Press Release on the Situation in Kirkuk Province, Iraq

Zagros Human Rights Center expresses deep concern regarding the recent tragic events in Kirkuk, Iraq, which have resulted in the loss of human lives and numerous injuries. We strongly condemn all forms of violence and call on all parties involved to exercise restraint, engage in dialogue, and resolve conflicts peacefully.
According to information gathered by our organization, these disturbances were triggered by protests in Kirkuk due to concerns related to the recent decision of the Iraqi government concerning the headquarters of security forces in the province. On Monday, protesters from the Arab and Turkmen communities initiated a sit-in near the headquarters of the Iraqi security forces, following reports that the Iraqi Prime Minister had ordered law enforcement to hand over this site to the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), which formerly occupied it.
The previous Saturday, Kurdish demonstrators also mobilized in the late afternoon and attempted to join the headquarters, contributing to the escalation of tensions.
Kirkuk is a region that has long been a hotbed of tensions and conflicts due to its diverse ethnic composition, including Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen. The situation became even more complex after Iraqi federal forces regained control of the city and its surrounding oil fields in 2017, following a symbolic but controversial referendum on Kurdish independence.
Zagros Human Rights Center urges all parties involved to engage in constructive dialogue and seek peaceful solutions to their differences. We also call on Iraqi authorities to exercise restraint in the use of force and ensure the security and fundamental rights of all citizens.
We commend the initiative of Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid in calling for a “constructive dialogue” and the preservation of Kirkuk’s unity as a symbol of Iraqi fraternity.
The Zagros Center also underscores the crucial importance of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, which was developed to resolve territorial and ethnic disputes in regions like Kirkuk. This article aims to ensure the return of displaced Kurds to their homes, repatriate Arab settlers forcibly placed in the region, and organize a referendum for the Kirkuk population to decide on its affiliation with the Kurdistan Autonomous Region. Unfortunately, despite the approval of the Iraqi Constitution in 2005, Article 140 remains largely unimplemented.
The Zagros Human Rights Center calls for a transparent and thorough investigation into the circumstances surrounding the protester’s death and injuries to others, in accordance with the directive of Prime Minister al-Sudani. Those presumed responsible for these acts of violence must be held accountable.
We will continue to closely monitor the situation in Kirkuk and advocate for the respect of human rights, peace, stability, and the implementation of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution in the region.
September 4, 2023
Zagros Human Rights Center