Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Kirkuk Council Split on Roles

Turkoman and Arabs say they’re boycotting meetings in protest over Kurds’ reluctance to grant them key posts.
By Soran Dawde

Disputes within the Kirkuk Province Council have led to a boycott by Arab and Turkoman groups, and a continued delay in appointing a new administration.


Negotiations have stumbled over the distribution of the main posts on the recently-elected council, which include governor, deputy governor and chairman.


The Arab and Turkoman groups within the council have formed a coalition and are demanding that they receive the posts of governor and chairman.


The demand has been rejected by the powerful majority Kurdish Kirkuk al-Mutaakhiya list – including Turkoman, Arabs, and Assyrians - that won 26 of the 41 seats on the council.


The Kurdish list - which believes it has the right to form the administration, but does not wish to do so alone - has offered its rivals the posts of deputy chairman and governor’s assistant instead.


Arab group member Abdullah Sami al-Asi has called on the Kirkuk council to follow the example of the government in Baghdad, where minority list members were sometimes given important posts regardless of how they performed in the election.


But Kaka Rash Muhammed, a member of the Kurdish list, said the situation in Kirkuk merited a different approach. He also claimed that the Arab and Turkoman lists had already been offered important posts, and had then demanded more.


In protest, the Arab and Turkoman groups have refused to attend the council meetings. Turkoman Front representative Ali Mahdi said, "There is no reason for us to attend….because we have reached no agreement.”


Coalition forces, meanwhile, have been working hard to persuade the parties to resolve their differences. At the request of Lieutenant Colonel John Kihard, representatives of the Arab and Turkoman groups agreed to attend a council meeting – but walked out in protest when the proceedings were conducted in Kurdish.


Council member and lawyer Almas Fadhil, a Turkoman member of the Kurdish list, said that the use of Kurdish was not intended as a provocation, but rather "because it is an official language and we want the people of Kirkuk to get used to using it".


But her fellow council member Hasan Toran of the Turkoman Islamic Justice Party disagrees. "Kurdish is an official language and we do not object to this - but we do not understand it,” he said.


“Everyone knows that we in the council do need to understand each other and to exchange ideas and opinions [in order] to reach solutions. Besides, our time is limited and translation takes extra time."


Aside from the various issues affecting the different ethnic groups within the council, the Kurdish list itself has been split by a number of disagreements.


One of its two major parties, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, PUK, proposes that the deputy governor post be given to the Turkoman group, while the Democratic Party of Kurdistan, KDP, believes it should go to the Arab faction.


The two Kurdish parties have also argued over the post of governor, although the PUK has since agreed with the KDP that it should stay with the incumbent, who is a member of the Kurdish list.


Arabs and Turkoman now hope that the Kurdish leadership will defuse the crisis.


Arab group representative Muhammed Khlail said, "There are disagreements between the leadership of the Kurdish political parties on the one hand and the Kirkuk al-Mutaakhiya list on the other hand."


He noted that while the Kurdish parties’ leaderships agreed with many of the Arabs’ proposals, the main stumbling block had been the Kirkuk al-Mutaakhiya list, which has insisted on its own proposals.


Former council chairman and Turkoman Front member Tahseen Kahya warned against the squabbling, urging the various parties to reach a consensus, "No party can succeed without the others."


Soran Dawde is an IWPR contributor in Kirkuk.


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