Nearly all Kurdish parties in the disputed city of Kirkuk on Monday showed support for an anticipated public vote on Kurdistan Region’s independence from Iraq and called for the vote to also include Kirkuk province. The Kurdish opposition Change Movement (Gorran) boycotted the meeting in Kirkuk, where all Kurdish factions gathered on Monday to discuss the referendum, in protest against the two dominant Kurdish parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Gorran representative Ahmed Aziz told Rudaw. No official deadline has been set for the referendum but according to the Kurdish Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani the vote will take place before the end of 2017.
The number of displaced Iraqi families from Nineveh sheltered at refugee camps across Mosul has surpassed 55.000, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement. Minister Jassem al-Jaff said Wednesday that 55.190 families (291.042 refugees) are currently sheltered at refugee camps across Mosul, where a U.S.-backed security campaign has approached a seventh month to eliminate Islamic State militants from the city. According to the minister, 120.000 refugees have so far returned to their homes in eastern and southern Nineveh. Last week, the ministry said refugees from Nineveh, Kirkuk’s town of Hawija and Salahuddin’s town of Shirqat reached 526.281 since operations were launched to clear Nineveh from IS militants in October 2016. Those include 467.210 refugees from Nineveh, 41.774 from Hawija, Kirkuk, and 17.297 from Shirqat, Salahuddin, according to the statement. “We could be facing a humanitarian catastrophe, perhaps the worst in the entire conflict”, United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande told Reuters in a telephone interview on Tuesday, commenting on the situation in Mosul.
The Iraqi Prime Minister Hider al-Abadi said in his weekly press conference that the referendum cannot be held in Kirkuk, as the Islamic State terrorist group still occupy areas in the province and as thousands of civilians from the province are displaced. Al-Abadi called for dialogue and cooperation in order to resolve the disputed area issue. Adding that “Baghdad stands on an equal distance from all components of Kirkuk as part and parcel of the country”. Earlier this month, the provincial council of Kirkuk voted for a referendum on the province’s secession from Iraq and joining Kurdistan Region, the vote came after the council decided to raise Kurdistan flag in Kirkuk and its governmental buildings. Joint delegation from the two leading Kurdish parties of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Kurdistan Democratic Party had visited the capital Baghdad to discuss holding a referendum as well for addressing the disputed areas issue.
At least 100 Iraqi lawmakers have now signed a petition that calls for the parliament to impeach and possibly remove Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim from his post after raising the Kurdish flag used by Iraqi Kurds in the contested province, several MPs have told Rudaw. The Turkmen and Arab provincial lawmakers have threatened to bring the case to the Supreme Court in Baghdad which is the highest judiciary office in Iraq and could reverse the decision. Turkmen lawmaker Niazi Miemaruglu said they plan to collect over 200 signatures in the Iraqi parliament in condemnation of the flag decision and impeachment of the embattled governor who has vowed not to lower the flag. high-ranking Kurdish delegation visited the Iraqi capital last week partly in a bid to reduce the ethnic tensions that could derail an anticipated referendum for Kurdish independence and possible integration of Kirkuk with the Kurdistan Region.