Displaced person represents Khanaqin in Diyala Provincial Council

Aws Ibrahim Al-Mahdawi won a seat in the Diyala Provincial Council for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK list, according to the preliminary results of the elections, Khanaqin, December 2023. KirkukNow

By Ammar Aziz in Diyala

Aws Ibrahim Al-Mahdawi has never denied his ethnicity as an Arab, but he says that he will represent the majority of Khanaqin Kurds in the Diyala Provincial Council and will emphasize that Khanaqin is a Kurdish district and should be annexed to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region IKR.

Al-Mahdawi does not consider himself a guest in Khanaqin, even though he was born and raised in the Sharban district, but he moved to Khanaqin in 2005 due to “sectarian conflicts” and joined the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK, one of the key Kurdish political parties running the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.

He ran for the Diyala Provincial Council elections under the PUK list, and according to the preliminary results announced by the Independent High Electoral Commission IHEC, obtained the majority of his list’s votes in the only seat won by the PUK and the Kurds in Diyala Province.

“I consider myself as one of Khanaqin people because I have lived in this district for 18 years,” Al-Mahdawi told KirkukNow.

He is from the Arab community in Sharban District (northeast of Diyala Governorate). He was born in 1978 and graduated from the College of Civil Engineering at the University of Baghdad. He is married and the father of two children, both of whom were born in Khanaqin. His wife is a professor at Garmian University funded by the KRG.

xanaqin dangdan  2023 (2)
PUK supporters celebrate in Khanaqin after the end of voting in the provincial council elections, Diyala, December 2023. KirkukNow

Khanaqin District, home to 90,000 Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens, Sunnis and Shias, is part of Diyala province and is one of the disputed territories which extends from Khanaqin, on the border with Iran, to the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk up to Shingal (Sinjar), home to the Ezidi community, in Mosul, in the far west, on Iraq-Syria borders.

Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution stipulates normalization, a population census and a referendum on the status of the territories, yet it has not been materialized up the preset, leaving the area in security gap, missing basic public services.

Most of the disputed territories were under control of the Kurdish Peshmerga forces up to October 2017, when the ISF took over control of these territories following the defeat of ISIS.

“I am indeed from the Arab component, but I ran for the PUK, which is a Kurdistan party that does not differentiate between ethnicities and components. The list included other candidates from the Arab and Turkmen components... I have adapted to the environment and culture to the point that I do not feel alienated,” he adds.

"The votes I received were mostly the votes of Khanaqin Kurds. They put their trust in me and I must maintain this trust."

In the Diyala Governorate Council elections held on December 18, 2023, Aws Ibrahim, who was candidate No. 5 on the list, received more than 3,400 votes and came in first place among 30 candidates, and within the only seat for the PUK according to the preliminary results of the elections and the Sainte-Laguë method.

The Kurdish parties had three lists for 50 candidates in Diyala, winning a total of 37,000 votes, of which the PUK’s share was more than 28,000 votes, earning them a seat, while the Kurds had three representatives in the former Diyala Provincial Council.

“90% of the votes I obtained were from the voters of the Khanaqin district center because I was the mayor of the district elected by the PUK from 2018 to 2019, during which we provided many service projects for citizens,” Aws pointed out.


Alwand River in Khanaqin, Diyala, late 2020. KirkukNow

The Kurds of Diyala are spread in the disputed territories of the Khanaqin district and its outskirts, where the population of these areas is estimated at 238,000 people, according to the statistics of the Central Bureau of Statistics for the year 2019, and the fate of these areas is linked administratively to the implementation of Article 140 of the Constitution to resolve its administration between the Iraqi federal government and the KRG.

“We are working hard to implement Article 140 of the Constitution. I am completely confident that Khanaqin is a Kurdish city and must return to the Kurdistan Region because the Baath regime in Iraq displaced its residents and seized their property. The right must return to its owners,” according to Al-Mahdawi.

"We learned the culture of accepting the other from the school of Mam Jalal (Talabani, the late Secretary-General of the PUK). Although the majority of the residents of Khanaqin are Kurds, Mam Jalal pardoned the Arabs who arrived after 2003 and asked them to leave the city and return the Kurdish properties."

In addition to administrative and political work, Aws is a skilled athlete, as he mentioned that he practiced bodybuilding for nine years in the Peshmerga Club and won titles in several championships.

He says that he has plans to implement service projects in all fields and seeks to improve conditions in Khanaqin.

“I came to this world in Sharban, but I live and will die in Khanaqin.”

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