Acting governor of Kirkuk Rakan Saeed al-Jiburi revealed that Iraqi PM Adil Abdul-Mahdi has ordered to hand over the headquarters of the Kurdistan Democratic party (KDP)’s leadership council in Kirkuk which has been used as headquarters of the Joint Operations Command following the October 16, 2017 events.
The decision which coincided with ongoing Baghdad-Erbil negotiations concerning Kirkuk and other territories disputed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi federal government has sparked outrage among the Arab component as dozens gathered on Tuesday October 15 in front of the Joint Operations Command headquarters to protest the move.
“As the Arab community in Kirkuk we demand that the security dossier remains in the hands of Iraqi forces. We don’t want other forces to get involved in this dossier in the name of protecting offices of Kurdish parties,” Muhammad Mz’al Mukhtar, an Arab demonstrator told KirkukNow.
“We have 4,000 Arabs who are still missing after they were held by Kurdistan Region authorities. We are also deeply resentful of the destruction of 180 Arab-populated villages during the war against the Islamic State (IS) group. If they return to Kirkuk ethnic violence woul break out.”
Another protestor said, “This headquarters is due to be handed over to the KDP, and we reject the decision. We have been living in peace and harmony over the past two years,”
The KDP is set to return to Kirkuk for the first time since October 2017 when Iraqi federal forces retook control of territories disputed by Baghdad and Erbil as a repercussion for a referendum on independence in the Kurdistan Region. The party’s entire offices were controlled by Iraqi forces including the headquarters of the KDP’s leadership council in Kirkuk located in Shoraw area.
The acting governor of Kirkuk stressed that the PM’s decision to hand over the former KDP headquarters should be reconsidered, suggesting that a new headquarters elsewhere in the city should be designated for the KDP.
Al-Jiburi added that the protestors support the staying of the Joint Operations Command in their current headquarters.
Commenting on the potential return of the KDP to Kirkuk, al-Jiburi said, “We are not against the return of any political parties. There are other places in Kirkuk which they could use as headquarters.”