Fahmi Burhan, the chairman of the General Board of Kurdish Territories Outside the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG)’s administration, believes the Kurdish leadership should not be part of any cabinet and no political party is eligible to form the new Iraqi government.
In this interview with KirkukNow, Fahmi Burhan, who is responsible for monitoring the implementation of Article 140 of the constitution regarding the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil, thinks only 20% percent of the article has been implemented.
KirkukNow: Where is Article 140 in the negotiations to form the new Iraqi government as the Kurdish leadership, especially the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP are accused of negotiating for posts than the implementation of this article?
Fahmi Burhan: Our struggle for the separated territories has been fought and a lot of blood has been shed.
In my opinion, Article 140 has occupied a wide space in all the meetings to form the government. I consider this interview as an opportunity to ask the Kurdish political leadership and the Kurdistan Regional Government; I also hold the PUK and KDP responsible for making the issue of Kirkuk and the Kurdish regions a priority in their talks with the Shiites to form a new Iraqi government. I think it is not fair to be part of a new government if it does not believe in implementation of article 140 and won’t make it part of its priority.
We (Kurds) should not have endorsed Article 140 from the beginning
KirkukNow: There is an informal debate on the constitutional amendment. Do you think Article 140 should be amended in this context?
Fahmi Burhan: We (the Kurds) should not have agreed to this article from the beginning. I have never seen any nation put its territory in a constitutional transaction. All historical evidence has proved, all of them even their presidents have admitted that Kirkuk, Jalawla and Shingal (Sinjar) are Kurdish territories. Since it is a constitutional article, we must fight for it to be implemented as it is.
KirkukNow: How much of Article 140 of the constitution has been implemented in the three stages?
Fahmi Burhan: Less than 20% has been implemented.
KirkukNow: Do you see the risk of losing any disputed territories if the final stage and referendum is held according to this article?
Fahmi Burhan: There may be, but I cannot name the area specifically.
KirkukNow: Which areas do you suspect they will lose?
Fahmi Burhan: Yes, I have doubts. There is no doubt, but it is true in many areas, because I know the amount of Arabization that has been done and how dangerous it is. It has been carried out to a great extent, bringing in demographic changes in several areas.
KirkukNow: Can you name these areas?
Fahmi Burhan: Let this be for another interview. But, the scale of Arabization after the referendum (September 2017) and the events of October 16, 2017 – the withdrawal of the Peshmerga and the return of federal government forces to the disputed territories – has increased in response to the referendum held by the Kurdish people.
20% of Article 140 of the constitution has been implemented
KirkukNow: Do you have any statistics about Arabization?
Fahmi Burhan: According to the reports we have; it shows how dangerous Arabization is in Mandali, Badra, Jasan, Saadiyah and Jalawla. The situation in Shingal (Sinjar) is also obvious. Even the people of the districts around Kirkuk have come to Kirkuk city. If the Kurdish political leadership understands this message today, it is better than tomorrow.
KirkukNow: The scene is shown in a way that the Iraqi government does not want to implement Article 140. What is the pressure and responsibility of the Kurdish side in this process?
Fahmi Burhan: We all have responsibilities, but to different extents. There is another point that we should not expect the Iraqi government to implement Article 140, but we must not give up and bring the international community to the line.
KirkukNow: The work of the committee for the implementation of Article 140 is very slow or stopped, while you talk about Arabization, so what is the next step and what are you doing?
Fahmi Burhan: The committee has not been dissolved, but now works for the southern regions, but does not work for the Kurdish regions and have long ago left the region, so we are unsatisfied with the Iraqi government because of this kind of thinking and mechanism.
We have had territorial issues with all the Iraqi governments, so the government will not come under the burden so easily to return these areas to the Kurdistan Region through dialogue and a rational view. We are in need continuous struggle which currently requires a constitutional struggle at this stage.
The scale of Arabization have expanded following the events of October 16 (2017)
KirkukNow: In addition to political and administrative conflict, there are also military tensions in many parts of the disputed territories, such as Sinjar. What have you done to resolve the problems in that district?
Fahmi Burhan: As a committee, we cannot do anything directly for any Kurdish region beyond the administration of Kurdistan Regional Government. What we are doing is the legal aspect and to inform the Kurdistan Regional Government. We have met with the PUK and KDP factions and will meet with other factions in the future.
The presidency of Iraq and all our ministries in Baghdad are responsible for monitoring these areas. We have spoken to the (Iraqi) president on the phone and he has taken the initiative and promised to support us and discussing the current circumstances imposed on the region.
KirkukNow: After the changes in the administration of Kirkuk and other disputed territories, has there been any difference in serving the Kurdish neighborhoods?
Fahmi Burhan: The governor of Kirkuk discriminates between the Kurdish areas as 80% of the city's budget is spent outside Kirkuk and the rest is used for services for the Arab neighborhoods. Other areas have been and are being discriminated.
Therefore, I say that we should not enter any government if it does not help to solve the situation in the Kurdish areas outside the KRG.
For the Kurdistan territory, we file hundreds of complaints in the Iraqi courts
KirkukNow: The ownership of agricultural land in Kirkuk and other disputed territories between Kurdish and Arab farmers is one of the issues that remains pending and occasionally causes tension. What are your efforts to resolve this issue?
Fahmi Burhan: The court has decided a large number of lands in favor of Kurdish farmers in Daquq district, but this does not mean the end of the problem, because Kurdish farmers protest daily. We call on all Kurdish farmers to file a complaint, because there is a decision of the Iraqi Council of Ministers that canceled all decisions of the Ba'athist Revolutionary Council (the decision to give agricultural land on contract to Arab farmers) but it has not been implemented.
KirkukNow: Why didn't the PUK and KDP didn’t reach an agreement on the appointment of the governor of Kirkuk after the events of October 16?
Fahmi Burhan: The problems facing the PUK and KDP are gradually being resolved. Both sides have understood that if they do not face the dangers and challenges together, the situation is in serious question. I think they will come to agreement over Kirkuk governor position soon.