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How to stop the Arabization of Kirkuk

By Arif Qurbany 9/1/2018
The process to arabize “the others” is deeply rooted in Arab culture. The phenomenon stems from an ancient and tribal culture that does not tolerate coexistence with different communities. This is especially the case with authorities. As they gain control of the homelands of people from different ethnic backgrounds, they meld the others into the Arab culture. 

The Arabization of the others became rifer after the emergence of Islam, when some Arabs sought to not only convert other nations into Islam, but arabize them too. That is why the Arabs have always had problems with their surroundings throughout history.  

Efforts to arabize the Kurds have been a long-standing problem because of their geographic location and ability to defend their distinct identity. Through the centuries, we can see that this identity rivalry after the emergence of Islam and during the rule of the caliphs up until the collapse of the Ottoman Empire has been a persistent practice carried out in different ways.  

The Kurds in Syria and Iraq were subjected to Arabization at a state level after the fall of the Ottoman Empire, and this was due to the geographic and ethnic divisions in the region. Iraq and Syria have been systematically working to control the Kurdish homeland and make it a part of the Arab homeland, with the end goal to arabize the Kurds. 

The history of the last century of these two states testifies to the many different ways ethnic-cleansing was committed against the Kurds and to the Arabization of Kurdish areas, and to the defense the Kurds have put up through peace, war, the pursuit of legal and constitutional procedures and resorting to the international community. This problem continues today and will continue unless the mentality of the Arab society changes, which is nearly impossible. 

The Kurds should realize that Arabization policy would be a priority for Arabs whenever they are the dominant force on Kurdish territory. From the time the state of Iraq was created until the fall of Saddam Hussein, every consecutive regime in Iraq has worked on arabizing Kurdistan. 

Following the collapse of the Baathists and the subsequent rise in power by the Shiites of Iraq, the claimed absence of an Arabization policy in Iraq has not been due to the lack of such a policy in the Shiites’ mindset. Rather, the Arabization policy was halted because the Kurds were “officially” a part the Government of Iraq, the constitutional recognition the Kurdistan Region, and the instability that emerged in Iraq after the US-led invasion in 2003.

They truly initiated Arabization soon after the events of October 16, the position of Kurdistan weakened and the Kurdish pride was broken. The ongoing situation in Tuz Khurmatu, Daquq, Kirkuk, Dubiz, Gwer and Kandenawa is a testament to this. It shows that the Arabs will resume ethnic cleansing against the Kurds whenever the time is ripe for them.

The process of driving people out of their villages, reconfiscating Kurdish lands, and bringing Arab nationals from the central and southern parts of Iraq is being done systematically. The expulsion of thousands of Kurdish families from Tuz Khurmatu, the burning and razing of their houses, certify that this round of Arabization policy is more intense. 

This is only the beginning of their plots, which will finally lead to the demolition of tens of Kurdish neighborhoods in Kirkuk and other towns in this area. Nowadays, the Arabization process is also conducted by arming invading settlers in an attempt to equip them with the tools that enable them to stay. 

The silence of the Kurds and lack of stance on this matter on levels ranging from individual, media, political parties and Kurdish officials in Baghdad, is as dangerous as the process itself. There is an article in the current Iraqi constitution that prohibits this process, which was previously carried out by previous Iraqi governments through tens of “legal” rulings. 

The Kurds can prevent this process of Arabization only by committing to Article 140 of the constitution. But the problem lies with the Kurds, who have themselves created conditions for the reinvasion of the Kurdistani areas. Moreover, the lack of a stance by Kurdish representatives in Baghdad and their weakness in the face of Arab politicians, has given way to Arabs to mount a genocide process against the Kurds under the name of constitutional legitimacy. 

In addition, there is another internal problem among the Kurds, which is a lack of agreement between political parties on refilling Kurdish shares of administrative positions in Kirkuk. This problem has paved the way for the re-Arabization of Kirkuk. The Kurds currently are entitled to have the position of Kirkuk governor, who is the head of administrative units and security committee. 

Yet, a chauvinistic Arab who supervises the plan to arabize Kirkuk has now taken on the position of governor. The provincial council consists mainly of Kurdish Brotherhood members associated with Kurdish parties in Kirkuk. The council is now paralyzed due to internal conditions, which is why these council members are not returning to work. 

The continuation of these circumstances in Kirkuk is in the interests of the Arabization process. It makes the job for the Kurds more difficult to regain their rights in Iraq. The chauvinistic mentality of the ruling nation in Baghdad will not end by returning to Kirkuk. However, the Kurds can end the conditions that have led to this intense Arabization by returning to Kirkuk and retaking their positions in coordination with Kurdish representatives in Baghdad. 

In order to do this, the Kurds need to think of another formula to run Kirkuk. Their first step can be a redistribution of Kurdish shares in Kirkuk positions over the three Kurdish parties that make up the majority of the provincial council. But all parties should approve candidates appointed to these positions so that these three parties can help Kirkuk’s administration pass this phase of reinvading Kurdistan. The majority of provincial council members are Kurdish. The positions of the governor, police and many other service institutions are supposed to be run by Kurds, yet currently remain either vacant or run by Kurdish foes. 

The Kurds should return to Kirkuk and defend their rights from there. They should benefit from their administrative, security and military positions to protect their identity. They cannot protect Kirkuk distantly from Erbil and Sulaimani if they do not return. The reinvasion of Kirkuk will pave the way to the reinvasion of other parts of Kurdistan that have not yet fallen to Arabs.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.


guest uk | 9/1/2018
Sensible advice but sometimes there is a passivity about Kurds which seems to come from their peace-loving ways. They sometimes sit back when they need to assert themselves and take these positions before the Iraqis do.
Jay | 9/1/2018
Well put Arif, perhaps you could publish this in The Guardian or BBC as well as other international media outlets.
abdullah bobdullah | 9/1/2018
shiaaaafication. they are arabs and SHIITES on top of all....takes at least 500 years to sanitize.
Freedom of speach | 10/1/2018
Anybody who reads this article may think that Kurds are not Iraqis and are merely living under occupation. Your comments are racist and anti Islamic, for it is only natural for any new civilization to try to spread out. It was not only the Arabs who did it, the Othman, the Persian and the Roman too. Look at what the French tried to do to Algerians. Second, there is a difference between arabization and giving the right to any Iraqi citizen to live anywhere he or she likes. Kurdistan is and will always be part of Iraq if you abide by the constitution you took part in writing and you have accepted. Kurds ran away from Kirkuk and Toz because this deploy of running away to attract attention worked in 1991 but won't work now. Kurds, through the new Iraq, have gained a lot and quite deservedly. Stop crying out racist slogans and try once to be realistic and grateful.
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