Friday, 12 October 2007

Observations on the proposal to establish a property claims commission in the Kirkuk region

24 April 2003
By Dr Nouri Talabany

Thank you for your invitation to the meeting on establishing a ‘Property Claims Commission in Kirkuk’. I think that we must make a distinction between the city of Kirkuk and the rural areas, especially the area around the Saddam Irrigation Project.

Under the Agrarian Reform Act of 1958, landowners were allowed a maximum of 2000 donums. Any land they possessed over and above this was taken from them and reserved for distribution to farmers who had no land in the area. From 1969 onwards, agent such as Ali Daham al Ubaidi and others, working on behalf of the regime, forced landowners to sell their land to them. Most of these previously arid lands were irrigated by a government project established in the end of 1970 and then distributed to Arab tribes brought from central and southern Iraq. These settlers were also armed whilst Kurds in neighbouring villages were not allowed to carry so much as a knife. In this way, Kurdish farmers in the area were unable to acquire any land and many were obliged to make a living as tenant farmers on land that they had previously owned. These farmers now hope to return to reclaim such land as the government gave, illegally, to Arab settlers in large parts of Dubz, Daquk and Duz-Khurmatu districts. In 1963, more land in the Dubz district and in the villages around the city of Kirkuk was confiscated by the Iraqi regime. In about 44 villages – all mentioned in my book ‘Arabization of the Kirkuk Region”, page 51 – landowners and farmers were prevented from cultivating their land and it was given to Arab settlers. My own family village near Kirkuk, called ‘Sona-Goli’, was taken from us and we were not even allowed to go near it.

In the city of Kirkuk, the regime built a great number of houses for Arab settlers and gave these districts Arab names. It also gave some settlers plots of land and money from the Real Estate Bank to enable them to build houses. Almost all of this land was owned by Kurds or by the state. Other property, owned by Kurds and Turkmans, was confiscated for a variety of reasons; for example, a member of the family was outside Iraq, was in prison for political reasons, had been hanged for some political crime - or supposed crime. The majority of the owners were forced to leave the city. Since the regime confiscated most of the documents from those expelled, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for them to produce their deeds.

Since 1970, the regime has continued to distribute plots of land inside the city to military personnel, members of the Secret Services and Security Service, the Ba’ath party and the Popular Army, employees of the IPC and of all government sectors. All these people were Arab settlers who have been assisted financially by the regime and, as a result, have been nicknamed ‘the 10,000 dinars’ because, in the beginning, they were given that amount plus a plot of land and a job. At that time a dinar was worth three dollars.

In the north and east of Kirkuk province, the regime encountered difficulties in settling Arab tribes from fear of the Peshmarga, so it razed all the villages and small towns. Farms, orchards, wells and even cemeteries were destroyed and most of the inhabitants forced into concentration camps outside Kirkuk province. In 1988, these areas were the target of the Anfal operations. Being at too great a distance form the Turkish and Iranian borders to be able to escape, the population was forced to go to the area controlled by the regime where they were captured and sent into the desert. I am sure that almost none of these people will possess the deeds to their properties as they lost everything, but each group is known to have belonged to their own particular village.

Many people still have the deeds to their property in the city or to their farms in the villages. However, for those whose deeds were destroyed when they were expelled by the regime, their only proof will be the testimony of people who lived in the same city or district.

The regime forbade Kurds to buy property in the city or province of Kirkuk. No Kurd was allowed to sell his property to anyone other than an Arab. They were also denied permission to repair their properties and so some were forced to sell their homes and go elsewhere. Very wide streets were bulldozed through other districts of the city, demolishing many Kurdish properties, so that yet more people were forced to leave.

In recent years, since the regime was not applying the system so rigorously to Turkmans, some Kurds sold their homes to Turkmans with whom they had a good relationship, in the hope that they would be able to re-register these properties in their own names when the regime had fallen. For these people, we will have to search for the name of the owner prior to 1970. In general, unless the registers prior to 1970 were falsified, they will provide evidence of the genuine owners of many properties in Kirkuk. Most of the new, Arab named districts in the city were built for the new settlers – all of them Arabs – with the express purpose of changing the ethnic composition of the city and province.

Most members of the various institutions in Kirkuk are Ba’athists as, from the early 1970s, the regime practiced a policy of ‘Ba’athisization’ as well as Arabization. Most of them were brought from other parts of Iraq. Others are Turkmans, or even some Kurds, and this includes most of the civil servants and judges. For this reason, we cannot rely on them to make decisions. We must set up a new body to examine claims impartially.

Most Kurdish civil servants were forcible expelled to other parts of Iraq and, even after retirement, were not allowed to return to Kirkuk. This was my own experience when I was compulsorily retired from my post as Professor of Law at Baghdad University in 1982. I wanted to return to my city but I was forbidden to do so and was obliged to go to Arbil instead. All these Kurdish civil servants should be allowed to go back to Kirkuk and to claim the properties which they, or their parents, owned in the city and province.

The Arabs knew, when they settled in Kirkuk, that they were occupying properties which belonged to others. As I said, some among them were given plots of land which were owned by Kurds or by the state and were also given financial assistance to build houses. Today, they see themselves as the legitimate owners of these properties but, if you check the pre-1970 registers, you will find that most of them were not there then. They were settled there later by the regime as part of its plan to change the ethnic composition of the city and province which, since 1972, has gone under the Arabic name of ‘Al Ta’Amim’, which means ‘nationalization.

Everything which the regime has done in Kirkuk province violates the UN Charter of Human Rights which forbids the removal of anyone from his property against his will. The ethnic cleansing of the Kirkuk Region has echoes of the policies of Stalin and Hitler and is like that practiced in Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor. All the acts of the Iraqi regime are illegal and contrary to international law.

Those Arabs settled in the region of Kirkuk were well aware that their purpose in being there was to change its ethnic composition. They were a part of the regime and served in the Security Services, the army, the Ba’ath party and Ba’athist organizations. They should now return to their places of origin in central and southern Iraq. If you ask any one of them where he or his father lived before 1970 he will tell you where he came from. Not one of them was registered in Kirkuk according to the 1957 Census, which is only one considered valid. All the displaced Kurds must be permitted to return to reclaim their rightful homes in their own cities. They have suffered for decades, losing their properties and jobs. Their children have lost their future. A new Iraqi government must now compensate them for their physical and mental suffering.

The policies of Arabization and ethnic cleansing were devised by the higher echelons of the regime and were implemented by all government departments and by the Secret Service. Most of the governors of Kirkuk were appointed from among the upper echelons of the Ba’ath party. As yet we are unaware of any secret documents regarding these policies but, should any come to light, they will facilitate the decision making on restitution.

My proposal is that a High Commission of five to seven members should be established. These members should be legal professionals and other experts in land registration in the Kirkuk Region. If you wish I will propose certain individuals who are all from the Kirkuk region though some were expelled from Kirkuk and are presently living in Arbil and Sulaimani.

* Observations presented to a meeting organized in Washington by ‘US Institute for Peace’ on 22nd April 2003, to establish a ‘Property Claims Commission in the Kirkuk Region’.

