Bringing Democracy to Kirkuk

Ethnic tensions in Kirkuk take a dangerous turn
07 Feb 2007 15:05:16 GMT
Source: IRIN

BAGHDAD, 7 February (IRIN) – Nearly 500 Arabs took to the streets on Wednesday morning in the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, some 290km north of the capital, Baghdad, denouncing a decision by a governmental committee to relocate tens of thousands of mostly Shi’ite Arabs currently living in the city.

“We vehemently reject this decision. We will not leave Kirkuk by force or without force. If they [Kurds] try to force us out of the city, then there will be dangerous reactions against them,” said Sheikh Raad al-Najafi, 37, an Arab Shi’ite religious cleric at the Kirkuk office of the radical Shi’ite leader Muqtada al-Sadr.

“Implementing this decision is against the benefit of Iraq in general, and Kirkuk in particular, in terms of security and stability,” al-Najafi told IRIN in a telephone interview while he was taking part in the demonstration.

On Sunday, the Iraqi Higher Committee for the Normalisation of Kirkuk ruled that Arabs who moved to the city from other parts of Iraq after 14 July 1968 – when the Ba’athist party of former president Saddam Hussein came to power – would be returned to their original towns and given monetary compensation.

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