The court ordered that disputes over land ownership in the contested province must be resolved through the process detailed in the constitution under Article 140. Under this provision, the status of Kirkuk – claimed by both governments in Baghdad and Erbil – must be normalized followed by a referendum that allows the people to decide whether their future lies with the central government or the regional authority.
The article should have been implemented by 2007, but successive governments have failed to tackle the contentious issue.
"This is a positive point. The disputed agricultural lands will return to their prior state and not have their contracts renewed," Dilan Ghafour, member of Kirkuk Provincial Council, told Rudaw of the court’s decision.
Some Turkmen parties are also hopeful that they may see lands expropriate from their people also returned if Article 140 is finally implemented.
"We in the Iraqi Turkmen Front aren't against Article 140. We assure Kurdish brothers and the rest of the components that the Front isn't against the implementation of Article 140. However, we have the condition that there be some prior measures, like I said, a population census," Mohammed Samaan, spokesperson for the Iraqi Turkmen Front, told Rudaw.
The Iraqi government is preparing to hold a general census by the end of 2020, its first since 1997.
Arabs in the province are also ready to see the status of Kirkuk settled, as dictated in the constitution.
"In my personal opinion, the implementation of the article and normalization of the situation in Kirkuk is in the interest of all the components of Kirkuk, not to the disadvantage of one component as opposed to another," Abdulkarim Aazawi, head of the Arab Tribes Board, said.
It is time for parties and leaders to come to an agreement, he added.
Jabouri was named interim governor by the previous administration in Baghdad when the Kurdish governor, Najmaldin Karim, was removed from his post after he supported holding the Kurdistan independence referendum in the province and raised the Kurdistan flag alongside the Iraqi one over official buildings in Kirkuk.
Kirkuk governor facing corruption charges
Iraq’s Commission of Integrity “has issued an arrest warrant for Rakan al-Jabouri due to eight corruption cases, committed after the October 16 events,” Kirkuk provincial council member Jiwan Hassan told Rudaw, referring to the federal takeover of the disputed province last fall.
Hassan, who represents Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), said they have not received the warrant yet, "but according to the information we have obtained via phone his dossier includes corruption related to the spending of 46 billion Iraqi dinar ($38.5 million) for compensation of places that were destroyed during the ISIS war and another 71 billion Iraqi dinar ($59.5 million) for Kirkuk projects that Rakan Saeed al-Jabouri claimed he spent after informing Kirkuk provincial council."
"The provincial council is not aware of the spending of any sum of money,” she asserted.
Hassan claimed that Jabouri has left Kirkuk, taking a leave of absence and going to Baghdad in order to evade arrest.
Updated at 10:09 pm