** Professor of Law, Director of the Kirkuk Trust for Research & Studies

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Kirkuk, Past and Present

Dr. Nouri Talabany *

Much has been said about the ethnic identity of Kirkuk but, to understand its present situation, we need to study the ethnic composition of the city in the past and to compare it with that of the present. The changes that have taken place there are the result of the policies of the previous Iraqi regime – policies that were against international law and which were responsible for the serious situation in which the citizens of Kirkuk now find themselves. If we appear to be concentrating on Kirkuk and using it as a model for the comparison of past with present, it is because it was the main focus of the previous Iraqi regime’s racist policy.

The principal source of livelihood on the vast, fertile plains of the Kirkuk region was agriculture, so most of the city’s inhabitants were craftsmen practising related skills, though there were also commercial enterprises. Others worked in administration or were freelance professionals. The people grew their crops and engaged in animal husbandry according to the seasons but often used out-dated methods. It was natural for there to be a higher concentration of people in the villages close to the rivers and other water sources in the northern and eastern parts of the Kirkuk region, and fewer inhabitants in the part where water was scarcer. Simply by studying their customs an observer would very easily have understood the social structure of the society. However, the discovery of oil brought a great many people from elsewhere in Iraq to the city and changed the way of life completely. This is why we can say with confidence that the development of the oil industry provided the impetus for thousands of Arab families and others, such as Assyrians and Armenians, to settle in Kirkuk.

The majority of the population of the city of Kirkuk was Kurdish and Turkman. The Turkmans could trace their families back to the Ottoman era. Later, Arabs settled there. Writing of the ethnic composition of the city, Shamsadin Sami, author of the celebrated Encyclopaedia “Qamusl Al-A’alam” stated that, “Three quarters of the inhabitants of Kirkuk are Kurds and the rest are Turkmans, Arabs and others. 760 Jews and 460 Chaldeans also reside in the city”.

The Kurds lived, and still live, mainly in the eastern and northern districts of the city but they also reside in other districts alongside Turkmans and other ethnic groups. They are the oldest population of the city and region, followed by the Turkmans. The author of the famous “Guide to the History of Famous People in the Iraqi Liwas (Governorates),” Vol.2, compiled by Arab researchers and published in 1947 in Baghdad, dealt mainly with Kirkuk. It states that the Turkmans were the more recent members of the population of Kirkuk and that their ancestors arrived there in the mid seventeenth century with the invasion forces of the Ottoman Sultan Murad the Fourth who conquered Iraq and expelled the Saffawids from the land. The Guide also states that, before returning to Constantinople after his conquest of Baghdad, Sultan Murad left army units in position to control the strategic route linking Baghdad and Anatolia and that the present day Turkmans are descended from those troops.

The heads of Turkman families in Kirkuk, such as the families Nafetchi and Aochi, have confirmed that their ancestors came with Sultan Murad. Mr. Nazem Nafetchi stated, in 1947, that their ancestor, Kahraman Agha, came from Anatolia with Sultan Murad and that he appropriated land called Baba Gurgur, near Kirkuk city, from which he extracted oil by primitive methods. Abdullah Beg Aochi also confirmed that his family has its roots in Konya and that his grandfather, Emir Khan, accompanied Sultan Murad and settled in Kirkuk.

The Guide gives the religion of the inhabitants of Kirkuk as Islam and stresses their strong adherence to their faith. It points out that the region boasted many mosques and takias. There were also Christian, Subbi and Jewish citizens. The Jews (who were forced to leave Iraq for Israel at the beginning of the 1950s) engaged in commerce, finance and jewellery. The Christians were involved in all the professions. Each ethnic group lived in harmony with the others. Mostly Kurdish tribal people who also had an important presence inside the city populated the districts, sub-districts and villages.

The mayors of Kirkuk were almost always Kurds, notably from the Talabany family. During the Ottoman era and the monarchical period some Turkmans became mayor, but there was never an Arab mayor until 1969 when an Arab from the Tikriti family was nominated by the Baathist regime.

The city of Kirkuk was the centre of the Wilayet of Sharazur until 1879 when it became a “sanjak” and was annexed to the Wilayet of Mosul. In 1918, when the British army occupied the Wilayet of Mosul, the British administration created a new Governorate under the name of Arbil, which was made up of the districts of Arbil, Rawanduz and Koysinjaq. In 1921, the British estimated the population of Kirkuk to be 75,000 Kurds, 35,000 Turks, 10,000 Arabs, 1,400 Jews and 600 Chaldeans. A Committee of the League of Nations, which visited the Wilayet of Mosul in 1925 to determine its future, estimated that the Kurds in Kirkuk made up 63% of the population, the Turkmans 19% and the Arabs 18%. As no census was taken in Iraq until 1947, most population figures were estimates. An official estimate, published in 1936, gave the population figure as 180,000. The author of the aforementioned Guide estimated the population of Kirkuk to be half a million but that did not include nomadic tribes. It says that the Arabs lived mainly in the southwest of the region of Kirkuk whilst the Kurds were mainly in the northeast. Kurds, Turkmans and Arabs inhabited the centre of the region.

Most of the members representing Kirkuk in the Iraqi parliament during the monarchical period were Kurds and some Turkmans. There was seldom an Arab representative until after the Arab tribes had been settled on the plain of Hawija from 1935 onwards.

The 1947 Census gave no precise details of the ethnic composition of the population. However, the 1957 Census, in column 6, gave details of the ethnic composition of Iraq according to mother tongue. According to this Census the ethnic composition of Kirkuk was as follows: 48.3% Kurd, 28.2% Arab, 21.4% Turkman, the remainder being Chaldo-Assyrian and others. The 1957 Census is the only one accepted as valid since later ones were organized after the Iraqi regime had begun its policy of ethnic cleansing by which thousands of Arab families from central and southern Iraq were settled in the city and region of Kirkuk. Thousands of Kurdish families were expelled.

There were only two Arab families resident in the city of Kirkuk, the Tikriti and the
Hadidi. In addition, there were some Arabs working as civil servants or serving as officers and soldiers in the 2nd Division of the Iraqi army, most of which was stationed in Kirkuk. Until 1955, there was just one high school in the region of Kirkuk, where I was a student. The majority of the students were Kurds and Turkmans with a number of Arabs, Assyrians, Chaldeans and Armenians. Most of the Arab students were the children of the civil servants and military personnel or of those working for the Iraqi Petroleum Company (IPC).

By long-standing tradition, the Kurds, Turkmans, Chaldeans and Jews have had their own cemeteries. The Arabs, being a minority, buried their dead in the Turkman cemeteries. Since 1991, however, the Iraqi regime has created special cemeteries for Arab settlers and has banned Arab Shi’ite settlers from taking their dead back to Al-Najaf for burial. Later, the regime even began to change the inscriptions on Kurdish tombstones to Arabic in an attempt to prove that there have been Arabs in Kirkuk for many, many years!

According to the Guide, the Tikriti family is the main Arab family of Kirkuk. The head of the family, Mr.Mazher Al-Tikriti, tells how their great grandfather, Shebib, came from Syria in 1048 Hejri with the Ottoman Sultan Murad the Fourth, as did the ancestors of the Turkmans. As a reward for their help, the Sultan gave the Al-Tikriti family villages and lands in the south-west of Kirkuk and in the small city of Tikrit.

