Kirkukis take to the streets unless Baghdad delivers more electricity

Kirkuk August 2020- Protest by post-graduates of University of Kirkuk in front of Governor’s office ask for employment and job opportunities. Photo by Karwan Salihi.

Karwan Salihi, Kirkuk

The absence of adequate power supply to the multiethnic city of Krikuk unites all its people and their representatives in the face of Baghdad asking for more powersupply in the begging of a blazing Summer or take to the streets in a week.

Currently Baghdad feeds Kirkuk with six hours a day of power supply and the rest is filled in by private power generators whom charge five folds of public power provided by the state. Private generators are not ready to operate their power generators 18 hours a day due to lack of subsidized fuel by the state.

Representatives of Kirkuk in the Iraqi parliament, tasked to monitor the local administration until a provincial council is in office, confirm that Kirkuk receives only 3% of total power production in Iraq.

The spokesperson of Kirkuk electricity office said Kirkuk receives only 1.08% while the original share is 4.08%.

Kirkuk October 2020- Demonstration by Kirkukis against higher fees for private power supply. Photo for KirkukNow. 

Farhad Abbas, owns a mini market in the Kurdish neighborhood of Imam Qassim. Abbas describes the government as a “rotten fish from head to tail. It can’t provide power, collect garbage and even drinking water in some neighborhoods. “Life is impossible without electricity in summer.”

A schedule posted by Kirkuk mayor office on May 14 showing a 12-hour plan, midday to midnight for the private generators sparked wide protests in Kirkuk. People called for protests on social media which pushed the acting governor Rakan al-Jibouri few hours later to halt the plan.

On May 15, following a meeting between people of Kirkuk and the mayor, they decided to stick to the old plan per which the private generators operate from 11 am to 8 am in the next day to fill in the outage hours of national power. It also provides a three-hour rest for the private generators.

“Baghdad is behind the shortage of electricity in Kirkuk as the federal government does not provide the required share,” said al-Jibouri in a press conference on May 15 following a meeting with members of Iraqi parliament in Kirkuk.

“Baghdad is behind the shortage of electricity in Kirkuk as the federal government does not provide the required share,”

“Whether it is technical or deliberate, we go to the minister of electricity and ask for the share of the city.”

Kirkuk is entitled to receive 4.8% of total electricity generation in Iraq while Baghdad provides only 3%, Kirkuk MPs said in the joint press conference.

Footage: video of a press conference for acting governor of Kirkuk and members of Iraqi parliament.

Khalid al-Mafraji, an Arab MP from Kirkuk, said Baghdad considers Kirkuk as a “secondary province and this is unconstitutional.”

The oil rich city of Kirkuk, Iraq's second largest oil reserves, is ethnically a mixed province of 1.2 million Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmen. It has long been at the center of disputes between Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.

Kurds, whom controlled Kirkuk till 2017 when the so-called Islamic State ISIS was ousted wanted Kirkuk, 238 kilometers north of Baghdad, to become part of the Kurdistan region, which has been opposed by the Arab and Turkmen populations.

Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution in 2005 outlined a road map for disputed territories calling for normalization, census and referendum to determine its administration all in two years but only part of the first stage has been implemented up to the present.

Currently Kirkuk is under control of Baghdad since 2017 with local police downtown while Iraqi army and pro-Shiite militia Popular Mobilization Forces PMF known as Hashid aal-Sha’abi deployed at the outskirts.

The political tension between Baghdad and Erbil left Kirkuk and the disputed territories made the province miss the basic public services. Garbage collection is one of the main challenges for people in their daily life in the last years in particular. Power shortage is blamed for low supply by Baghdad compared to the high demand by people for consumption.

Kirkuk has produced 2.86 million barrels in April compared to 3 million barrels last March generating 177 million Dollars USD while in March it made up $195 million for Iraq's national revenues, Iraqi ministry of oil said.

Private generators call on the government to provide the monthly rations of fuel.

Falah Ali, owner of a power generator, says one barrel (210 liters) of diesel in the black market was for 98 thousand Iraqi Dinars ($65) while now it has hit 115 ($75) thousand due to high demand. “The government has not provided one liter this month while we generate power 15 hours a day. We cannot provide power for people instead of the government.”

The government has not provided one liter this month while we generate power 15 hours a day.

In April, the Iraqi government has provided 20 liters per Kilovolt KV.

In the first two weeks of May, private power generators supplied 15 hours a day, 1 ampere for 10 thousand IQD (6.5) so any family uses 10 amperes has to pay $65 a month while average of salaries for civil servants are 500,000 IQD, meaning private generator invoice makes 20%.

Acting mayor of Kirkuk said he supports demands of people for more power supply hours. “Why the governorates of Diyala and Salahaddin receive 18-20 hours per day while only 6 hours on in Kirkuk?” said Falah Yachi.

Kirkuk MPs doubt words of Iraqi officials about power supply to Kirkuk.

Arsahd Salihi, Turkmen MP, said in the joint press conference that they cannot promise better days as they have no trust in Baghdad. “I talked to the minister of electricity ahead of the press conference and he briefly said sorry, we have no more power for you.”

Salihi asked for immediate meeting with the Prime Minister “as only the council of ministers can sole this issue not the ministry of electricity.”

Other MPs blame Kirkuk poor public services for corruption and mismanagement.

Rebwar Taha, a Kurdish MP of Iraqi parliament from Kirkuk, said in the press conference, “mismanagement and corruption have piled problems in Kirkuk which might deteriorate.”

“mismanagement and corruption have piled problems in Kirkuk which might deteriorate.”

Taha shows support once people of Kirkuk decide to take the streets.

Yet Abas is skeptic of the calls by the local officials.

“Everybody is critical so where is the fortune of this province. They have looted everything and now people have to pay for it. One day a demonstration for garbage collection, another day protest for drinking water and now lack of power,” Abbas said.

 “We have agreed if Baghdad is not going to meet our demands in a week, all the ethnicities of Kirkuk will lead a protest against the Iraqi government and we will be at the front rows,” said Dilan Ghafour, A Kikukuki MP.

Footage: video of a press conference for acting mayor of Kirkuk and members of Iraqi parliament.

Locals are considering protests a pressure card that went well in some provinces.

“I think the federal government sends Kirkuk’s electricity share to other provinces leading demonstrations to silence them so it’s our right to take to the streets against this government,” said Yaqub Muhidden, a 49-year-old civil servant.

“I believe this is the only solution and it’s time for it.”

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