Some Turkmen in Salahaddin are taking offense to being blamed for the looting and destruction of Kurdish sections of Tuz Kharmato in the middle of October 2017. Recently a parliamentarian and a Hashd spokesman blamed the Kurds for some of the events. First, an MP acknowledged that over 500 mortar shells were fired in the town leading to 10 deaths and around 80 wounded, but did not say who was responsible or what led to the violence. He also admitted that 76 Kurdish homes were burned or destroyed. At the same time, he told the media there were no threats against Kurds, and then blamed the Kurdish parties, meaning the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) for encouraging people to flee and not return for political reasons. Before that Ali al-Husseini a spokesman for the Hashd al-Turkmen blamed the Kurds for not only starting the fighting, but burning homes as well. He then said that they put all the onus for the destruction on the Hashd. Finally, he believed the press was exaggerating the number of people displaced by the conflict. Instead of the 30,000 that got into the news he stated that only roughly 9,000 left the town. Tuz Kharmato is divided between Kurds and Turkmen, with the later split between Sunnis and Shiites. Since the town was liberated in 2014 many of the Shiite Turkmen threw in with the Hashd. These two obviously came from that camp. Their statements came from the fact that Iraqi and international human rights groups, and eye witnesses all blamed the Turkmen for the destruction that took place in Tuz Kharmato.
What happened in Tuz Kharmato occurred in two phases. First, on October 13 fighting broke out between the Hashd and Peshmerga. The cause is disputed as usual, but one side fired upon the other leading to a larger gun battle that included burning down a PUK office. By the next day, the warring parties reached a deal facilitated by Badr and Asaib Ahl Al-Haq who both have a presence in the town. This seemed like one of many similar conflagrations that have happened over the last three years.
What occurred next was different however, and can only be characterized as a rampage. First, the PUK pulled out of the town as part of a larger withdrawal across the disputed areas in response to the federal government demanding authority over them on the morning of October 16. Turkmen Hashd and civilians saw this and seized upon the situation, pouring into the Kurdish section of town looting, burning, blowing up buildings as well as attacking people. Amnesty International had 11 dead, while Human Rights Watch recorded 5 killed and 51 wounded. The United Nations reported that at least 150 homes had been burned. Prime Minister Haidar Abadi even got involved, calling for law and order to be enforced. The mayor of Tuz Kharmato later told the press that 50-60 houses were blown up, 400 were burned, 2,000 looted along with 1,000 businesses. A delegation from the Iraqi Human Rights Commission said that 30,000 were displaced as a result. Many are not sure whether they will return, and are demanding compensation. This was by far the worst occurrence of violence in the town since 2014. There has always been a lot of underlying tension within Tuz, which has often exploded into short bursts of fighting. This seemed completely different not only in its intensity, but destructiveness. It might mark a turning point in the town, especially if most of the Kurds don’t return where the Shiite Turkmen establish their dominance.
Amnesty International, “Iraq: Fresh evidence that tens of thousands forced to flee Tuz Khurmatu amid indiscriminate attacks, lootings and arson,” 10/24/17
Baghdad Today News, “The Tuz crowd responds to Kurdish appeal to Sistani: This is what the Barzani militias did,” 11/2/17
Daily Sabah, “Peshmerga, Hashd al-Shaabi reportedly clash in northern Iraq,” 10/13/17
Al Ghad Press, “Patriotic Union of Kurdistan: The Turkmen crowd began burning houses of Kurds in Tuz Kharmato,” 10/15/17
Human Rights Watch, “Iraq: Fighting in Disputed Territories Kills Civilians,” 10/20/17
Al Mada, “Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: 30,000 Kurds displaced from Tuz Kharmato,” 11/5/17
NINA, “Parliament Rapporteur calls on Kurdish families to return to Al-Tuz,” 11/4/17
NRT, “Hundreds Of Houses Burned And Thousands More Looted In Tuz Khurmatu,” 10/25/17
Rudaw, “The popular crowd stops fighting in Tuz Kharmato district,” 10/14/17
- “Tens of thousands of Kurds from Tuz Khurmatu unsure their return,” 10/30/17
Shafaaq News, “Local official: Popular crowd burned headquarters of Kurdish party in Tuz Kharmato,” 10/15/17
Sotaliraq, “The popular crowd looted Kurds’ property and burned a market in Tuz Kharmato,” 10/17/17
Al Sumaria, “Kurdish deputy accuses military members of burning Kurdish shops in Tuz Kharmato,” 10/17/17
- “Politburo of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan: militant armed groups imposing themselves on Tuz Khurmato in the name of the Shiites,” 10/25/17
- “Al-Tuz Council announces the number of displaced persons from district after the imposition of security in Kirkuk,” 10/25/17