Other Arab tribes who settled in Kirkuk during the monarchical period are the Al-Ubaid and the Al-Jiburi. The Al-Ubaid came from the north-west of Mosul when they were forced out of that area by the Arab Al-Shamar tribe. They settled on the plain of Dialah where they were in continuous conflict with the Arabs of the Al-Aza tribe. To resolve the disputes between them, the cabinet of Yasin Al-Hashimi decided, in 1935, to settle them in the Hawija district after water from the Lower Zab River was used to irrigate the land. The settlement of the Al-Ubaid and Al-Jiburi tribes was the first Arab settlement in the Kirkuk region. Previously, the area was semi-desert and was used by the Kurds only in springtime as grazing ground for their sheep. Generally, relations between Kurds, Turkmans and even the new Arabs of Hawija and other ethnic minority groups were good until the Baath party seized power in 1963.

The new regime used the militia of the “Popular Guard”, who were mainly Arab Baathists and Turkmans, to attack the Kurds. They concentrated their efforts on the poor areas where they destroyed all the homes. In June 1963, the Baathist regime was responsible for the destruction of 13 Kurdish villages around Kirkuk. The populations of a further 34 Kurdish villages in the Dubz district near Kirkuk were forced to leave and Arabs from central and southern Iraq were brought in and settled in their place. Between 1963 and 1988, the Baathist regime destroyed a total of 779 Kurdish villages in the Kirkuk region and obliterated their cemeteries. There had been 493 primary schools, 598 mosques and 40 small medical centres in these villages. Orchards and farms were burnt, cattle confiscated and wells blown up. The obvious purpose of this destruction was the eradication of all evidence of any habitation. In all, 37,726 Kurdish families were forced out of their villages and, at a conservative estimate; there were at least 5 to 7 people in the average Kurdish rural family.

During the Iraq/Iran war, the Iraqi Regime also destroyed about ten Shi’ite Turkman villages in the south of Kirkuk.

Inside the city of Kirkuk, the Iraqi regime has taken many measures to force the Kurds to leave. Oil company employees, civil servants and even teachers have been transferred to southern and central Iraq. City streets and schools have been renamed in Arabic and businesses forced to adopt Arab names. Kurds are not allowed to sell their properties to anyone other than Arabs and are forbidden to buy other property. Thousands of residential units have been built for new Arabs and given Arabic names. The historic citadel, with its mosques and ancient church has been demolished. Tens of thousands of Arab families have been brought in to the city and given housing and employment.

These measures were intensified after the Gulf War of 1991. The regime has prevented most of the Kurds who fled their homes during the uprising of that year from returning. In 1996, before the preparation of the 1997 Census, a so-called “Identity Law” was passed, by which Kurds and other non-Arabs were required to register themselves as Arab. Anyone refusing to do so was expelled to the liberated part of Iraqi Kurdistan or to southern Iraq. In its 2003 Report, Human Rights Watch estimated that, since 1991, between 120,000 and 200,000 non-Arabs have been forcibly expelled from the Kirkuk region.

That situation continued until the fall of the Baathist regime in April 2003, when the city of Kirkuk was liberated. Those who were forcibly expelled wanted to return to their homes and land, but many obstacles have prevented this. However, thousands of families have returned to Kirkuk, but continue to live in tents in a very bad situation.

When the Transitional Administrative Law was approved, article 58 aimed to resolve the problem of Kirkuk by creating mechanisms to normalise the situation in the city. However, both the governments of Dr. Allawi and Dr. Jaafari have done nothing to implement Article 58. This has created suspicion amongst the Kurds against the central Iraqi government. Article 140 of the new Iraqi constitution has adopted Article 58 of the TAL, and set a deadline for its implementation for 2007. If the new government of Iraq is not going to implement the article within this deadline it means that the issue of Kirkuk is not going to be resolved, with dangerous consequences for the future of Iraq.
* This paper was presented to a conference concerning the Kirkuk issue, orgnised in London in July, 2001.


1. Abdul Majid Fahmi Hassan, “Daleel Taarihk Mashaheer Al Alwiat Al Iraqiah / A Guide to the History of Famous People of the Iraqi Liwas”, Vol. II, Liwa Kirkuk, Dijla Press, Baghdad 1947, p. 55.
2. Shamsadin Sami, Qamus Al-A’alam, Istanbul, Mihran Press, 1315 Hi/1896.
3. Abdulmajid F. Hassan, ibid. P.58.
4. Ibid. p 284.
5. Ibid. P.301
6. Ibid. p. 289.
7. Ibid. p. 339.
8. Nouri Talabany, Arabization of the Kirkuk Region, First edi. Kurdistan Studies Press, Uppsala, Sweden 2001, p. 94.
9. Appeal from the Federation of the Kurdish Organizations against Ethnic Cleansing based in London addressed to Mr. Kofi Annan and others, dated 3rd February 2003.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

The Kurdish Question with Special Reference to Southern Kurdistan

The Kurdish Question with Special Reference to Southern Kurdistan, According to New Principles of International Law

Nouri Talabany
Professor of Law

The roots of the Kurdish problem lie in the events following the ending of the First World War when the Kurds, together with other nations such as Arabs and Armenians then under the control of the Ottoman Empire, attempted to establish their rights. They were especially encouraged when, in 1918, the American president, Woodrow Wilson, declared his support for the principle of the right to self-determination for all nations.

This principle, that all nations have the right to self-determination, was later enshrined in the preamble to the Charter of the United Nations. It was very precisely stated on the 14th December 1960 when the General Assembly of the UN passed a resolution to end the colonial system, and again in 1966, in a Charter concerned with economic, social and cultural rights whose first article re-emphasized this right to self-determination.

These international documents make clear that such a right applies only to those populations who consider themselves as nations. So, what do we mean by ‘nation’? We mean a distinct people or race, be it large or small, who share a common heritage and culture - such as language, religion, economic or political institutions - and who inhabit a specific land. The existence of this land is of vital importance in creating a sense of nationality and in giving to its people their special characteristics. It is this sense of unity, of belonging, by which a people may be considered as a nation. If this feeling is present then their status as a nation cannot be denied.

The Kurds share a common language and history and have lived on their ancestral land from earliest times. It is, surely, beyond doubt that they meet all the criteria for recognition as a nation. The Treaty of Sevres, signed on 10th December 1920, recognized the Kurds as a nation and the Kurdish problem as an international issue. It proposed a solution which was reasonable given the circumstances of that time. Although the Treaty was never ratified by the Ottoman Empire, it remains an important international document as it was the first such to mention the Kurds specifically. This is why we must examine the terms of this Treaty and its proposals for the future of the Kurds.

As a result of the failure to implement the terms of this Treaty, the Kurdish question became a matter of internal law and the Kurds, previously divided between the Ottoman Empire and Persia, found themselves divided between four states. The principle of establishing international boundaries became a matter of inviolate sovereignty, however illegitimately these boundaries may have been created originally. Until the beginning of the nineteen thirties, the main objective of the many Kurdish revolts was the independence of Kurdistan and the founding of a Kurdish state. By the end of that decade, as a result of their division, their aim became to find a solution within each of these states.

