The Iraqi Ministry of Health has refused to include the Kurdish language in health licenses, insisting to issue it only Arabic so that it is readable and understood all over Iraq.
According to the Iraqi constitution and laws, Arabic and Kurdish are the two official languages and are relied upon in issuing official documents.
The Kirkuk Health Department circulated an admin letter on August 24, 2022, ordering all health licenses for factories, shops and public places to be issued only in Arabic, relying on a letter issued by the Ministry of Health on August 14th.
This is a new change as previously the health permits were including information written in both Arabic and Kurdish.
Sabah Namiq, director of the public health department in Kirkuk, told KirkukNow: “The ministry officially asked us to change the licenses to Arabic only, while Kurdish is the official language. (Hereafter) Licenses should be in Arabic only.”
According to Article 4 of the Iraqi Permanent Constitution, Arabic and Kurdish languages are the two official languages of the country.
Paragraph (c) of item 2 of Article 2 states recognition of official documents and issuance of official documents must be in both languages.
Last December, a number of address signs were installed on a street in Kirkuk, but only in Arabic and English, skipping Kurdish, Turkmen and other local languages of the province, which caused discontent of the locals in social media platforms and were removed.
Kirkuk, Iraq’s second largest oil reserves, is an ethnically mixed province for 1,7 million Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmens. Located 238 kilometers north of Baghdad, it has long been at the center of disputes between Baghdad and the Erbil.
Kurds were holding the senior position in Kirkuk including governor of Kirkuk up to October 2017 when the Iraqi troops ousted the Kurdish forces following declaration of victory over the Islamic State in Iraq and Levant ISIL.
The Kirkuk health official says; The change began when a factory in Kirkuk took its products to Mosul, center of Ninewa province, where they were asked for a license and saw that in addition to Arabic, the Kurdish language, so they sent a copy to the ministry of health in Baghdad.
"We as part of the ministry are obliged to implement the decision," Namiq added who name and signature is on the generalization letter by Kirkuk health office yet he insisted that he was on vacation and it has been signed by his deputy.
On August 31, 2021, the Kirkuk provincial administration issued an official letter asking all government offices in the province to rely on the official local languages, including the use of Arabic, Kurdish, Turkmen and Syriac in official documents.
"We asked the ministry to return to the rights granted by the constitution, but the minister refused to accept the request," said Gaylan Qadir, a Kurdish member of the Iraqi parliament from Kirkuk.
"We had to inform the president, I have handed over the letters to his advisors and they are busy asking for an explanation from the Ministry of Health in an official letter," Qadir told KirkukNow.
According to the Official Languages Law No. 7 of 2014, Arabic and Kurdish are the two official languages in Iraq. Documents issued by both the federal and regional authorities are relied upon in both official languages.
"If their efforts to resolve the issue fail, we will try to restore this right to Kirkuk through the courts," he added.
Kurdish officials lately were accusing current governor of Kirkuk of leading Arabization campaign by appointment of Arab local officials, urging Arab villagers to reside in town and marginalizing Kurds and Turkmens.
Back in 2018, the Turkmens and Arabs each have got each three seats of the 12 parliamentary seats of Kirkuk and the rest six has gone to the PUK, one of the key Kurdish parties and stakeholder of the Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government KRG along with its decades’ ally-competitor Kurdistan Democratic Party KDP which boycotted elections in Kirkuk.
In October 10th general elections, Turkmen candidates have won two seats while the Arabs have got four seats. PUK has lost half of its seats, 2 to KDP and one for the New Generation.
Currently, the Iraqi army, local and federal police, Brigade 61 of Special Forces along with Shiite paramilitary of Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, are under Kirkuk joint operations’ command, an umbrella for the security forces running the security of Kirkuk province.