On October 18, 2010 Iraq’s Planning Minister Ali Baban said that he wanted to remove a question about respondents’ ethnosectarian identity from the census. Baban suggested that the item should be dropped to relieve tension in the country, and because Ninewa requested it. Baban aired the idea at a meeting of the Iraqi cabinet. Kurdish ministers and members of the Kurdish Coalition in the new parliament strongly objected to the idea. A member of the Census Committee in Kurdistan said that removing the identity question was a violation of the Iraqi constitution, and the Kurdish Coalition threatened a boycott if the item was not included.
This is just the latest controversy over the planned census. Originally it was supposed to be conducted in 2007, but because of the lack of security it was postponed until 2009. Complaints about how the poll might affect the disputed territories led it to be delayed until 2010. It was supposed to happen on October 24 this year, but was just pushed back again to December 5 because Ninewa refused to conduct it as long as Kurdish peshmerga were present in the province, and over concerns over Kirkuk. Iyad Allawi’s Iraqi National Movement has also been lobbying to hold off the census as well. Some of its strongest support in the March 2010 election came from Ninewa, Diyala, and Tamim, which is where the disputed territories lay. Arabs and Turkmen in those areas are worried that the census may reveal a Kurdish majority in the disputed areas like Kirkuk, which would allow them to move ahead with annexing them under Article 140 of the constitution. Arabs, Turkmen, and members of the National Movement would like to maintain the status quo at minimum, and reverse Kurdish advances in the territories if possible. These political disputes have held up the implementation of the census for the last two years, and may do it again.
Ahmed, Hevidar, “Minister threatens to resign due to nationality in census forms,” AK News, 10/20/10
Al-Jader, May, “Debating on the census in Iraq,” AK News, 10/20/10
Al Wanan, Jaafar, “Census delay in Iraq costs billions,” AK News, 10/18/10