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Furore Over Kirkuk Police Sacking “Order”

Apparently bogus interior ministry directive to dismiss thousands of Kurdish policemen seen as an attempt to destabilse the city.
By Sirwan Ghareeb

The interior ministry has sought to distance itself from an apparent order to fire 2,500 Kurdish police officers working in Kirkuk, after protests from city law enforcement officials.

Kirkuk police claim that they received an order from the interior ministry two weeks ago to fire the Kurdish police officers.

The officers in question had once been expelled from Kirkuk as part of Saddam Hussein’s Arabisation policy - which had forced Kurds to leave the oil-rich city – and rehired after the fall of the regime.

Interior ministry spokesman Colonel Adnan al-Asadi said that officials there were unaware of the directive, while Lateef Haji Faraj, representative of President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, in the ministry, said it had been drawn up long ago but was no longer valid.

Nonetheless, the alleged order heightened the already tense situation in the multi-ethnic Kirkuk, which is claimed by Arabs, Kurds and Turkoman. Since the Kurds won a majority of seats on the provincial council, Arabs and Turkoman representatives have threatened to resign.

After being notified that the directive was not genuine, local police officials insisted that if it had been they would have refused to obey it - calming the concerns of the Kurdish police officers who had feared for their jobs.

Brigadier General Sarhad Qadir Uzeri, a Kurdish police official, said such an order would have spelled disaster for Kirkuk and would have meant that the Arabisation policy of the Saddam era was being repeated.

“If 2,500 Kurdish policemen leave Kirkuk, who will protect the city?” he said angrily, slamming his fist on his desk. “If [such a] decision is put into practice, the city will be ravaged by terrorists.”

Brigadier General Torhan Abdul-Rahman, a Turkoman and director of Kirkuk police, said he suspected the alleged order was issued to disrupt the situation in Kirkuk. “It is against the brotherhood among Kirkuk’s different ethnicities,” he told IWPR, refraining to say who he thought was behind it.

Lieutenant Colonel Yadgar Shuku, a Kurd who is in charge of police operations, said he, too, suspected it was the work of people who wanted to start trouble – again not naming names – and added that this was unfortunate given Kurdish officers’ contribution to countering the insurgency, “ They forget all of this and they want to plant the seed of a schism inside Kirkuk,” he said.

Sirwan Ghareeb is an IWPR trainee in Kirkuk.

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