Events following the Gulf War of 1991 pushed the Kurdish Question to the forefront of international law and politics once more. That is why I will address the question of whether the Kurdish problem, especially in Southern Kurdistan, (Iraqi Kurdistan) can be spoken of again as a subject within international law.

Part 1 - The Treaty of Sevres and the Kurdish Question:

The Treaty of Sevres was signed between the government of the Ottoman Sultan and those of Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Greece, Belgium, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Chekoslavakia, and Serbo-Croatia, Armenia of the Tashnak and the Hejaz.

Articles 62, 63 and 64 were specifically designed to find a solution to the Kurdish problem in the Ottoman Empire.

Article 62 speaks of the creation of a committee of three parties - Britain, France and Italy - whose task it would be to formulate an autonomous system for the Kurds in the regions between the Euphrates and the south of Armenia to the borders of Syria and Mesopotamia.

Article 63 obliges Turkey to put into operation the decisions of this committee.

Article 64 speaks of the creation of a Kurdish state under certain conditions.

The Treaty stated that, within one year of its implementation, the majority of the Kurds in these regions must ask for separation from Turkey. This condition accords with the principle of self - determination, as it is necessary to consult the people on their wishes. It further stated that the Assembly of the League of Nations must accept that the Kurds are able to govern themselves and that this same Assembly must propose the creation of this Kurdish State.

When all these conditions were met, Turkey would have been obliged to accept the proposal of the League of Nations. A new Treaty would then have been signed between Turkey and the main signatories to the Treaty of Sevres.

The last paragraph of Article 64 dealt specifically with the problem of the Kurds in the Wilayet of Mosul, which was under the control of the British army. According to this paragraph, the main signatories of Sevres will not oppose the desire of the Kurds in this former Ottoman Wilayet to be a part of the Kurdish State. The Kurds represent a majority of the population in this Wilayet which includes the present governorates of Mosul, Dohuk, Arbil, Kirkuk and Sulaymani and a part of Diyala.

From an objective interpretation of these Articles of the Treaty of Sevres, and considering the situation of that time, it is clear that the object of this Treaty was the creation of a state for the Kurds in Northern Kurdistan (now in Turkey). This would have been joined later with the south of Kurdistan (now Iraqi Kurdistan). Had there been a genuine intention on the part of the great powers to put it into effect, it suggested the establishment of a Kurdish state in two stages. But the interests of these powers, and especially of Britain and France, lay in Southern Kurdistan where there is oil. The British authorities, which held a mandate on Iraq, joined the Wilayet of Mosul to the new Iraqi State so as to be able to send the oil from this Wilayet, by pipeline, through Iraq to the Mediterranean. Then, with the rise to power of General Mustafa Kemal in Turkey, the Treaty was rescinded and not just Britain and France, but even the newly created Soviet Union supported the new Turkish state and assisted it in its efforts to quell the Kurdish revolts against the Kemalist regime. A later Treaty signed in Lausanne in 1923, made no mention of the Kurds and the Kurdish problem became a part of the internal law of those countries between which they were divided.

Following the collapse of the invasion of Kuwait by the Iraqi regime in 1991, the Kurds of Southern Kurdistan rose against the regime and liberated most of their region, including Kirkuk, whereupon the regime launched a savage counter-attack on the civilian population. As a result, in April 1991, the Security Council passed Resolution No. 688 that aimed to end this tragic situation. For the first time since the Treaty of Sevres, an international decision was taken which, whilst speaking of all the Iraqi people, mentioned the Kurds in particular. This resolution concerns the internal affairs of a member state of the UN and it discriminates between the state and the people.

We have now to discover whether the Kurdish question in Southern Kurdistan, will be resolved by international law.

Part 11 - The Kurdish question according to the new principles of international law:

The ending of the cold war and the collapse of the Soviet Union, together with the events following the Gulf War, were the main reasons for establishing several new principles of international law. Before these events, and especially since 11th September 2000, intervention in the internal affairs of states was considered to be illegal. However, in the changed circumstances, the principle of equality between nations and the respect for human rights will make intervention by the international community in the internal affairs of states just, acceptable and legal. This will apply particularly in cases where the policy of ethnic cleansing is tantamount to genocide. For example, the catastrophes in Bosnia, Kurdistan, Somalia, Rwanda and Kosovo presented the international community and its organizations with the opportunity to intervene to save endangered lives in these countries. Had the new principles of international law not been established, there would have been no such intervention.

The tragedy of Halabja in March 1988, which focused the attention of people everywhere, the killing of 182,000 civilian Kurds in ‘Anfal’ operations, the destruction of more than 4000 Kurdish and Christian villages by the Iraqi regime and the deportation of tens of thousands of Kurdish Faily families to Iran, brought no positive response from the international community. The dictatorial regime in Baghdad took note of this silence and invaded Kuwait on 2nd August 1990, but because of the oil in Kuwait and other Gulf states, the Security Council took decisive action against it. Such a decision would not have been possible just a few years ago.

Security Council Resolution No. 688, of 1991, was taken after the mass exodus of Kurds from Southern Kurdistan. Its main consequence was the creation of Operation Provide Comfort which established a Safe Haven for the protection of Kurds in this area and without which many thousands of people would have died in a very short time. This was a clear, direct intervention in the internal affairs of the state of Iraq and was a decision of major significance to international law since it censures the state for its use of force internally and considers it a threat to international security. It represents an important shift in the position of the Security Council. It is concerned here not with the state, but with the people, in contradiction to its declared principles and its main objective of finding solutions to problems between member states.

In September 1991, the regime in Baghdad recalled all its administration from most of the Kurdish region. Later, it imposed an economic blockade on it, thus making the region subject to two embargoes - one Iraqi, the other international, which was imposed on the whole of Iraq by the Security Council. The consequence of this action was the creation of a de facto Kurdish administration. Shortly after, the people of this part of liberated Kurdistan elected a Parliament, which formed a government to administer the internal, as well as the external, affairs of this region.

Unfortunately, the Kurdish leaders failed to take advantage of this sequence of events. The 1995 referendum held to accept Saddam Hussein as President of Iraq and, later, the elections of a so-called Parliament for Iraq, without the participation of the people of the liberated part of Kurdistan are just two examples. The Kurds failed to grasp their opportunity to demonstrate to the international community the fact that the regime in Baghdad does not consider them as a part of Iraq and that, therefore, their problem must be treated according to international law. Later, the acceptance by the Iraqi regime of Security Council Resolution No.986, by which it was allowed to sell oil for the purchase of humanitarian supplies, and which arranged for the provision of 13% of the resulting revenue to be given in aid to the Kurds in that region, proves that even the international community accords this part of Kurdistan a special status. Although the western countries continue to speak of the territorial integrity of Iraq and not of its divisions, they remain obliged to protect the Kurds according to the new international law which safeguards them against further attempts at genocide by the Iraqi regime. Several political parties and their parliamentary groups and organizations in Europe, have frequently asked the international community to protect the autonomous region of Kurdistan against intervention by the Iraqi regime and neighbouring states.

