October 27, 2016
Activists and Iraqi human rights organisations have confirmed that largely Arab refugees are being forcibly deported from the oil-rich Iraqi city of Kirkuk by Kurdish authorities who are also destroying their homes.
The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR) documented several cases of Arab residents and internally displaced people (IDPs) being warned by the Kurdish security services, the Asayish, that they had to depart the area in days.
Not long after, images emerged on social media showing the destruction of refugee shantytowns that used to be inhabited by Arab IDPs fleeing violence in other parts of the country. Reports suggest that this may have been in order to force them to become refugees elsewhere.
These incidences come after significant intelligence failures allowed Daesh militants to breach Kirkuk’s defences last week, killing dozens of security personnel and some civilians in attacks across the city.
Many reports suggested that the Daesh fighters who attacked Kirkuk were Kurds rather than Arabs.
The Kurdish authorities have denied that they are forcibly deporting Arab citizens and IDPs, and have similarly denied that any reprisals are being committed against them in retaliation for Daesh’s assault last week.
Azad Jabari, chief of the security committee in the Kirkuk provincial council, said that these actions were “individual behaviours” of Asayish officers, and did not represent official policy.
However, IOHR has stated that it is “bewildered” by these denials, as it has documented several families informing them that Asayish officers demanded that they hand over their identification documents before forcing them out.
Not only where they rendered homeless, but the lack of identification papers raises the risk that they will be deemed as Daesh infiltrators by the Iraqi authorities and incarcerated or worse.
Hussein Ahmad, 33, was displaced from Tel Afar to Kirkuk. He said that a Kurdish official “visited me in my home accompanied by armed members of the Kurdish security forces, and asked me and my family to leave the city within one day.”
IOHR cited anonymous Kurdish security sources as stating that IDPs were viewed as a security risk in Kurdish-controlled areas.
“The purpose behind the decision to deport them is to transfer them to the camps to better guarantee their rights,” the Kurdish security source said, without elaborating upon how deportation would improve the rights of IDPs or Arab residents of Kirkuk.
Kirkuk has long been disputed, with Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens laying claims to the strategic northern Iraqi city. Although nominally under the control of Baghdad, Kirkuk has been controlled by Kurdish forces since the Iraqi army fled Daesh’s onslaught in 2014, stoking ethnic tensions.
Source: Middle East Monitor.