Iraq: Future Status of Kirkuk: Note
for the Foreign Affairs Committee
1. Iraq's constitution requires a referendum
to be held in Kirkuk before the end of 2007. The constitution
is subject to a review process due to be completed by late 2007
so this requirement could be amended in the coming months.
2. Kirkuk has historically been an ethnically
and religiously mixed city. It is of strategic and economic importance
given its proximity to substantial oil fields. Iraqi Kurds assert
that Kirkuk is predominantly a Kurdish city and want to see it
become part of the Kurdistan Regional Government area. Other communities
dispute this. The interference of past Iraqi governments with
the demographic make-up of the city has complicated the issue.
3. Turkey, Iran and Syria are concerned
about the impact of any change in Kirkuk's status on their own
significant Kurdish populations.
4. As the UK, our key concern is to do what
we can, working with Iraqi and international partners, to ensure
that the process leading up to a referendum and the referendum
itself is as fair and transparent as possible and that it reflects
the views of the different communities concerned. This is essential
if the outcome is to be accepted in Kirkuk, Iraq and beyond and
to avoid contributing to instability or insecurity.
5. Kirkuk is an historically mixed region
which includes significant populations of Kurds, Turkomans, Arabs,
Assyrians, and Armenians. The last reasonably reliable census
was in 1957. At that time the population of Kirkuk city was 388,939:
37.6% Turkoman, 33.3% Kurds and 22.5% Arabs. Figures for Kirkuk
Province were 48.3% Kurds, 22.5% Arab, 21.4% Turkoman, with the
remaining population Assyrian and others.
6. There are no reliable figures for the
current population of Kirkuk city and province. April 2003 estimates
put the population of the city of Kirkuk at between 700,000 and
850,000 with the population of the province as a whole at 1.2
million. 2004 estimates suggested a mix of 30% or more Kurds and
Arabs, 21% or more Turkoman, with under 10% each for Assyrian
and other populations.
7 Successive Iraqi governments most notably
Saddam's attempt to secure Arab control of northern oil fields
by moving Kurds, Turkomans and Assyrians away from, and Arabs
into, the region. Human Rights Watch and the US Committee for
Refugees reported that somewhere between 120,000 and 200,000 Kurds,
Turkmen and Assyrians were expelled from Kirkuk in the second
half of the 1970s. This policy continued until 2003.
8. Articles 53(A) and 58 of Iraq's Transitional
Administrative Law outlined mechanisms to resolve border, property
and employment disputes arising from earlier "Arabisation"
policies [full text attached at Annex A]. These principles were
subsequently incorporated into Article 140 of Iraq's current Constitution
First: The executive authority shall undertake
the necessary steps to complete the implementation of the requirements
of all subparagraphs of Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative
Second: The responsibility placed upon the
executive branch of the Iraqi Transitional Government stipulated
in Article 58 of the Transitional Administrative Law shall extend
and continue to the executive authority elected in accordance
with this Constitution, provided that it accomplishes completely
(normalisation and census and concludes with a referendum inKirkuk
and other disputed territories to determine the will of their
citizens), by a date not to exceed the 31 of December 2007.
9. The constitution does not set out the
question to be put to voters in the referendum. Options for Kirkuk's
future status, as we understand them include:
joining with the KRG administered
region of northern Iraq;
special status as an independent
joining with (non-KRG) adjoining
provinces to form a region.
10. Following formation of Iraq's new Government
in 2006, Prime Minister Maliki announced in the Iraqi Government
Work Programme a timeline for the process leading up to the referendum:
normalisation process (to resolve
property ownership disputes and to finalise the process of returning
internal administrative boundaries) by 29 March 2007;
beginning of the census 31 July
referendum by 15 November 2007.
11. In July 2006 Prime Minister Maliki established
a ten-member "Article 140 Committee" under the chairmanship
of Justice Minister Al Shibli to take work forward. Five sub-committees
(finance, fact-finding, secretariat, technical and monitoring)
have been established and $200 million allocated for their work
but, to date, only $20 million has been disbursed and substantive
progress on the key issues has been slow, By spring 2006 the Iraq
Property Claims Commission (now called the Commission for Real
Property Dispute Resolution) had received over 130,000 claims
and processed some 9,500 cases by reinstating ownership titles.
But ethnic tension and the lack of a compensation programme have
marred the process.
12 To our knowledge no significant preparations
for the census have taken place. Arrangements for the referendum,
including monitoring arrangements, are also unclear. It will be
important that implementing and monitoring organisations are credible
to all stakeholders. We would like to see the involvement of Iraq's
Electoral Commission and the UN.
13. Time for the process is passing quickly.
Violence in and around Kirkuk has increased in recent months.
While the Turkoman and Assyrians do not currently have significant
armed militias the prospect of their taking up arms if they continue
to feel left out of the process or disgruntled by the result of
the referendum, remains real. Members of the Jaysh al Mahdi have
been active in Kirkuk for some time.
Positions on the process
14. Iraqi Kurds are keen to restore Kirkuk
to what they see as its rightful position at the heart of Kurdish
northern Iraq. Since 2003 the KRG has been encouraging Kurds to
"return" to Kirkuk from other parts of Iraq. They successfully
campaigned with the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq to
ensure that returning Kurds were able to register and vote in
elections in 2005. The Kurds have reportedly been offering financial
and material incentives to attract returnees to the region.
15. Many Turkomans, and Arabs are concerned
about what they view as Kurdish attempts to rig the process.
16. The Turkoman community is divided on
Kirkuk. A significant number are deeply concerned about Kurdish
ambitions for the region. The Iraq Turkoman Front has proposed
that the referendum be postponed for 10 years and, together with
representatives of the Arab community, suggested that local government
in Kirkuk be shared between the communities: 32% Turkoman, 32%
Arab, 30% Kurd and 60% others. This is unlikely to be acceptable
to the Kurds.
17. Some Iraqis, including non-Kurds, suggest
that somealthough by no means all of the largely Shia Arabs
who came to Kirkuk as a result of Arabisation policies might be
willing to leave Kirkuk if the right sort of compensation were
on offer. Most Sunni Arabs oppose the idea of Kirkuk and its oilfields
falling under the control of the KRG, believing they will lose
out on land and economic rights. Some fear that such a move could
threaten the territorial integrity of Iraq.
18. Assyrians have been non-committal and
have purposely avoided being drawn into supporting any particular
19. Turkey. Syria and Iran follow events
surrounding Kirkuk with great interest, and are concerned about
implications for their own Kardish communities, The Turks are
deeply concerned about the using levels of violence in Kirkuk
and are arguing that the referendum should be delayed a few years
until there is greater security and stability They also advocate
a process whereby all the communities represented in Kirkukeach
a mutually agreed outcome to be put to a referendum.
20. The Kurds will want to be reassured
that the outcome of the referendum will be endorsed by the international
community, and particularly by the US. The US, therefore, have
a key influence over the process. The recent US Iraq Study Group
report recommended that the referendum on Kirkuk be delayed beyond
2007. We would like to see the UN, in cooperation with the Government
of Iraq, play a role in ensuring the integrity of the referendum
21. As the UK, our key concern is to do
what we can to ensure that the process leading up to a referendum
and the referendum itself is as fair and transparent as possible;
that it reflects the views of the different communities concerned;
that the result is thus widely accepted within Iraq and internationally
and that any adverse impact on local and regional security is
kept to a minimum. We are working with the Government of Iraq,
the KRG and other Iraqi stakeholders and with the US, UN and other
international partners to achieve this.
Iraq Policy Unit