Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change
Kurdish Security Accused of Illegal Arrests
Salima Hasan has been looking for her husband and son since the night two months ago when men wearing Iraqi National Guard uniforms came into her home and arrested them.
Hasan, an Arab, could find no record of the two men at either the police station or the criminal court. She doesn’t know who took away her husband and son, though has her suspicions it was the Kurdish security forces.
“The whole family kept weeping,” said Hasan. “We don’t know where they came from. We are having a hard time.”
Hasan is not alone in her beliefs. Dozens of Arab and Turkoman families here allege that Kurdish peshmerga and security forces under the authority of Kurdish political parties have been arresting and illegally detaining their relatives.
They say it is part of a wider Kurdish plan to wrest control of this ethnically diverse and increasingly tense city and make it part of the Kurdish region, rolling back Saddam Hussein’s policy of emptying Kirkuk of Kurds.
Kurds, Arabs and Turkoman all claim Kirkuk as their own. Some Kurds want the government to hold a referendum for voters to decide whether Kirkuk should be part of the autonomous Kurdish region.
Arabs and Turkoman in Kirkuk say these recent arrests and detentions have made them fearful they are being targeted by security forces, particularly since the ministry of interior issued orders that 1,500 Kurdish police officers who were fired during Saddam’s Arabisation campaign should be rehired.
Seventy-five families recently filed a lawsuit in Kirkuk criminal court claiming their relatives had been arrested illegally.
Sajwa Yousif, a member of a human rights association in Kirkuk, said he spoke with a Kirkuk criminal court judge and was told that the court is taking the families’ claims seriously. He said the court would issue an order banning detentions where no arrest warrant has been issued and the interior ministry has not been informed.
Several Kirkuk lawyers are also forming a committee to help these families discover the whereabouts of their relatives. They have sent letters to lawmakers in Baghdad requesting an investigation into the detentions, but have received no response, said attorney Latif Othman.
Kurdish authorities deny that their security forces have been involved in detaining or intimidating innocent people. Faraj al-Haydari, a Kurdistan Democratic Party official, said the accusations are baseless, adding that Kurds, Arabs and Turkoman have been living together in Kirkuk for hundreds of years.
“All Iraqi forces get their orders from the [central Iraqi] ministries of interior and defence, and the Kurdish parties don’t interfere in arrest operations,” he said.
Othman, however, said he recently visited jails in Kirkuk and found dozens of detainees who had been arrested without formal papers. Othman said he found more than 75 cases involving Arabs and Turkomen had not been sent to the attorney general for review.
Many of the arrested, he continued, are being detained outside Kirkuk because of a judicial ruling that peshmerga have no authority to make arrests in the city.
Mohammed Khalid al-Bayati, a Turkoman, has no idea where his brother is being held. He hasn’t seen or heard from Ahmed, who served in Saddam Hussein’s Republican Guard, since armed men came for him just after dawn on June 22.
Al-Bayati filed a complaint at the police station, claiming his brother had been kidnapped, but was told by police that they had not arrested or detained his brother.
He blames the Kurdish militia, saying, “They spoke Kurdish and wore peshmerga uniforms.”
Dhiya Rasan is an IWPR trainee in Kirkuk.
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