The security situation in Kirkuk remains tenuous as a result of deep ethnic cleavages and history of violence in the region. Kirkuk is known as one of the most violent hotspots in all of Iraq and the prospect of the referendum occurring is likely to instigate further political conflicts and violence. The ethnic conflicts between Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmens and their ongoing struggle for power fuel the persistent insecurity in Kirkuk and make security a chief priority for any type of electoral mission surrounding the referendum. Each of the three groups at play here stake a claim to “ownership” of the Kirkuk region. The struggle for power has historical roots in the 1900s, particularly as the Arabization of Iraq inflamed cultural and racial differences. In addition to ethnic and political motivations, basic turf wars and property disputes motivate much of the violence in Kirkuk, primarily between Kurds and Arabs. In the post-invasion period, Kurds returned to areas that they had previously vacated, many of which had since been populated by Arabs. Conflicts that began as simple property disputes escalated into full-fledged violence and “house jackings,” further intensifying the Arab-Kurd conflict.
After the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, security in Kirkuk was managed by U.S. forces and Kurdish peshmerga (armed forces). In fact, in the post-invasion chaos, the peshmerga stabilized Kirkuk before U.S. special forces even arrived. Today, the peshmerga, the Iraqi national army, Iraqi police, the asayesh (Kurdish secret police), and the Awakening Councils share in the responsibility of managing security in Kirkuk. The scheduled withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2011 complicates the security situation throughout the country.
What is CKRO?
The Center for Kirkuk Referendum Operations (CKRO) is a collaborative initiative of the Center for Democracy and Society at Georgetown University. A policy institute and professional network, CKRO seeks to enable a successful vote in Iraq and refine the model for status referenda worldwide.
You can contact the Center at any time via email at CKRO@georgetown.edu.
From the Democracy and Society Blog
May 21, 2013
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