The prevention of crimes against humanity is now one of the principle obligations of the international community and its organizations and they have the right to intervene wherever, and whenever, such crimes occur. The Security Council itself has taken action with regard to Somalia, Cambodia and Haiti. For example, in its Resolution No. 940 of July 1994, it authorizes member states to “form a multinational force to use all necessary means to facilitate the departure from Haiti of the military”. Events in Kosovo and East Timor illustrated this policy, as was emphasized by the statements of western political leaders and the international community that international intervention in these countries is legal. In an interview with the Independent on Sunday newspaper in May 1999, the British Foreign Secretary said “What this whole episode has thrown up is the unacceptability of governments using aggression against their own people and then claiming sovereignty as a blanket protection for whatever they are going to do”.

At NATO’s 50th Anniversary Summit in Washington, similar views were forcefully expressed. The British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, declared that a new “doctrine of international community” was required and added “we are all internationalists now, whether we like it or not”. “We cannot turn our backs on conflicts and the violation of human rights within other countries if we still want to be secure”, he said.

An international conference was held in The Hague in mid- June 1999 to find a peaceful solution to the war in Southern Sudan. Sixteen states participated, among them most European countries as well as the USA, Kenya and Japan together with the European Union and other organizations. If the international community is sincere in its wish to establish peace and security in the Middle East, a similar conference should be organized to seek a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question in this important region.

Until now, the international community has viewed the Kurdish problem as humanitarian, not political, and its inaction puts at risk the stability of the whole region and threatens world security. The Kurdish question is one of the great problems of the Middle East and will remain so until a solution is found. This solution can only be the recognition of the right to self-determination of the Kurdish people. Such recognition does not necessarily mean the creation of an independent state but, perhaps, peaceful co-existence within a federal state in each of which Kurds are living.
Paper presented to a conference to discuss the Kurdish question, held in Washington in the Spring of 2002.

On 20th October 2002, the former Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, granted an amnesty to all prisoners and
Those under arrest to mark the occasion of his so-called referendum (in which he received 100% of the votes). The number of those released was not declared but an estimated 100,000 and 150,000 people were released. Sadly, the hopes of the families of those taken in the Anfal operations in 1988 that their loved ones would be among them were dashed, as none of them were among those freed. About 5000 young Kurdish Failys were also arrested during the Iraq-Iran war (1988 – 1998) but none of them were released. It can safely be assumed that all these civilian Kurds were killed. In the mid-1980s Saddam Hussein was asked about those taken during the Anfal operations he replied that they had been sent to hell.

Professor Dr Nouri Talabany

Professor of Law, Independent MP in the Parliament of Kurdistan Region

• Born in the city of Kirkuk and completed elementary, intermediate and secondary education there.
• Received BSc in Law from the University of Baghdad.
• Received Ph.D. in Law from the Sorbonne, France.
• Taught at the universities of Basra, Baghdad, Sulaimani and Salahadin in Arbil from 1968 until December, 1982, when he was compulsorily retired for political reasons.
• His first articles, in Kurdish, were published in "Hiwa", a Kurdish magazine, while he was a student at the University of Baghdad in the late fifties.

His numerous publications include:
• Textbooks in French, his 1968 Thesis on French Law and his Thesis for the Diploma in Law in 1966 also concerning French Law and many other research studies and articles in French.
• Textbooks in Arabic on Iraqi Law, 1st edition 1972, 2nd edition 1979, and another textbook, also on Iraqi Law, in 1979.
• He was the first person to publish a book on the Arabization of the Kirkuk Region, in Arabic. The 1st edition was published in Sweden and Kurdistan in 1995, the 2nd edition in London in 1999 and the 3rd edition in Arbil in 2004. It was translated into Kurdish and English in 1999 and published in Sweden and, later, republished in Kurdistan in 2004.
• He was also the first person to propose a federal system for Kurdistan in a study written in Arabic, in London, in 1974. This appeared in the Iraqi Academic magazine, Kurdish Section, Vols. 16 & 17, 1987, Baghdad, and in Kurdistan, in a pamphlet, in 1992 and 2005. It was translated into Kurdish and published in 2005 and 2006
• He is the author of the first dictionary of legal terms in Kurdish, assisted by a Kurdish scholar, Tawfiq Wahby, in London in 1974. This Dictionary of Law has been published in Kurdistan in 2004 in four languages – Kurdish, Arabic, French and English, and republished in 2006.
• He has written more than 120 studies and articles in Kurdish, more than 60 in Arabic and more than 30 in English and French, published both in Kurdistan and elsewhere. Some of them have been presented at international conferences in the USA and Europe.
• He was the first person to write, in Arabic, a Draft Constitution for the Iraqi Kurdistan region, which was published in Arbil in 1992. This draft has been translated into Kurdish and English and republished in 1999 and, again, 2002.
• He was a member of the High Legal Committee in the Kurdistan Region in 1992 whose main objective was to prepare the projects of law for the parliament of Kurdistan.
• He was Chairman of the Kurdish Organisation for Human Rights in Britain for seven years from 1993 and Director of the Kirkuk Trust for Research and Studies in London from 2000.
• He was President of the High Electoral Commission of the Kurdistan Region from July 2004 until December of the same year.
• At present, he is an independent MP in the Parliament of the Kurdistan Region.
August, 2007.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Arabization of the Kirkuk Region

Prof. Nouri Talabany
Arabization of the Kirkuk Region, 141 pp., Uppsala, 2001, ISBN 91-972498-2-3

Table of Contents

Foreword by Lord Avebury.


I - A synopsis of the history and geography of the Kirkuk Region.

II - The Non-Kurdish ethnic population in the Kirkuk Region: The Turkmans.
1. Origins.
2. Population Estimates.
3. Relations between Kurds and Turkmans.
4. Politicaal Orientations of the Turkmans.

IlI - Earliest Attempts at Arabization.
A - The period of the monarchy.
The role of the oil company in changing the ethnic character of the city of Kirkuk.
The building of the Hawija Irrigation Project to settle Arab tribes in the Kirkuk Region.

B - The period from 1958 to 1968.
Measures towards Arabization taken by the February 1963 coup organizers in the Kirkuk Governorate.

C - The period from 1968 to the present.
Measures taken by the Iraq regime inside the city of Kirkuk.
Measures taken by the regime to Arabize the entire Kirkuk Governorate.
1. City District of Kirkuk.
2. Dubz District (Arabized to Al-Debiss).
3. Hawija District.
4. Chamchamal District.
5. Duz-Khurmatu District.
6. Kifri District.
7. Kala'r District..

IV The result of Arabization and destruction of the Kirkuk Region.




THE KIRKUK REGION, rich in petroleum deposits and vast farm lands, has been one of the principal obstacles to finding a peaceful solution to the Kurdish question in Iraq.

Geographically, the region straddles the strategic trade routes between Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey and beyond. However, it was the discovery of vast quantities of petroleum deposits in the region that led Great Britain, in 1926, to append Kirkuk and the former Ottoman Wilayet of Mosul (of which the Kirkuk region was a part) to the newly-created state of Iraq. This new state, created in 1921, was under the Mandate of Great Britain. Ever since, and particularly after 1963, there have been continuous attempts by the central government of Iraq to Arabize the strategic region of Kirkuk.

To understand better the reasons for this policy, let us, first, briefly consider the geopolitics, history and demography of the Kirkuk region, and then analyse the situation both before and after these attempts.

