Friday, April 13, 2007

Kirkuk, Oil and the Kurds

Encouraging Ethnic Chauvinism


".....As I mentioned before, the Baa'th regime did indeed initiate a demographic change in Kirkuk, but this political campaign affected all the non-Arabs of Kirkuk not just the Kurds. One of the problems with nearly everything said or done in occupied Iraq is that narratives have been simplified and their content maligned to fit particular interests. Assyrian, Turkish, Kurdish and even Armenian peoples were all affected by demographic changes in Kirkuk......

Since the 2003 invasion of the country myth has taken precedence over history and Kurdish politicians have adopted the methods of that other myth-based nation-state in the region-Israel, to establish claims on the oil reach city. During the invasion, Kurdish peshmerga (militias) entered Kirkuk and established de facto control of the city. Since then, as has been reported by the Center for Research on Globalization, Kurdish militias have forcibly evicted people from their homes, engaged in murder, assassination and a slow ethnic cleansing. The first victims in this regard have been the Arabs. Since the Arabs there are largely associated with Baa'th policy they have seen little support from the regime in Baghdad. Less publicized has been the targeting of Assyrians and other smaller minorities in the region. But the largest group in the city-and the one that promises to be the most resistant to Kurdish aggression-is the Turcomen. Ethnically Turks, the Turcomen have lived in the area for over eight-hundred years and have strong ties to Turkey. It has also been widely reported that Israeli intelligence officials have been working closely with Kurdish leader and have established a strong foothold in the area. This development raises some serious issues about so-called Kurdistan acting as a staging point for Israeli operations in the rest of the country.

When we take a look at the rhetoric surrounding Kirkuk it would seem to come right out of an Israeli playbook. Kirkuk is now being called the "Jerusalem of the Kurds." Or as one Kurdish writer put it, "Kirkuk has always been sacred to Kurds as Karbala and Najaf to Shiite Muslims and all other Shiite cities and towns. [sic]" In light of this supposed devotion tens of thousands of Kurds have been coming into Kirkuk to change the demographic reality "on the ground." This policy very much resembles Israeli activities in the West Bank, where the Jewish settlers have been encouraged to settle in the contested area, explicitly to complicate the area's status. It is no surprise that an area rich in oil has now become "sacred" to the Kurds. But is it or are the more general claims being made on Kirkuk warranted?......

......Secondly, it underscores how pathetic claims to Kirkuk as a "holy city" are. When an official census was conducted in the area in 1957, Kurds did not constitute a majority in the city. This is in 1957, well before Saddam Hussein or his Arabization policy.

Well these facts speak to the more complex truth around Kirkuk, the aggressive activities of Kurdish militias continue under the auspices of the United States and the puppet regime in Baghdad. But what is most disturbing is that the events concerning Kirkuk are just another testament to the ideology of institutionalised racism imposed on Iraqi society.

Since the invasion, the United States encouraged ethnic chauvinism and consistently hinted at dividing the country up into ethnic or sectarian sections. Should this policy continue, Kurdistan will become a small fascist state with a lot of oil, that will be busy oppressing its large, very large, minority population and begging the US for bases to "protect" it from its neighbours, who are "different." And, of course, the US will gladly oblige, just as it does in the Gulf States because, after all, that is where the oil is. "

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