The time has come for Kurds to do a realistic reevaluation of the situation in Kirkuk. The dangers facing the city should be taken into account and Kurds should come up with a solution for them.
In terms of politics, governance, and security, Kirkuk has stepped in a new stage unfavorable to Kurds, who could turn around the stage and make it better or choose to leave this interim phase until it becomes a lasting reality on the ground.
The position of Kurds has weakened following the events of October 16. Although they no longer play any role in the administration of the city, they can make it harder for Kirkuk to be swallowed by its looters.
Throughout the reign of different consecutive regimes in Iraq, Kurds were perceived to be the source of instability for the country due to Kirkuk. Kurds are still in a standoff situation because they haven’t been able to get past the events of October 16.
Evidence that Kurds haven’t been able to get past these events is that the main five parties in Kurdistan haven’t even had the will to hold a joint meeting after half of the Kurdish territory was reinvaded six months ago and Turkey is currently threatening the other half. This is despite new developments and changes in the region, which bear on the fate of Kurds and their land.
Kurds should have the will to get past the October 16 events, and by that I don’t mean they should forget about them for doing so will create conditions for such events to be repeated.
We should leave these events behind and do not allow them to come in our way. Current and future threats require that we move to a different phase. We shouldn’t operate in a circular way.
The situation of Kirkuk is putting the Kurds as individuals and political entities to a difficult test because Kirkuk has never faced such a serious threat. Those who think the situation in Kirkuk is normal and these dangers are not real are either part of the strategy of October 16 events or cannot comprehend these dangers.
In the past, ethnic cleansing and demographic changes were done forcibly. But nowadays, these are done under the guise of implementing the law and adherence to a democratic constitution, and the Kurds are allowing this to happen.
Kurds should influence events and developments happening in Kirkuk by returning to the city. Alternatively, they can undermine the legitimacy of these events by refusing to return to the city.
The Kurds have neither returned to Kirkuk with all their political followers, nor have they abandoned the city entirely. Currently, the Kurdish presence in the city is only enough to give legitimacy to the oppression going on there.
Leaders of the five main parties that are part of the political process in the Kurdistan Region and broader Iraq should shoulder the responsibility for this phase. Keeping quiet and avoiding to deal with what goes on will benefit no one.
The KDP made a big mistake to boycott the elections alone because this will undermine the weight of the Kurds. The Change Movement also made a mistake by preventing a joint Kurdish list in Kirkuk elections. The right thing for Kurds was that they had to either all together boycott the political process in Kirkuk or take part in it together.
As an influential party in Kirkuk, the PUK cannot be sure whether it can convince its followers let alone all the Kurds to participate in the elections due to losing the trust of its voters in the recent election and recent October 16 events.
If that is the case, why would the Kurds participate in a process in which they cannot make a difference to what is happening on the ground?
The Kurds failed militarily, politically, administratively and economically in Kirkuk. The only card they have left with is the city’s provincial council which is majority Kurdish with the majority of MPs representing the city being Kurdish as well.
In order for the oppression or dangerous strategy in Kirkuk not to be imposed legally, the Kurds should consider two options. They have to either persuade all Kurds to go to vote to protect the Kurdish position, which remains uncertain, or convince all the Kurds and parties to boycott the elections and fight for their survival which renders the election illegitimate.
The best option is the second one. In recent elections held in 2005, 2010, 2014, the Kurdish voter turnout was 261,000, 266,000 and 273,000 respectively.
The increase in Kurdish parliamentary seats was not because Kurds were the majority in the city, but because the rate of participation in elections was high.
This time, the Kurds are not running the process and many Kurdish voters will not return to Kirkuk. The Arabs living in Kirkuk and those settling in Kirkuk due to security situations in central and south Iraq will all vote in Kirkuk. This will turn the equations against Kurdish interests.
The most imperative thing to do at this time is reverse the situation in Kirkuk, and the easiest way to do so is to boycott parliamentary and provincial elections in Kirkuk. Enemies of the Kurds want to change the reality in Kirkuk this way forever.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.