At the end of August 2015 the Peshmerga made a rare offensive move into southern Kirkuk. Several villages in the Daquq district were taken in an off and on series of attacks. Soon after stories emerged about the Kurds looting and destroying homes in the area, and several thousand people were displaced in the process. This was the latest example of demographic changes the Kurds are attempting to impose on the disputed territories of northern Iraq.
On August 26, 2015 the Peshmerga attacked the Daquq district of Kirkuk. 14 villages were reported cleared on the first day. There was a pause, and then the offensive began again with another 10 towns seized on September 11, and then ten more on September 13. Then another break occurred before one more town was taken on September 22. As soon as the campaign started there were stories of looting by the Kurdish forces. Two Peshmerga officers told Iraq Oil Report that Kurdish volunteers were responsible. There was also a more systematic destruction of houses in the district. A Peshmerga commander said that homes in four villages were bulldozed. Another troubling trend was the Kurds not letting families that fled the fighting return. A Kurdish General was quoted in The National saying that residents were free to return to the cleared towns, but the paper’s reporter saw only empty villages on a trip through the district. The International Organization for Migration counted 1,805 families displaced from the area, which was over 10,000 individuals. Arab locals claimed that the Kurds were preventing them from returning. As usual the government forces are justifying their actions by stating that the areas are not safe because of explosives and they are afraid of IS infiltration and supporters. The Kurds have carried out similar actions in Diyala and Ninewa of property destruction and forced displacement.
The Kurds have carried out few offensive operations this year. They are mostly happy to stay in their dug in positions and hold the land they have taken since last year rather than fight the Islamic State. When they do act it is to take more of the disputed territories, which they claim as historically Kurdish. Unless the Peshmerga have local allies, the trend is to destroy homes and displace the locals as they are considered IS supporters. It is also part of the Kurds’ larger plan to reverse Saddam Hussein’s Arabization program that removed thousands of Kurds from northern Iraq and settled Arabs in their place. By changing the populations of these areas they can create more facts on the ground that they are Kurdish and should be annexed to the Kurdistan Regional Government. The post-IS Iraq is much more important for Kurdish leaders than the current war, which is shown in actions like these in Kirkuk governorate.
International Organization for Migration, “Iraq Crisis Response – Situation Report #25 Update: 5 – 15 September,” 9/15/15
Iraq Oil Report, “After Peshmerga victory, homes looted and destroyed,” 9/1/15
Mamoun, Abdelhak, "Kurdish Peshmerga and Anti-Terorism forces liberate 7 villages south of Kirkuk," Iraqi News, 8/26/15
- "Peshmerga liberates villages of Albu-Najam and tel al-Basel south of Kirkuk," Iraqi News, 8/26/15
NINA, "Peshmerga Capture 12 Terrorists In Daquq West Of Kirkuk," 9/13/15
- "Peshmerga forces liberate 10 villages south of Kirkuk," 9/11/15
Sotaliraq, "Freeing of a village south of Kirkuk from Daash control," 9/22/15
Williams, Sara Elizabeth, “Kurds’ smouldering feud could reignite in northern Iraq,” The National, 9/10/15
Xinhua, "Kurdish troops launch offensive against IS in northern Iraq," 8/26/15