MESOP : Kurds should stop pursuing some disputed regions: Iraq / Mohammed Ihsan KRG

8-9-2014 – Kurdpress – The Kurds should let go of claims over many disputed towns and villages with Arab majority populations, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) point person for disputed territories said.

Mohammed Ihsan, chief of the KRG’s committee for the disputed regions, is advocating for the KRG to only lay claim to Kurdish-majority areas, a controversial strategy that would require the Kurds give up on areas that they maintain are historically Kurdish. Ihsan told Rudaw that progress has been made on implementing Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, which outlines steps to determine whether areas disputed by Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen should be administered by Baghdad or join the KRG. The demography of the towns, villages and cities in question — including oil-rich Kirkuk — was altered under a Baathist campaign that “Arabized” the areas by kicking out Kurds and Turkmen and moving in Arabs. The constitution requires that Iraqis displaced by Arabization be compensated and moved back to the original areas, a process that many Arabs, who have lived in disputed areas for decades, have resisted. Kurds see Article 140 as a way to remedy the injustices of Arabization policies and strengthen the Kurdistan Region, but the article is among the most contentious in the constitution.Ihsan suggested that rather than continue pushing the issue, “it is time for Kurds to think realistically and try to find viable solutions, even if it means to give up some of the areas of disputed territories.” He recommended giving up claims to Arab-majority towns, particularly those whose Arab residents may not have entirely been brought in under Arabization.Ihsan used Hawija in Kirkuk province as an example, arguing that incorporating and its surrounding villages into the KRG “would be a huge disaster. It’s better if Hawija stays out of Kurdistan. Some of the Arab residents of Hawija, Rabia, and even Mandali, Badra and Jassan in Wasit province, which are part of the disputed territories, were settled in those areas even before the beginning of the Arabization process in 1968. Therefore, the KRG can’t legally ask those Arabs to leave the area.”

He warned, “If the Kurds pursue the same policy that was pursued against Kurds, we would put ourselves in a dangerous situation and we might lose some Kurdish territories as a result of that.”Ihsan also suggested that any referendum on whether to incorporate areas into the Kurdistan Region should be held locally. “We have suggested holding referendums on a sub-district level because aside from Kirkuk holding them on a provincial level wouldn’t be in our favor,” he said. “Kurds aren’t the majority in Nineveh, Diyala, Salahaddin and Wasit provinces.” Ihsan said the KRG has made enormous strides toward holding a referendum, including using the 1957 census to identify eligible voters. He said his department had even prepared IDs for potential voters but outgoing Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government “cancelled everything.” Ihsan maintained that a new government wouldn’t make a difference.  “Given the mentality that dominates Baghdad, I don’t expect steps will be taken to implement Article 140,” he said.