Iraqi Kurdistan: Makhmur Votes For Erbil Administration

MESOP 12.10.2012 – A recent poll shows that both Kurdish and Arab inhabitants of the disputed town of Makhmur want to return to Erbil’s administration.

Below is an article by Rudaw:

According to a recent poll conducted by the office of Makhmur’s mayor, the majority of residents want their town to return to being under Erbil’s administration. Makhmur is located 62 kilometers west of Erbil. Article 140 of the constitution defines the town as a disputed territory. In 1996, the Baath regime changed the town’s demographics and made it a district of Nineveh.      

The town’s population of around 25,000 people includes Kurds and Arabs. Mayor Rizgar Muhammad said that the Erbil administrative has been more active in his town than Nineveh province.

“Mainly, we take orders from Erbil rather than Nineveh,” he said. “We have revoked and suspended some of the regulations which we have received from Nineveh.”  Muhammad explained that the town is run by Erbil practically, but is under Nineveh province legally. According to the mayor, both Kurdish and Arab residents want the town to be run by Erbil. The results of the poll also indicated that the Arab tribal leaders wished for the district to return to being under Erbil’s administration.

“The residents are convinced that the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) cares more for their town,” Muhammad said. 

Himdad Muhammad, a resident of Makhmur, told Rudaw, “Since we came back here in 2003, I made many Arab friends. I know they all want Makhmur to return to being under Erbil’s administration. Because they know that the central government ignores their town. It is the KRG that provides services for the town.”

This year, the KRG dedicated a budget for housing, marriage and agriculture down payments for the people of Makhmur.  “Drought almost forced many people to desert the area. But since the KRG decided to help people with housing and agriculture down payments, some have decided to stay,” Muhammad said. “We hope this initiative by the KRG encourages people to stay.” Many people have registered for the down payments, the mayor said, adding that Kurds and Arabs benefit from equally from the program as long as they are from the town.

Unemployment is another factor that has forced many residents of the town to move to Erbil. The KRG has promised to find jobs for young people in the town to encourage them to stay.

“The KRG has provided us with employment forms for the college graduates,” Muhammad said. “They plan to hire all the graduate students in town.”

As part of the support program for people from the disputed territories, the KRG hired 500 people in Makhmur in 2008. Sirwan Sabir, 36, owns a restaurant in Makhmur. He agreed that the KRG initiatives have encouraged people to stay, and that a number of families returned to town when they heard about the promise of jobs. However Bakhtyar Mahmood, a journalist, said that the unemployment problem has forced more than 1,000 families to leave. “So far, I have not seen any families returning to Makhmur nor have I heard of anyone receiving housing down payments,” he said, adding that the town also lacks basic services such as water, electricity and hospitals.