Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tit For Tat In Ninewa

The on-going dispute between the Kurdish led Ninewa Fraternal List and the new Al-Hadbaa List that won in Ninewa after the January provincial elections took another turn this month, May 2009. First, Kurdish forces prevented the new Al-Hadbaa governor from attending a sporting event. Then tribesman demanded that the Kurdish peshmerga exit the province, followed by Kurds calling for a boycott of the new government. Finally, Baghdad is being lobbied to force the Kurds’ to stop their objections to Al-Hadbaa’s rule.

On May 8, the newly appointed governor of Ninewa, Atheel al-Nujafi, the leader of Al-Hadbaa, tried to attend a hot-air balloon festival in Bashiqa. A Kurdish peshmerga militia unit stopped him. The head of the Kurdistan Democratic Party in Mosul said that the peshmerga were only trying to prevent possible violence that might have occurred if the governor had showed up for the event. Bashiqa is a Kurdish town that does not recognize the authority of the new Al-Hadbaa government. As reported before, after the new provincial council was seated in late April 2009, three districts of Ninewa, Sinjar, Shirkhan, and Hatra, which have largely Kurdish and Yazidi populations, announced that they would refuse to cooperate with the provincial government.

In response, on May 12 over 1,000 tribesmen marched to the provincial government building in Mosul. There they demanded that the peshmerga leave the province. This was something the Al-Hadbaa List called for while it was running for office. Kurdish officials in Ninewa have said that their militias are going nowhere.

That was followed by a demonstration by Kurds in the Shirkhan district supporting the boycott of the new provincial council on May 17. After the Al-Hadbaa party took all the major seats on the new provincial council on April 12 the Ninewa Fraternal List walked out on the local government.

According to Iraq Slogger.com, Governor Nujafi has become so frustrated at the situation that he has gone to Baghdad for help. There he has talked to members of the central government to try to get them to force the Kurdish-led Ninewa Fraternal List to stop their opposition to the Al-Hadbaa led Ninewa government.

The Al-Hadbaa List is a coalition of four different parties. Those are the Al-Hadbaa National United Assembly, the Patriotic and National Forces Assembly, the Iraq and Kurdsitani Party for Freedom and Equality, and Al-Wasat Iraqi Assembly. They ran on a platform of Iraqi unity, a call for the end of the U.S. occupation, women’s rights, better government, development, and a condemnation of Kurdish rule in Ninewa. Due to the 2005 Sunni boycott, the Kurds were able to take control of the provincial government then. The List is Arab led, but also includes Kurds. The new deputy head of the provincial council Dildar al-Zibari for example, is a Kurd.

The two major Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, head the Ninewa Fraternal List. It also includes the Islamic Union of Kurdistan, the Kurdistan Communist Party, the Iraqi Communist Party, the Assyrian Party, and the Kurdistan Socialist Democratic Party. Their rule after the January 2005 provincial elections was not only known for creating fear amongst Arabs that the Kurds were attempting to annex northern sections of the province, but also for a lack of services and security. Next to Baghdad, Ninewa has been the most violent area of the country in the last couple years. The fighting has prevented government offices from delivering regular services there. For example, the province rates below the national average in education and electricity, and also has large swaths of poverty. It was these issues that led to the Fraternal List’s defeat in 2009.

The standoff between the two sides is likely to last for the foreseeable future. Neither side seems willing to budge. The Kurdish parties have de facto control of several disputed territories in northern Ninewa and will not give them up. This could lead to deadlock in the province, and undermine the ability of the new government to move ahead with its plans, as well as establish better security.

For more on the political situation in Ninewa see:

Ninewa Struggles Between Arabs and Kurds Continue

Arab-Kurdish Divide Over New Ninewa Provincial Council

Al-Hadbaa Party Leader's Vision For Ninewa

SOURCES

Abouzeid, Rania, “Arabs-Kurd Tensions Could Threaten Iraq’s Peace,” Time, 3/24/09

Aswat al-Iraq, “Al-Nejefi: negotiations with Ninewa Fraternal list postponed,” 4/28/09
- “Mosulians fear political tension effect on council’s performance,” 4/27/09
- “Ninewa chieftans protest Peshmerga, Asayesh presence,” 5/12/09
- “Shaykhan protest calls for boycotting Ninewa’s local govt.,” 5/17/09

Kamal, Adel, “kurdish boycott threatens ninawa stability,” Niqash, 4/27/09

Niqash, “the hadbaa national list,” 1/28/09

Robertson, Campbell, “Violence Rises in Iraq’s Tense North,” New York Times, 5/13/09

Robertson, Campbell and Farrell, Stephen, “Iraqi Sunnis Turn to Politics and renew Strength,” New York Times, 4/17/09

3 comments:

Wladimir van Wilgenburg said...

Kurds, Iraqis start joint patrols in disputed area
http://www.reuters.com/article/featuredCrisis/idUSLI714321

Iraq to hold landmark census of Arab-Kurdish divide
http://www.zawya.com/Story.cfm/sidANA20090518T115403ZFKM62/Iraq%20To%20Hold%20Landmark%20Census%20Of%20Arab-Kurdish%20Divide

motown67 said...

The NY Times had this piece in today's paper. It stresses the threat of violence in Ninewa.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/18/world/middleeast/18nineveh.html?_r=1

On that census it could be political explosive with all kinds of forces pulling on it to further their cause.

Matt said...

So much for national reconciliation. On the up-side (or some side, anyway), tension between the Arabs and the Kurds in Ninevah could help Al-Maliki play different Sunni factions against eachother. It will be a struggle for him to maintain stability in the face of resurgent insurgents while his government still suffers from so many internal weaknesses.

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