- - Wednesday, December 27, 2017

In recent times, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi has been mistreating the Kurdish citizens in his country. It is time for this to come to an end.  

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has finally declared that Washington, D.C. will stand with the Kurds in their efforts to get the Iraqi Constitution fully implemented. In recent years, the Iraqi Constitution has been violated repeatedly, thus providing the Kurds with a major incentive to secede and declare independence.

After the U.S. came out strongly against Kurdistan’s Independence Referendum, the fact that the U.S and other countries across the world are now calling upon Mr. Abadi to respect the Iraqi Constitution is a milestone.

As Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani proclaimed, “If Baghdad and the international community want a stable Iraq, Baghdad has to be serious in its commitment to the implementation of the Iraqi Constitution of all its articles.”
Indeed, had the Iraqi government followed the federal constitution like they were supposed to, it is less likely that the Kurds would have pushed forward with an Independence Referendum and thus these recent wave of protests would have been avoided. Therefore, it is of pivotal importance that America tell the Central Iraqi government to stop oppressing the Kurds and to follow the Iraqi Constitution to the last letter.    

From the very onset, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi did not treat the Kurds as citizens of his country with equal rights. Article 131 of the Iraqi Constitution proclaimed that the Kurds were entitled to an equitable share of Iraq’s revenues and declared that the Iraqi central government had an obligation to fund Kurdish Peshmerga Forces, who are responsible for securing their areas.  

However, the central Iraqi government not only did not send the necessary funds and weapons to the Kurdish Peshmerga so that they could fight against ISIS more efficiently.  They also refused to send Kurdish Civil Servants their monthly salaries. This forced the Kurds to rely upon oil revenues in order to cover their own expenses because the Iraqi central government was not living up to their end of the bargain according to the Iraqi Constitution.

Article 140 of the Iraqi Interim Constitution stated that those who had been deported or expelled from Kirkuk and other disputed areas should be returned to their homes and compensated by the Iraqi government.  The Iraqi Constitution furthermore called for a referendum that will determine the future of these areas no later than Dec. 31, 2007.  None of this came into fruition, but still Kurdistan’s prime minister is asking for dialogue.    

For the Kurds, Kirkuk is the heart of Kurdistan. Under Saddam Hussein, the Kurds were ethnically cleansed from their historically significant city of Kirkuk.  Only after the Kurds seized control of the city from ISIS did the city became multi-ethnic once again.

However, after the Central Iraqi government seized control of the city in the wake of Kurdistan’s Independence Referendum, Kurds in Kirkuk have been killed, beaten, raped and forced out of their homes once again. Many Kurds stress that this not only violates the spirit of the Iraqi Constitution; it also brings back traumatic memories for them and makes it much harder for them to remain part of Iraq.   

Article 114 of the Iraqi Constitution emphasizes that the borders of Iraq are not the exclusive authority of the federal government and should be managed jointly with the KRG.  This implies that the Kurds should also be able to operate their own airport and to have international flights coming to and from Erbil. However, the Iraqi central government is not permitting international flights to come to and from KRG areas. They are also demanding that the Kurds hand over all of the border areas to them. Mr. Abadi and his government are not abiding by the Iraqi Constitution in this regard.

But the Kurds feel that the lack of equality between Kurds and Arabs in the new Iraq is not limited to violations in the Iraqi Constitution. When Mr. Abadi gave an address on the victory against ISIS, he did not mention the role of the Kurdish Peshmerga in defeating ISIS. To add insult to injury, in a Dawa Party meeting, Mr. Abadi proclaimed: “Uniting Iraq and preventing it from partition was another victory, which was no less than the triumph achieved over the ISIS terrorist gangs.”

The Ministry of Peshmerga Affairs was outraged. They responded: “What does Mr. Al Abadi have to say to the families of 1,824 martyrs and more than 10,000 wounded Peshmergas, as he considers himself to be their Prime Minister as well? Those Peshmerga sacrificed their lives for the sake of defeating ISIS. How can Prime Minister Al Abadi expect the families of the martyred and wounded Peshmergas and the people of Kurdistan to be loyal to Iraq when he fails to recognize and appreciate their sacrifices?”

The time has come for Mr. Abadi to be forced to treat his Kurdish citizens with the dignity that they deserve. The time has come for Mr. Abadi to be compelled to engage in meaningful dialogue with the Kurdistan Regional Government. If Mr. Abadi continues to fail to talk to the Kurdistan Regional Government and refuses to comply by the Iraqi Constitution, then any demands for the implementation of the Kurdistan Independence Referendum are more than justified.

Rachel Avraham, a senior media research analyst at the Center for Near East Policy Research and a correspondent for the Israel Resource News Agency, is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media.”

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