Ethnic Cleansing by the Iraqi regime in the Kirkuk Region

Nouri Talabany - Professor of Law

The Treaty of Kasr Shireen - Zehab, signed in 1639 between the representatives of the Ottoman and Safawid Empires determined the official division of Kurdistan between these two powers. From then on, those Kurdish Emirates, which were either wholly or partially independent, were obliged to seek protection from one or either of these two powers if threatened by external aggression or in the face of internal unrest caused by conflict between the ruling families. The Sultans and the Shahs and their representatives actively encouraged such conflicts with the express intention of weakening the Kurdish Emirates. Consequently, the power of these emirates was systematically undermined and, by the mid - nineteenth century, they had ceased to exist. The last Kurdish emirates were the Ardalan (617 - 1284 Hi) whose capital was the city of Senna, and the Baban (1106 - 1267 Hi) whose capital was Sulaymania.[1]These two Kurdish emirates deserve special mention because the Kirkuk region, or a part of it, was once a part of either one or the other of them for various periods.

The celebrated Kurdish poet from Kirkuk, Sheikh Rezza Talabany (1835 - 1910), who wrote his verse in Kurdish, Persian, Turkish and Arabic, mentioned this in a narrative poem, written in Kurdish, in which he recalled his childhood in the Kurdish emirate of Baban before it was ruled by either the Persians or the Ottomans.[2] As a young man of twenty-five or so, our poet went to the Ottoman capital, Constantinople, and in the course of his journey, he visited the grave of the Kurdish Sufi, Sheikh Nouradin Brifkani. At the graveside he recited a long poem in Farsi, telling of how he had journeyed from Sharazur, of which Kirkuk was a part, to visit the “The Roman country” as the Kurds referred to Turkey at that time. In 1879, when the Ottoman Empire annexed the Wilayet of Sharazur to the Wilayet of Mosul, Sheikh Rezza expressed his sadness and disappointment in a poem, in Turkish, in which he told the people that Mosul had now become the centre of their Wilayet and Nafi’i Effendi its Wali. “Mosul has become the centre of the Wilayet and Nafi’i Effendi its Wali. Poor people. What has befallen you? In grief, cover your heads with earth”.

As well as Sheikh Rezza’s poetic testimony to the history of the city of Kirkuk, we have the words of the Ottoman explorer Shamsadin Sami, author of the celebrated Encyclopaedia “Qamusl Al A’ala’m”, who wrote of Kirkuk: ”It is located within the Wilayet of Mosul which is a part of Kurdistan. It is at a distance of 25 pharsings (100 miles) south-east of the city of Mosul. It is situated amidst a range of parallel hills next to an extended valley called the Vale of Adham. It is the administrative centre for the Sharazur Wilayet and has a population of 30,000 ”.[4] As regards the ethnic composition of the city, Shamsadin Sami asserts that “three quarters of the inhabitants are Kurds and the rest are Turkmans, Arabs and others. Seven hundred and sixty Jews and four hundred and sixty Chaldians also reside in the city”.[5]

Under Ottoman rule, Turkman families were encouraged to settle in the city and were given preferential treatment by the Ottoman rulers. The post of “mutassallim”, or governor, and many other prestigious positions and titles were accorded them,[6] and the majority of Kirkuk’s civil servants came from among the Turkman community with the result that the Ottoman rulers enjoyed continued support. The Encyclopaedia of Islam states: “ Whatever the circumstances of their coming to the region, the Turkmans of Kirkuk always provided strong support for the Ottoman empire and its culture and an abundant source of Ottoman officials.”[7] But despite all this, the city of Kirkuk retained its distinctive Kurdish character.

The Wilayet of Mosul remained a part of the Ottoman Empire until the end of the 1st World War when it was occupied by British troops under the command of General Marshall on 17th May 1918. He withdrew his troops on 27th May, only to re-occupy it at the end of October that same year, after the signing of the Modrus Agreement between Britain and the Ottomans. Secret British documents revealed that the Foreign Office had warned General Marshall not to advance on the Wilayet of Mosul.[8] With the exception of the Sulaymania region, the greater part of the Mosul Wilayet was occupied by the British army and governed by British political officers. The decision to remain in the Wilayet was taken by the British when they discovered oil in the region of Kirkuk, which is an important part of the Wilayet of Mosul. Under the terms of the secret Sykes Picot Agreement, signed in 1916 between France and Britain, this Wilayet was given to France. According to the later San Remo Agreement between France and Britain, France gave it to Britain in return for a share in the Turkish Petroleum Company (TPC), which was established by the Ottomans and the Germans to exploit the oil in the two Wilayets of Baghdad and Mosul.[9] This discovery eventually led to the annexation of the Wilayet of Mosul to the newly created Iraqi state after a decision taken by the League of Nations in 1925. To encourage support for this annexation, King Faisal 1 visited most of the Wilayet, including Kirkuk, in December 19, and urged the people to demand to join to new Iraqi state created in 1921.[10]

Most Iraqi researchers are agreed that the Wilayet of Mosul became a part of Iraq with the help of the British. It was in their economic and strategic interest to annexe it so as to be able to send oil from Kirkuk through Iraqi territory to the Mediterranean ports and from there to Europe. Because of the bad relations between Britain and Turkey caused by Turkey’s claim that the Wilayet of Mosul was part of its territory, it was difficult at that time to send it through Turkish territory.[11] The annexation of the Wilayet was sanctioned by international decision, but this decision was conditional on both Britain and Iraq honouring the wishes of the Kurds that civil servants in the Kurdish area be Kurds and that Kurdish was to be the official language.[12] In reality, successive Iraqi governments ignored this international agreement and proceeded to implement a policy which was completely opposed to it, especially in the Kirkuk region. This became abundantly clear during the direct British rule of Kirkuk when Turkish remained the official language in administration and education as it had been under the Ottomans, and important positions in the city continued to be given to the Turkmans.[13] Later, when the Iraqi Petroleum Company (IPC), which was run by the British and which had its headquarters in Kirkuk, began operating, it brought the majority of its employees in from other parts of Iraq. Many thousands of technicians and other professionals, as well as small trades people, came to live in the city, bringing their families with them.[14] To accommodate them, hundreds of housing units were constructed and new districts developed, mostly for Arabs, Assyrians and Armenians. Research suggests that the population of Kirkuk increased by 39,000 between 1947 and 1957 and that, between 1919 and 1968, there was a fivefold increase in the population.[15] But, although the Kurds remained the majority in both the city and the governorate, far fewer of them were employed by the company than were members of other ethnic groups.[16]

During the years of the monarchy, all Iraqi governments encouraged non-Kurds to settle in Kirkuk and prohibited the use of the Kurdish language in education there. In passing, I would like to mention my own bitter experience of this. At both primary and secondary school we were obliged to learn everything by heart as all the text books were in Arabic and we could not understand them. Even so, these governments did not expel Kurds from Kirkuk, nor did they bar the people from nearby villages from coming to reside in the city. But in the mid 1930s, all this began to change when the government of Yassin Al Hashimi brought Arabs from the Al-Ubaid and other nomadic tribes to settle in the Hawija district in the south-west of Kirkuk.

