Thursday, April 16, 2009

Arab-Kurdish Divide Over New Ninewa Provincial Council

On April 12 the new Ninewa provincial council met and elected its leadership. The head of the Al-Hadbaa List Atheel al-Nujafi was elected governor, followed by Jabr Faisal Abdullah al-Yawir as the first deputy governor, al-Adrabbo as the head of the council, and Wild-dar Zebary as the deputy head of council. The second deputy governor, Judge Hassan Mahmoud Ali, an independent Turkmen, was the only official named not from Al-Hadbaa. The List gained these positions after they came away with 19 of the 37 seats in the January 2009 provincial elections. The Kurdish Ninewa Brotherhood List finished second with 12 seats, followed by the Iraqi Islamic Party with three. The religious minority groups the Shabaks, Christians, and Yazidis received one seat each under a quota. The ascendancy of the Arab al-Hadbaa List however has only increased the divisions in the province.

As reported before, the al-Hadbaa party ran on an explicitly anti-Kurdish platform. While campaigning for example, they declared that Mosul was an Arab city, and said that the Kurds need to give up all plans of annexing any areas in Ninewa. After the election, List leader Nujafi demanded that the Kurds get rid of all of their standing politicians and replace them with ones that would only work for Ninewa’s needs. He also wanted all the Kurdish peshmerga militiamen to leave the province.

In response the Kurdish Fraternal List is boycotting the new provincial council. The Kurds want Al-Hadbaa to share power, and say they won’t return until two of the top three posts in Ninewa are given to them. The mayor of Sinjar district in western Ninewa has also declared that he will not cooperate with the new Hadbaa run council. The mayor later said that he would prefer Sinjar be annexed by Kurdistan rather than work with the Hadbaa List. There were also two days of protests in the district against the council as well. Governor Nujafi has rejected these calls, hoping that the Kurds will eventually accept the new status quo and rejoin the council.

American officials said that the 2009 January provincial elections were an important benchmark for progress in Iraq. Some analysts declared it a tidal change in Iraqi politics. With more Sunnis voting after they boycotted in 2005, Ninewa was held up as one example of this. The dispute over the provincial council however shows that the voting could actually make things worse in places, and that political bickering and infighting will continue. That has wide ranging affects across the province, including the security situation as Ninewa remains one of the most unstable areas in the country. In Mosul for example, the provincial capital, attacks and casualties have gone right back up to where they were after a short dip during January. Much of that violence is due to the Arab-Kurdish divide, which is still the major issue in Ninewa before and after the balloting.


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Alsumaria, “Yazidis call to join Sinjar to Kurdistan,” 4/15/09

Associated Press, “Iraqi provincial election results,” 2/19/09

Aswat al-Iraq “Atheel Nejefi elected as Ninewa governor,” 4/12/09
- “Sinjar to boycott new local government in Ninewa,” 4/13/09

Cocks, Tim, “Vote sows seeds of greater calm in Iraq’s north,” Reuters, 2/2/09

Flintoff, Corey, “Shift In Power Heightens Tensions In Iraqi City,” All Things Considered, NPR, 2/27/09

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Mohsen, Amer, “Iraq Papers Thu: Corruption and Reconstruction,”, 3/4/09

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