The issue of Kirkuk is a complex and sensitive one. It involves historical, ethnic, and political factors, and has been complicated by the Iraq government’s policy of Arabization over several decades. Although the constitution provides clear steps to resolve the issue through Article 140, Iraqi governments have failed to implement it and have instead created more obstacles. Kirkuk is considered a disputed territory or disconnected area and has thus become a source of tension between Baghdad and Erbil and the various ethnic and religious groups in the region, including Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen. Resolving the Kirkuk issue requires a comprehensive approach that addresses the concerns and aspirations of all stakeholders.
Below are some possible steps that can be taken to work towards a solution:
1. Dialogue and negotiation: Open and inclusive dialogue and negotiation between Baghdad and Erbil, as well as other ethnic and religious groups in Kirkuk, is crucial. This could involve bringing all stakeholders to the table and engaging in meaningful discussions to identify common interests and find mutually acceptable solutions. The process should be transparent, inclusive, and based on respect for the rights and aspirations of all communities in Kirkuk.
2. Constitutional reforms: Reviewing the Iraqi constitution to clarify the status of Kirkuk and its governance can be an important step. The constitution should recognize the rights and identities of all ethnic and religious groups in Kirkuk and ensure their representation and participation in decision-making processes. This may involve revisiting constitutional articles related to Kirkuk, such as Article 140, which outlines a framework for resolving the status of disputed territories. This step must be preceded by a real census, conducted by the United Nations, to determine the true identities of those who have historically lived in the area.
3. Power-sharing arrangements: Establishing power-sharing arrangements in Kirkuk can help to address the concerns of different communities. This may involve sharing political, administrative, and economic power among Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, and other groups based on agreed-upon mechanisms that ensure fair representation and participation.
4. Security and stability: Ensuring security and stability in Kirkuk is critical to creating an environment conducive to resolution. All parties should commit to maintaining peace and stability, and efforts should be made to address security concerns and prevent any escalation of violence. This may involve deploying joint security forces that represent diverse ethnic and religious groups and building trust and confidence among the communities in Kirkuk.
5. Economic development: Promoting economic development and the equitable distribution of resources in Kirkuk can contribute to resolving the issue. This may involve investing in infrastructure, services, and economic projects that benefit all communities, create job opportunities, and address economic disparities between different groups.
6. International mediation: Engaging international mediators or facilitators can help create a neutral and impartial platform for negotiations and assist in finding solutions that are acceptable to all parties. International organizations with relevant experience in conflict resolution can play a constructive role in facilitating talks and building consensus.
7. Reconciliation and rebuilding trust: Reconciliation efforts should be an integral part of any resolution process. Acknowledging past grievances, promoting forgiveness, and building trust among the communities in Kirkuk are essential for a lasting solution. This may involve truth and reconciliation commissions, confidence-building measures, and initiatives that promote social cohesion and intercommunal harmony.
Resolving the Kirkuk issue will likely require time, patience, and political will from all parties involved. With such a complex issue, a comprehensive and inclusive approach that respects the rights and aspirations of all ethnic and religious groups in Kirkuk is essential. Any solution should be based on the principles of inclusivity, fairness, and respect for diversity, and should prioritize the long-term stability and prosperity of the region and its people. In the end, the people of the area can decide what form of governance they choose so that they can live freely together in peace and harmony.
Dr. Saman Shali Is a political analyst and researcher based in the Kurdistan Region.