The July 1958 revolution encouraged the Kurds to hope that these discriminatory policies would be reversed, and they asked that Kurdish be used as the language of instruction in the primary schools, at least in those districts, which remained wholly Kurdish. But their hopes were dashed when extreme Arab nationalists were appointed to prominent positions in Kirkuk and they felt convinced that the situation would never change. This conviction was strengthened when General Tabakchali, the new Commander of the 2nd Division stationed in Kirkuk, took several decisions which were to the obvious advantage of the Turkmans. He began by ousting the Kurdish mayor and appointing a Turkman in his place. He then sent a number of secret memoranda to the Ministry of Defence in Baghdad - the real power in Iraq at that time - accusing the Kurds of causing unrest and of trying to found a so-called “Kurdish Republic” which would be joined later by other areas of Kurdistan.[18] His “evidence” for this was the request by Kurdish intellectuals to establish an Education Department to supervise Kurdish education in the region. During General Tabakchali’s command, from July 1958 to March 1959, he concentrated all his efforts on creating tensions and divisions between Kurds and Turkmans.[19]

The appointment of a new commander, General Al- Janabi, in mid-March 1959, brought yet another change in the situation. During his short command the Kurds felt relaxed and celebrated Nawroz openly for the first time in the city’s history. However, three months later, General Al-Janabi was dismissed and the situation steadily deteriorated until Kurds and Turkmans clashed in July 1959. From then on, the Kurds were once more subjected to ever increasing discrimination. This time is considered as a time of fear and forced expulsion of Kurds from Kirkuk. It marked the beginning of a period of terror for the Kurds when they were forced to leave the city. Special terrorist groups were formed from Turkmans, collaborating with the security forces, whose task it was to assassinate prominent Kurdish figures in the city. [20] This situation continued until the coup d’etat by the Ba’ath party on 8th February 1963. From then on, the campaign of terror against the Kurds, led by the “National Guard” of Turkmans and Ba’athists, intensified. Several densely populated districts were demolished and 13 Kurdish villages located near Kirkuk and the IPC oil installations were destroyed. The inhabitants of 33 villages in the Dubs district, close to Kirkuk, were forced to leave and Arab tribes were brought in and settled there. [21] Other measures taken by the regime against the Kurds in Kirkuk were:

1. Dismissing many Kurdish employees of the Oil Company or transferring them to facilities outside the governorate, and even transferring low-ranking civil servants to southern and central Iraq.

2. Hiring large numbers of inexperienced Arabs as local police and oil workers.

3. Surrounding the city with military observation posts and creating “security zones” near the oil plant and laying mines there.

4. Settling armed Arab tribes in evacuated Kurdish villages and forming “irregular units” from them to help attack Peshmarga and Kurds in the area around Kirkuk.

5. Re-naming city streets and schools in Arabic and forcing businesses to adopt Arab names.

6. Conducting a terror campaign and forcing people to abandon their villages so as to settle Arabs there.

The Ba’ath party returned to power in a second coup d’etat in 1968. Shortly after seizing power, the regime instigated a policy deliberately designed to change the ethnic character of Kirkuk and of the governorate. Civil servants, schoolteachers and oil company employees who had escaped the previous expulsions, were transferred and replaced by Arabs. Any Kurd, having once left Kirkuk, is never allowed to return, and this is what happened to most of those transferred.[22] The regime also took the following measures:

Kurdish districts, schools, streets, markets and businesses were given Arabic names.

Houses were demolished in Kurdish neighbourhoods to allow for the unnecessary construction of wide roads and the owners were neither compensated nor allowed to buy other property.

The names of “Arab new-comers” were added to the 1957 census so that it appeared that they had lived in Kirkuk since before 1957.

Kurds were only allowed to sell their properties to Arabs and were not permitted to buy other property. Permits to build or renovate were refused. In the early eighties, these measures were extended to the Turkmans also.

False charges were laid against Kurds so that they left the city, and their homes and belongings were confiscated. Kurdish youths were arrested and imprisoned by the security police without trial. Police vehicles were seen taking corpses clad in Kurdish costumes to a cemetery called “Ghariban” near the Kirkuk-Sulaymania road.

The governorate’s administrative offices and the headquarters of the trade unions and other organisations were moved to the arabized section of the city.

Thousands of residential units were built for Arab workers near the Kirkuk-Hawija-Tikrit, Kirkuk - Baghdad and Kirkuk - Laylan roads.

The ancient citadel of Kirkuk, which contained several mosques and a very old church, was demolished.

The city and surrounding area was transformed into a military camp, and military fortifications were built inside and around Kirkuk.

Tens of thousands of Arab families were brought in, with guaranteed jobs and housing. The government offered money and housing to Kurds who would leave Kirkuk for central or southern Iraq, or a free plot of land if they went to the “Autonomous Region”.

The Iraqi regime’s policy of the ethnic cleansing of the Kurds began in 1963 and became much harsher in 1968. In the mid-eighties it directed this policy against the Turkmans. The Childo/Assyrians and Armenians were simply considered as Arabs!

After the nationalisation of the IPC in June 1972, the regime changed the historic name of Kirkuk to Al Tamim, meaning “nationalisation”. In 1976 it also reduced the area of the governorate by annexing four Kurdish areas to the neighbouring governorates, thus making the Kurds a minority in the Kirkuk governorate.[23] Where the regime was unable to settle Arabs, it destroyed all the Kurdish villages and forced their inhabitants into concentration camps. The Anfal operations of 1987 and 1988 claimed the lives of about 180,000 Kurdish civilians, most of whom were from the Kirkuk region. Since the villagers in that region lived far from international borders, they were unable to reach them and so surrendered to the army and secret services and were later sent to the south of Iraq where they were massacred.

The Iraqi regime’s policy of ethnic cleansing continued without comment or challenge from either the Iraqi oppositions groups or from the international community, even though its measures were far more severe than those used in other countries such as Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo and East Timor, which have been condemned by the international community.

By the end of the eighties, Kirkuk city had lost its historic character as the Arab settlers had become dominant and were ruling the city and its administration, and security and the army were all under their control. Most of the best agricultural land was given to them. It was plain to everyone that people from outside the area were in charge and that the original inhabitants had become strangers in their own city.

This state of affairs continued until the Gulf War in 1991. After the Iraqi regime’s defeat in Kuwait, Ali Hassan Al Majid, then Minister of Defence, took many measures in the city to preserve the status quo. For example, he arrested more than 30,000 Kurds and held them for several days in confined spaces, without water or food, as a result of which many of the elderly and sick died. He also ordered the destruction of a number of Kurdish sectors of the city. After fierce fighting, the city was taken by the Kurds on 21st March 1991. During three days of street battles, many Kurdish civilians, among them women and children, were killed in the bombardment by Iraqi artillery and helicopter gunships.

Because of Kirkuk’s strategic importance to the regime, determined efforts were made to re-occupy it with the collaboration of the “Mujahidin Khalk”, a group from the Iranian opposition supported by Saddam Hussein, whose member’s act as mercenaries for him. Some of these mercenaries succeeded in entering the city by disguising themselves as Peshmarga. From the 27th to the 29th March, Kirkuk was subjected to such an intense bombardment that its inhabitants were forced to evacuate the city, leaving behind their possessions, which were looted, by the Iraqi army and the Arab settlers who returned with military help.

