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Only for Chosen Ones – A Quasi Visa for Kurdistan

23. May 2007

Fatma Salah Uthman, Makhmour Organization for Human Rights

Pretending to keep Kurdistan free from the violence that shakes Iraq day by day non-Kurdish travellers are refused entrance to cities that are controlled by the south Kurdish parties. Peshmergas who serve at checkpoints are checking taxis and buses for Arabs who are interrogated and searched; even women and old people have to bear this humiliating procedure. And merely people who can give a concrete reason for their visit have a chance to get permission to enter the city centre.

In the aftermath of the bomb attack from May 9 in the city centre of Irbil, in front of the Ministry of Interior when fifteen people were killed new vexations were invented. From now on vehicles have to carry a sticker of the Kurdistan Region on the window screen to enter Irbil; cars without this sticker are refused entrance. Nobody but the owners of cars that are registered in Kurdistan can get this sticker for a free of 500$; even the citizens of Mosul and Kirkuk have to stay outside.

But Kurdish law is practised not only in those parts of the country, which are officially under Kurdish rule. Everywhere where checkpoints are staffed with Peshmergas who operate as policemen as well as soldiers the Kurds dictate the rules.

While there are Iraqi checkpoint on the main route between Mosul and Kirkuk – easily to be identified from the flag – the checkpoints on the side route are staffed with Peshmergas and without any flag, because their forces do not accept the Iraqi flag and are still not allowed to show the Kurdistan flag at places that are governed by the Federal Government in Baghdad. The latter arbitrarily chose the cars that are allowed to pass. For this reason non-Kurds who want to go to the northern part of Kirkuk have drive in a wide circle around the greater part of the city until they can find a checkpoint, which is not in the hands of Kurdish militia forces. This is what Masud Barzani understands of a democratic pluralistic Kurdistan. One can easily imagine what people have to expect for the time after the Kirkuk-referendum when the Kurdish parties will have got full control over the entire region.

There is a time connection between the latest series of attacks and a discussion in the Iraqi parliament to postpone the referendum about the future of Kirkuk, which is part of the Washington scheduled new constitution that serves the interests of the USA and her Kurdish allies. But Kurdish politicians like Barzani argue that it is of great importance to annex Kirkuk immediately to Kurdistan to stop ethnically motivated acts of violence. (They had good reasons to bring ten thousands of families from all over Iraq and from outside her borders to the province of Kirkuk!) And to prove his words true Kurdistan is shaken by the bloodiest attacks for years. Only a couple of days after the explosion of 800 kg TNT in Irbil in Makhmour, sixty km to the south of Irbil a pick-up full of explosives kills more than fifty people. Despite of a deep regret for the victims the fact that these attacks could happen while normally every hand bag is checked carefully there remains a bitter after-taste.

Besides; fear caused by a (supposed) thread from outside strengthens the inner ties. During the last days any voices criticizing the praxis of the political leadership totally silenced. Nobody is any longer talking about corruption, clique structures, and arbitrary use of power. The violence has got the political leaders a welcomed rest. And the obvious parallels between today’s situation in South Kurdistan and repressions in the aftermath of 11th September do not give rise for positive developments in the future.

Fatma Salah Uthman
Makhmour Organization for Human Rights
19th May 2007