Prof. Dr. İsmail Şahin has made special statements regarding the conflicts in Kirkuk since the beginning of last week. Could an ethnic and sectarian conflict be ignited in the region? What are the roots of these conflicts?
OĞUZHAN OSMAN BİLGİN – BURSA (İGFA) – Prof. Dr. İsmail Şahin evaluated the conflicts in Kirkuk and the general situation in the region for Herkes Duysun (Everyone Should Know). Şahin stated that Turkmens and Arabs have significant fears of being forcibly displaced and of the disruption of the population balance.
“PEŞMERGE STRENGTHENED THEIR POSITION UNDER THE PRETEXT OF FIGHTING ISIS”
Highlighting that the inability to establish a strong central authority in Iraq and the instability created by the ISIS terrorist organization allowed the Peshmerga forces affiliated with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to significantly expand their areas of control by carrying out operations to remove ISIS from Iraq, Şahin said, “Kirkuk is one of the cities within this context. In 2014, when conflicts were at their peak, the Peshmerga forces almost entirely took control of the city. The control area seized by the Peshmerga forces under the pretext of fighting ISIS greatly disturbed the Turkmens and Arabs living in the region. This discomfort reached its peak with the so-called ‘independence referendum’ organized by the KRG on September 25, 2017. Because KRG leader Masoud Barzani claimed that these lands belonged to the KRG and stated that the referendum would also cover these lands. Forces loyal to the Iraqi central government entered Kirkuk on October 16, 2017, to prevent Kirkuk from being annexed by the KRG and put an end to the presence of the Peshmerga in the city. Additionally, the Iraqi army vacated the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) building and turned it into the Kirkuk Operations Command Headquarters.”
“THE DECISION TO HAND OVER THE BUILDING TO KDP REIGNITED THE INCIDENTS”
Şahin stated that Iraqi Prime Minister Muhammed Shia al-Sudani gave the order for the KDP building to be handed over to them again, saying, “Incidents erupted following this decision. Groups consisting of Arabs and Turkmens who opposed the handover of the building under the control of the army closed the Erbil-Kirkuk road as a protest. In response to this incident, groups affiliated with the KDP first attacked the security forces in the city center and then targeted the protest area maintained by Arabs and Turkmens. To prevent the situation from escalating further, security forces also intervened with both sides.”
“TURKMENS AND ARABS ARE WORRIED”
Şahin stated that Turkmens and Arabs are concerned about Kirkuk being brought back under the control of the KRG and gradually annexed, saying, “Turkmens and Arabs have great fears of being forcibly displaced and of the disruption of the population balance. In other words, this is not just a simple building or road incident.”