The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) insists on taking back all its headquarters in Kirkuk, including its leadership headquarters per a decision by Mohammed Shia Sudani, the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces.
Massoud Mullah Parwez, head of the party's Kirkuk branch, told KirkukNow that the decision of Prime Minister reached Kirkuk 20 days ago on behalf of the commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces.
"The KDP headquarters seized in Kirkuk belong to the KDP and the decision must be implemented," he said.
PM’s decision to hand over KDP headquarters has reached Kirkuk
The statement came after a number of demonstrators gathered in front of the headquarters of the Joint Operations Command in Shoraw neighborhood of Kirkuk last night, blocking the road connecting Kirkuk to Erbil, and demanded that the headquarters not be handed over to the KDP.
The current headquarters of Kirkuk Joint Operations Command in Shoraw neighborhood was previously the main office of the KDP leadership in Kirkuk, until October 16, 2017 when the Iraqi forces returned to Kirkuk and the Peshmerga and Kurdish forces retreated to Erbil and Sulaymaniyah northern provinces.
The demonstrators, mainly Arabs, in front of the headquarters, in a live coverage by (KirkukNow) stressed that inside the headquarters when the KDP was there, allegedly, "violence has been committed against Kirkuk residents, including Arabs, inside the headquarters.”
Violence has been committed against Kirkuk residents, including Arabs, inside the headquarters
"Such treatment will destroy brotherhood and coexistence in Kirkuk. The current administration and the security forces can answer whether the demonstration is official, whether they have been given permission or not, if they have permission, who gave them permission," KDP official said about the demonstrations.
After the events of October 16, 2017, when the Iraqi forces returned to the disputed territories and the forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG withdrew, the KDP left all its headquarters in the disputed territories, including Mosul and Kirkuk, and during 2021 parliamentary elections, the party's candidates kept returning for the purpose of campaigning, but they were prevented from doing so in some areas, and at that time they seized part of the party headquarters, the number of which, according to (KirkukNow) follow-up, reached about 100 party and security offices.
The oil rich city of Kirkuk, located 238 kilometers north of Baghdad, is an ethnically mixed province of 1.7 million Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Arabs, and Turkmens. It has long been at the center of disputes between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.
Kurds accuse the Arabs of being supporters of Saddam Hussein regime which massacared the Kurds in the 1970s till the 1990s while Arabs and Turkmen accuse the Kurds, particularly KDP and PUK of reprisal after 2003 by leading arbitrary arrests, detnetions, assassinations and executions up to 2017, the period they were holding the senior admin and security positions of Kirkuk and the disputed territories.
"We have an official license to work politically throughout Iraq, and the headquarters are our property. We cannot stand against any decision from Iraq and block the way of the people. The decision has arrived and must be implemented," KDP official defiantly said.
According to the agenda of the Sudani’s cabinet, which took office on October 27, 2022 in Baghdad in the presence of 253 MPs, all Kurdish parties in Kirkuk, Nineveh, Diyala and Salahaddin have the right to political activities and can resume their headquarters.
On October 17, 2019, former Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi made the same decision, but under the influence of demonstrators and protests by Arab and Turkmen lawmakers in the Iraqi parliament, the decision was not implemented.
Then, Rakan Saeed, acting governor of Kirkuk, told Kirkuk Now, "The prime minister's decision to hand over the headquarters should be canceled, and the central government should agree through a meeting and designate another place for the KDP headquarters.”
In 2020, when a similar attempt was made to hand over the headquarters, the Arab Front in Kirkuk – consisting of a number of Arab parties and tribal chiefs – through KirkukNow expressed their opposition to the attempt.
“It is the property of the Ministry of Oil and was built with people's money. We do not want the headquarters to become a place of punishment, torture and killing of innocent citizens again," their spokesman Mohammed Rayashi said.
The KDP has repeatedly described Kirkuk as "occupied" and said it will not return to Kirkuk until the situation is normalized, which is why it did not participate in the 2018 parliamentary elections.
However, in the 2021 parliamentary elections, KDP won two of the 13 parliamentary seats of the province and will participate in the Kirkuk provincial council elections scheduled for December 18.
"The return of the KDP to Kirkuk will have a positive impact on the results of the provincial council elections, in the interest of the Kurds and the KDP," senior official of KDP in Kirkuk said.