Protesters disrupt key Kirkuk-Erbil road in political demonstrations

Protesters disrupt key Kirkuk-Erbil road in political demonstrations

Shafaq News / Demonstrators, aligned with various Arab and Turkmen political factions, took action today by blocking the main road connecting Kirkuk to the capital of the Kurdistan Region (KRI), Erbil, for the second consecutive day. The protest aimed at contesting the Kurdistan Democratic Party's (KDP) decision to reopen its headquarters in Kirkuk.

Following the military operation launched by the federal government on disputed areas between Erbil and Baghdad after the independence referendum conducted by KRI in September 2017, KDP vacated its premises and institutional establishments in Kirkuk. This move came alongside the withdrawal of Peshmerga and Asayish forces from the said areas.

Against this backdrop, the head of the Turkmen bloc in the Iraqi Parliament, Deputy Arshad al-Salehi, called for Kirkuk's exclusion from the state management deal that encompasses the political forces participating in the formation of the current federal government under the leadership of Mohammed Shia AlSudani.

Al-Salehi stated, "The governing political blocs in Baghdad should remove Kirkuk from the political favoritism that was stipulated in the State Management Coalition meeting, which was part of the political agreement and endorsed by the majority of the blocs within the State Management Coalition, despite our strong objections."

He continued, "In light of the peaceful protests and the blockage of the vital main road between Erbil and Kirkuk – a road that passes by the command headquarters of the Joint Operations in Kirkuk – the protesters demand that the operations command not be evacuated, deeming it a state asset that no political party is entitled to acquire through political agreements."

Al-Salehi expressed "serious concern," echoing the sentiment of Turkmen bloc parliamentarians, "about the escalation of the political dispute between Baghdad and Erbil, with the people of Kirkuk bearing the brunt."

He urged the "international community to intervene immediately to resolve the complex issue of Kirkuk, instead of leaving it susceptible to deals and political favors, fearing the impending deterioration of societal harmony in Kirkuk."

The head of the KDP's Kirkuk branch, Mohammed Kamal, revealed two days ago, on Monday, to Shafaq News Agency that "partisan factions affiliated with armed groups have established a protest camp on the Kirkuk-Erbil road in the Shuraw area."

He indicated that the road blockade was authorized by the security authorities and the Kirkuk operations command.

Kamal further explained that official directives and confirmations had been issued by the Prime Minister's Office and security authorities to evacuate 33 KDP offices across Kirkuk from the security formations and armed factions.

He noted that the evacuation orders had been issued long ago, however "adverse forces are attempting to protect their national interests at the expense of our political, demographic, and constitutional rights."

Kamal accused what he referred to as "chauvinistic and biased forces" of attempting to obstruct the KDP's return to its political headquarters and its constitutionally guaranteed activities.

He expressed surprise at the exploitation of the KDP's premises issue by a small number of Arab and Turkmen figures to conceal their deep-seated problems and conflicts.

Kamal noted that several KDP offices are under the control of the Joint Operations, while others are occupied by armed factions. Additionally, the party's properties in Kirkuk have been seized by armed factional groups. He pointed out that the KDP remains a crucial political cornerstone in Kirkuk and had not opposed the interests and aspirations of any group or sect in Kirkuk before vacating its premises in 2017.

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