Short profile of late former Governor of Kirkuk Najmadin Karim

adin Karim with his wife after voting in the independence referendum – photo: KirkukNow


The death of the former governor of Kirkuk province, Najmadin Karim, was announced today (31 October 2020).

Karim, who has been the subject of many controversies, has had a big impact on the province of Kirkuk province and the disputed areas.


His early life and education

Najmadin Karim was born in Kirkuk City in 1949 where he finished school. He then studied medicine at the University of Mosul. He then travelled to the United States and completed postgraduate studies at George Washington University and in neurosurgery and worked as a professor at the same university. He later worked at a hospital in Kirkuk. He lived in Washington and Maryland state for some years. He is married and has three sons and a daughter.


Political career

He was elected as head of Iraqi Kurdistan’s Students Union and joined the Peshmerga in 1972. In the United States he established the National Kurdish Association in 1988 and was its chairman until 1999.

In 1991 he took part in the first official meeting between Kurdish leaders and the American Department of State. He also had a role in establishing the Kurdish branch of Voice of America.

Najmadin Karim during a PUK campaign rally during elections

He established the Kurdish Institution in Washington in 1996.

He was appointed governor of Kirkuk on 3 April 2011 as a member of PUK. During his tenure, ISIS took swathes of Kirkuk province after the retreat of the Iraqi army on 10 June 2014.


His support for KRG independence referendum

Karim was among the ardent supporters of the independence referendum held by the Iraqi Kurdistan Region and the inclusion of the Kirkuk province in it, which took place on 25 September 2017.

His stance on the referendum was met with strong objection from the Federal Government, and from the Arab and Turkmen components within Kirkuk province.

Kirkuk, 12 September 2017 – Najmadin Karim with Masoud Barzani


Karim’s deposition and departure from Kirkuk

After the former governor supported the referendum, the Iraqi Parliament voted on 4 1September 2017 to dismiss Karim from his post on a request from the office of then Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to dismiss him. Karim considered his deposition as a badge of honour.

Yet he quickly left Kirkuk and his post after the army and the PMU entered the province.

On 18 October 18, then-Iraqi President Fuad Masum approved the decision to dismiss Karim from his position as governor.

Najmadin Karim when he was governor of Kirkuk


Arrest in Beirut

On 21 May 21 2019, the Interpol arrested Karim at Beirut's Rafiq Hariri Airport while trying to travel to the U.S.

Karim was arrested on charges of embezzlement, but the police released him from prison the next day and placed him under house arrest. He was then released soon after and sent back to Erbil.

After his return to Erbil, Karim’s office confirmed on 29 July 2019 that he would participate in the provincial council elections to be held next April for Kirkuk province. But the elections were cancelled due to widespread protests.

On 15 September 2020, the Iraqi Integrity Commission issued travel ban and summons orders for both Karim and the current governor of Kirkuk Rakan Saeed, in addition to 23 employees of the province’s local administration on charges of corruption in a multi-million-dollar project. But it is not clear how Karim was allowed to travel to the U.S.


Illness and death in the United States

Karim was put under intensive care in California on 27 October 2020, as two sources reported to KirkukNow.

The media office of the former governor announced his death on 31 October 2020. His family put an announcement on his personal Facebook page that his remains will be returned to the Kurdistan Region for burial as it was his will.

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