Press Releases


Institutional attacks on Iraqi Kurdistan

The West should support autonomy in the region

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) warns about increasing political attacks on the federal status of Iraqi Kurdistan. Radical Shiite and Sunni parties and militia groups in the south and in central Iraq are trying to deprive the region of its autonomy status. Iraqi Kurdistan has become a unique refuge for millions of internally displaced Iraqis and for hundreds of thousands of people from Syria and Iran,” stated Dr. Kamal Sido, Middle East Correspondent of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP). “Even Iraqi politicians and Christian dignitaries such as the Chaldean Patriarch Cardinal Louis Sako and the former Iraqi parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi have found a temporary home in Kurdistan. The international society must urgently prevent Islamist forces, whatever their form, from gaining control of this last bastion of religious freedom and tolerance in Iraq.” Germany and its allies must use their influence on Baghdad to protect Kurdistan’s status from the radical parties there.

Pro-Iranian Shiite-Islamic parties are apparently trying to undermine Iraqi Kurdistan’s autonomy status enshrined in the Iraqi constitution. Thus, they managed to ensure that employees of state institutions in the region are no longer paid. Contrary to the constitution, they are unilaterally claiming administrative control over the oil-rich province Kirkuk. “Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution should serve as a basis to settle the dispute. However, Shiite and Sunni parties – supported by Iran and Turkey – have effectively abolished this article,” Sido reported. “Despite their rivalry, Iraq’s Shiite and Sunni neighboring states agree on one thing: they will ruthlessly combat all Kurdish efforts for more autonomy. However, it would be important for Western states to preserve the only place in Iraq where ethnic and religious diversity still exists.”

In addition to the institutional attacks on the status of the region in the federal system of Iraq, Kurdistan is also constantly exposed to violence from outside: “Neither NATO member Turkey nor the Mullah regime in Iran respect Iraq’s territorial sovereignty. They are attacking the Kurdish areas with drones and fighter planes almost every day,” Sido added. “Many people in Iraqi Kurdistan are deeply concerned. They are comparing the current threat to Kurdistan with that of 1991, when millions of people were forced to flee to the mountains to escape the advancing army of then dictator Saddam Hussein.” 

According to Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution, the people living in the disputed territories were supposed to vote – in a referendum on December 31, 2007 – on whether Kirkuk and other provinces should belong to the Kurdistan Autonomous Region or to the Iraqi central state.