Though "they had no role in or reaction for recognizing it as a district,"

Kurds push for Mandali Mayor office

A sign shows Mandali has been upgraded from a sub-district into a district, Diyala, March 2023. Amir Khanaqini

By Amir Khanaqini in Mandali, Diyala

The Kurdish leadership and official institutions of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR have not reacted to the issue of recognizing Mandali as a district.

According to political observers, the lack of any reaction of the Kurdish leadership on the issue, which in their speeches constantly consider it part of IKR, is due to the fact they feel they had no role in recognizing the district "They have been neglectful towards Mandali and its people since 2003," he said.

On March 12, the Iraqi Ministry of Planning approved the re-recognition of Mandali sub-district as a district, with the aim of restoring life to the district, which according to the Ministry of Planning "suffers from neglect.”

"This is a great achievement and will improve the situation in the city, improve the infrastructure of Mandali, and bring about service projects for the development of Mandali," said Mazen Akram, who currently supervises the administration of Mandali district.

This is a great achievement

Mandali was recognized a district in 1947 since it’s one of the oldest districts in Iraq, but after 40 years in 1987, by the decision of the Supreme Council of the Revolutionary Leadership of the Ba'ath Party chaired by Saddam Hussein, it was turned into a sub-district.

Abdul Zahra Al-Hindawi, spokesman for Ministry of Planning, said in a statement on March 12 that the 1987 decision had been repealed and Mandali had been recognized as a district.

"When Mandali district was dissolved by the Ba'ath regime and turned into a sub-district, its residents were displaced to Baladruz, Kanaan, Baghdad and other areas," Al-Hindawi said.

Several citizens of different ethnicities in the center of Mandali, Diyala, March 2023. Amir Khanaqini

Azad Hamid, who was chairman of the Mandali district council for more than 10 years – now dissolved – says Mandali looks like a village and has been turned into a district.

“It has been destructed due to the policies of the former (Saddam) regime which made demographic changes and displaced locals,” he added.

Mohammed Tamim, Planning Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, sent a letter to the High Coordination Board between the provinces on March 9, calling for the renewal of the decision to make Mandali a district.

"Mandali suffers from neglect, despite its diverse potential and has been the victim of wars that have displaced its people," Tamim said in the letter.

"This is to remove all the negative effects of the decisions taken against the Failis in Mandali.”

Hamid, who was the chairman of the district council on behalf of the Kurds and nominated by Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Masoud Barzani, said: “About 84 Kurdish villages in Mandali are still in ruins. Thousands of hectares of Kurdish farmers have been taken over as part of Arabization campaign (by Saddam regime in the 1980s).”

This should be taken as a priority. The situation should be normalized in the city and the people who were displaced should return to their land,” he added

About 84 Kurdish villages in Mandali are still destroyed

"Although it has become a district, but the only solution is to implement Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution," he said.

After the fall of the Ba'ath regime in 2003, Kurdish parties resumed political activities in Mandali and won the first vote in the 2005 provincial council elections as part of a Kurdish coalition, and both posts of district mayor and provincial council chairman were nominated by the KDP and its decades’ rival-partner Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK.

Hamid, who was the chairman of the district council until the dissolution of the provincial councils in 2019, said, "After the events of October 16, the Kurds in Mandali were completely weak and had no any role.”

On October 16, 2017, former Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi ordered Iraqi forces to return to all disputed areas, kicking out the Kurdish Peshmerga and Kurdistan Regional Government KRG forces.

Wahid Kakeyi, head of the PUK committee in Mandali, says Mandali should have become a district at the hands of the Kurds and the two main Kurdish parties, not other parties, "but the Kurds have problems within themselves and these problems affect how we work in these areas.”

Video: Citizens express their opinion on the recognition of Mandali as a district.

Faili Kurds are an ethnic group historically inhabiting both sides of the Zagros mountain range along the Iraq-Iran border, and can be considered a cross-border population. Today, the estimated 1.5 million Faili Kurds in Iraq live mainly in Baghdad, as well as the eastern parts of Diyala, Wasit, Missan and Basra governorates.

Mandali is one of the disputed areas between Baghdad and Erbil and belongs to Diyala Governorate administratively. It is 93 km away from the city of Baquba, the center of Diyala Governorate. It is inhabited by a mixture of Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen.

"We were not invited to the ceremony of recognizing Mandali as a district and we have not sent out any congratulations, but we were happy that it became a district because its people were displaced and the town was destroyed," Kakeyi said.

He criticized the Kurdish parties for being “neglectful” when they were in power in Mandali.

“They were negligent and had no strategic projects for the region.”

In general, the streets and roads inside and outside Mandali are not proper conditions. In some places, roads are being repaired, but the projects come before the decision to recognize Mandali as a district. Mandali generally suffers from water shortages in the summer, and its health and education systems are similar to other parts of Diyala province.

Shamsaddin Hassan, the administrator of the 15th branch of the (KDP) in Khanaqin, said they cannot do political work in Mandali after October 16, 2017 and their headquarters has been seized existing. However, they did not participate in the opening of the mayor’s office and the mass celebration of its people.

In general, the PUK and KDP through their representatives in the previous Iraqi parliament and government have repeatedly tried to turn Mandali into a district, but now Mohsen Mandalawi, the first deputy speaker of the Iraqi parliament, is seen as the mastermind behind recognizing Mandali as a district.

Hamid, who is currently working as a political figure affiliated to (KDP) in the region and the brother of the chief of the Qaralus Kurdish tribe, said the Kurdish efforts are currently to get the post of governor.

"For this purpose, we continue to meet and discuss with the political parties, because previously the post of district mayor was the share of the Kurds according to the merits of the election," he said.

The Kurds are currently trying to get the governor's post

The Qaralus tribe is of Kurdish ethnicity and most of them are spread in Mandali.

Mandali borders Khanaqin district from the north, and lies on the border strip with Iran from the east, and Qazaniyah district, the center of Baladruz district, from the west.

In 1987 Mandali was a district, and Baladruz and Qazaniya sub-districts belonged to this district, then Baladruz was transformed into a district and Mandali became a district belonging to Baladruz district.

The entrance to Mandali Municipality, Diyala, March 2023. Amir Khanaqini

Ahmad Khalil, a Kurdish political observer in Diyala province, believes that the lack of reaction and position of the Kurdish parties on the issue of recognizing the district of Mandali has several reasons, the most important of which "during Kurdish rule in Mandali, they could not solve that issue or didn’t put enough effort into it."

"Another reason is that the achievement was for someone who is not part of the two ruling parties.”

Mohsen Mandalawi, a Faily Kurd, was appointed with the support of Shiite parties within the coordination framework.

"The Kurdish parties feel that they have no role in this issue," Khalil added.

"The Kurdish leadership could have tried to make Mandali the center of the Failis after 2003, when it was strong in the region, but they were weak and did nothing," he believes.

"Recognizing Mandali as a district will be a good opportunity to improve the city in terms of service and economic infrastructure and will force the government to provide a special budget It will be an electoral district.”

"Economically, the groundwork will be created for investment and attention to the border points with Iran, which is an important source of revenue," he added.

Mandali district is bordered by Khanaqin district in the north, Iran in the east, Qazani district in the south and the center of Baladruz district in the west.

The population of Mandali district is 47,796 people, according to the 2019 estimates of the Central Statistical Agency of the Iraqi Ministry of Planning.

Mazen Akram, the supervisor of the Mandali district administration, told KirkukNow that the district administration is currently reorganizing the administration and promoting the offices.

“We will launch important public service, economic and investment projects.”

* Leila Ahmad contributed in reporting

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