Most of the Kurds and Turkmans forced to leave Kirkuk were unable to return for fear of arrest. It can be said that the collapse of the uprising of March 1991 was a further reason for many Kurds and Turkmans leaving their city. Those who did return, especially the young people faced intimidation and arrest.

During negotiations between the Iraqi regime and representatives of the “Kurdistan Front”, the regime agreed to allow the citizens of Kirkuk to return to their homes, but this promise was only partially honoured. After the collapse of the negotiations, and especially after the withdrawal of the Iraqi administration from three governorates of Kurdistan in September 1991, the Kurds became the target of a renewed reign of terror, which intensified during the years from 1994 to 1996 and was particularly severe at the beginning of 1997 during the preparations for a new census. The methods used by the Iraqi regime exceeded even those used during the apartheid era in South Africa. Kurds were issued with official forms on which they were required to declare that they had been wrongly registered as Kurds in previous censuses. They were told that anyone refusing to sign these forms would be expelled from the city and, in this way; the regime ensured that thousands of Kurds were expelled from Kirkuk. Even after this census, the regime continued its policy of expulsion. In declarations made by Izzat Ibrahim, vice-president and responsible for arabization in Kirkuk, it was publicly declared that no non-Arab would be permitted to remain in Kirkuk.[]

To date, more than 108,000 people have been expelled from the areas under the control of the regime, especially from Kirkuk. Most of these people are now living in camps in appalling conditions and are dependent on aid from international relief organisations. As a result of their continuing misery, some of them, especially the young people, try to make their way to Europe illegally and many lose their money, and sometimes their lives, before arriving there.

Sadly, the international community still ignores the plight of these people. It puts no pressure on the Iraqi regime to halt this racist policy, which is completely contrary to Security Council Resolution No. 688 of 1991 and against all those international documents to which, as a member of the UN and its organisations, Iraq is a signatory. Meanwhile, the majority of the Iraqi opposition still refuses to condemn the regime’s policy which endangers co-existence between Kurds and Arabs in Iraq and which will probably lead to the disintegration of the Iraqi state.

From the Iraqi regime’s ability to continue expelling the people of Kirkuk from their homes, in flagrant violation of international law and Resolution No.688, which condemns this policy, it is obvious that it will not stop unless forced to do so by the resolve of the international community. Only in this way will those expelled be able to return to their homes and the Arab settlers be sent back to the parts of Iraq from which they came originally. This will only happen when all of the Kurdish region which remains under the control of the regime, especially Kirkuk, comes under the control of the international community until Saddam Hussein’s regime ends and democracy is established in Iraq. This would provide the only guarantee of protection for the civilian population there. The request for this was made by 122 Kurdish civil organisations and political parties, both inside and outside Kurdistan, supported by several organisations and public figures in Europe, in a memorandum presented to the Security Council, other international organisations and western states on 29th December 2000.[25] The memorandum also stressed that such a measure would contribute “to the establishing of peace and security in the otherwise turbulent Middle East”.


[1] 1 Mohammed Amin Zaki, “The History of Kurdish States and Emirates in the Islamic Era”, translated from Kurdish to Arabic by Mohammed Ali Awni, 2nd edition, London, 1986, pp 276 - 291 and from pp 416 - 422.

[2] Sheikh Rezza Talabany is one of the foremost Kurdish poets. To date, six editions of his poetry have been published: in Baghdad in 1935 and 1946, in Iran, in Sweden in 1996, in Sulaymania in 1999 and, most recently, in Arbil in 2000. Many studies have been written about his poems - one of them in English by G.D.Edmonds. On 2nd May 2001, the M.Sc. thesis of Mr. Hawkar Raouf Mohammed was presented for discussion at the College of Art at the University of Sulaymania. (“Al Itihad”, a weekly Kurdish paper, No.419, of May 4, 2001).

[3] Ata Terzibashi, “The Kirkuk Poets” vol.2, in Turkish, printed by Al - Jamhuriah Press, Kirkuk 1968, and p.144.

[4] Shamsadin Sami, “Qamus Al - A’alam” Istanbul, Mihran Press, 1315 Hi/1896.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Abdul-Majid Fahmi Hassan, “A Guide to the History of Iraqi Liwas - Kirkuk Liwa”, vol.2, Dijla Press, Baghdad, 1947, pp 284 and 301.

[7] Enc. Islam, s.v. “Kirkuk”.

[8] Brian Cooper Bush. “Britain, India and Arabs” p.40, and Marian Kent, “Oil and Empire” p.120. Nouri Talabany, “Southern Kurdistan and International Law” in “An Analysis of the Legal Rights of the Kurdish People” pub. By The Ahmed Foundation for Kurdish Studies, Virginia, USA, 2000, p.96.

[9] Nouri Talabany, Ibid.

[10] Nouri Talabany, “Arabization of the Kirkuk Region”, pub. In Sweden by Kurdistan Studies Press, 2001, p.34.

[11] Nouri Talabany, “La Politique de l’Arabisation de la Region de Kirkuk”, Speech given at Green Party of France Conference on Economic Sanctions and Human Rights in Iraq, Assemble National, Paris, 5 February 2001

[12] Walid Hamdi, “Kurds and Kurdistan in British Documents”, a documentary study published in Arabic in London, 1992, p.186.

[13] Jabar Kader, “Kirkuk: A Century and a half of The Policy of Turkisization and Arabization (in Arabic), Iraqi File Magazine No.99, March 2000, p.42.

[14] Abdul Majid Fahmi Hassan, Ibid., p.54.

[15] Ahmed Najmadin, “Population Conditions in Iraq”, Cairo, Arab Studies Institute, 1970, p. 109. In 1921, when Britain occupied Iraq, they estimated the ethnic composition of Kirkuk as 75,000 Kurds, 35,000 Turks, 10,000 Arabs, 1000 Jews and 600 Childo/Assyrians. The 1957 census gave the figures as 48.3% Kurds, 28.2% Arabs, 21.2% Turkmans.

[16] Nouri Talabany, “Arabization of the Kirkuk Region”, p. 35.

[17] Ibid. pp. 36-38.

[18] Ibid. The text of these memoranda is published in Appendix II, p 104 - 113.

[19] Nouri Talabany, “Kurdo/Turkman Relations”, “Ra'yat-ul Islam” Magazine, Vol.1, Year 15, No.1, March 2001, p.2.

[20] Nouri Talabany, “Arabization of the Kirkuk Region”, p.43.

[21] Ibid. P.51.

[22] This was my experience when I was made redundant for political reasons from my post as Professor of Law at Baghdad University in December 1982. I was not allowed to return to my city of Kirkuk where my family has lived for six generations and was obliged to settle in the city of Arbil. The lorry driver who took our belongings from Baghdad to Arbil, via Kirkuk, later told me that a Security Service agent from the entry checkpoint of Kirkuk accompanied him until the exit checkpoint to be certain that he had left Kirkuk!

[23] Ibid. P.66.

[24] Al Hayat newspaper of 29th September 2000.

[25] The text of this memorandum can be found in “Arabization of the Kirkuk Region” by Nouri Talabany, published in Sweden by the Kurdistan Studies Press, 2001,p.131.