Things remain tense in Ninewa province. Since the January 2009 elections, the province has been divided between the ruling Al-Hadbaa party and the Ninewa Fraternal List. The Kurdish Fraternal List was previously in power, but was defeated by Al-Hadbaa who ran on a largely anti-Kurdish campaign. Since the new council was seated in April the Fraternal List has been boycotting it. They have been steadily upping the ante.
On June 9 there was a shootout between Kurdish peshmerga forces and police in Zammar as Al-Hadba council member Ahmed Awad al-Sheikh Issa was visiting. Issa claimed that he was seeing local officials there when peshmerga forces surrounded the building. When the police came, they exchanged gunfire with the peshmerga. According to IraqSlogger, the officials that Issa met with were later arrested by the peshmerga and taken to Dohuk in Kurdistan.
Four days later Al-Sharqiyah Television reported that the Fraternal List was considering setting up their own administration of districts and towns in Ninewa with Kurdish majorities that were refusing to cooperate with the Ninewa council. The head of the List Khisru Guran said that the move would be unconstitutional, but that there were all kinds of violations of the law such as not implementing Article 140 that is to resolve the future of disputed territories.
Finally, on June 20 former Deputy Governor of Ninewa and Fraternal List member Khasro Ghoran told teachers in Bashiqa that they should only run their classes in Kurdish from now on. The town was the sight of an earlier confrontation when Kurdish forces refused to allow the Al-Hadbaa governor of Ninewa Atheel al-Najafi to attend a sporting event there in early May.
As would be expected, the Al-Hadbaa party has condemned all of these moves. Various officials have said that the Kurds are trying to divide the people of Ninewa and sow dissent. They have also said any attempt to form a separate Kurdish led government in the province would be illegal. They have also accused the peshmerga of human rights abuses and violating the law. Overall, Governor Najafi has said he will only cooperate with the Kurds if they give up their aspirations to annex parts of Ninewa and withdraw their militia.
Outside forces are in the process of trying to mediate this dispute. At the beginning of June the Iraqi Islamic Party said they were sending officials to Ninewa to talk with both sides. The Islamic Party holds three seats on the Ninewa council, and has an alliance with the Kurds in parliament. The new U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Christopher Hill has also offered his assistance. The Kurds have talked to him, and the brother of Governor Najafi, a parliamentarian said that he hopes that the U.S. can help. Finally, the Sadrists in parliament have sent a delegation to meet with the parties.
Neither side seems willing to compromise in this dispute. While three different groups have gone to Ninewa, there has been no word of any breakthroughs or dialogue between Al-Hadbaa and the Fraternal List. The Kurds are demanding that they be given leading positions in the council, while Al-Hadbaa is asking that the Kurds given up any aspirations they might have over disputed areas in the province. The bigger threat of course, is that this might lead to violence. The shoot out in Zammar could’ve easily escalated. The Americans are especially worried about this as they withdraw. In the short-term at least, things look like they will only get worse in the province.
Aswat al-Iraq, “IIP delegation to visit Ninewa to work out solutions to power sharing,” 6/2/09
- “Ninewa chieftains protest Peshmerga, Asayesh presence,” 5/12/09
- “Sadrist delegation in Mosul to defuse crisis,” 6/13/09
Dagher, Sam, “Tensions Stoked Between Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis,” New York Times, 5/18/09
Hamad, Qassim Khidhir, “arab domination rejected by kurds in makhmour,” Niqash, 5/22/09
Al-Hayat, “US ambassador to Iraq offers to mediate between Kurds, Arabs in Mosul – paper,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, 6/4/09
Sbay, “Iraq Kurdish officials and Ninewa governor’s exchange accusations – website,” BBC Monitoring International Reports, 5/30/09
Al-Sharqiyah Television, “Iraq roundup: Al-Sadr Trend mediates in Ninawa; security incidents,” BBC Monitoring Service, 6/14/09
Smith, Daniel, “Arabic Language Barred in Ba’shiqa Schools,” IraqSlogger.com, 6/20/09
- “Gunfire Between Pesh Merga and Al-Hadba Guards,” IraqSlogger.com, 6/12/09