The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

[casi] News, 14-21/05/03 (3)

News, 14-21/05/03 (3)


*  Reports continue of robbery and disorder in Baghdad
*  Senior UN Relief Official Discusses Lack of Security with US Authorities
*  Museum staffers refuse to give up antiquities taken for safekeeping
*  ElBaradei Warns of Iraq Nuclear Emergency
*  Helicopter Crashes In Iraq; Four Marine Crewmen Killed

RETURN OF THE NATIVES (and see New Kurdish Order)

*   Iraq gets a new class of nomads
*  Among Kurds, Impatience and Anger Is Growing
*  At least five die in Iraq as Arabs, Kurds clash
*  Harvest in Middle of Kurdish-Arab Dispute
*  10 killed in Arab, Kurd clashes
*  Kurd-Arab clashes imperil Iraq cease-fire
*  Americans Try to Quell Arab-Kurd Flare-Up


Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Iraq Report Vol. 6, No. 22, 16 May 2003

*  REPORTS CONTINUE OF ROBBERY AND DISORDER IN BAGHDAD issued a report on 13 May discussing the current state of
disorder in some areas of Baghdad. The report describes some neighborhoods
in the Iraqi capital -- specifically, Al-Dura, Al-Kazimiyah, Al-Thawra, Bab
Al-Shaykh, and Al-Taji -- as "extremely dangerous," witnessing incidents of
violent theft.

"The main streets of Baghdad, in particular those areas that the U.S. Army
does not patrol, such as Al-Nahjah, Al-Kifah, Al-Thawra, Al-Mada'in, Bab
Al-Shaykh, Bab Al-Sharqi, Baghdad Al-Jadidah, Al-Ma'mum, and Shari
Al-Jamhuriah, from around 4:00 p.m. are controlled by armed gangs...ready to
confiscate cars, cash, expensive goods and valuables from people." The
report also recounts the kidnapping, rape, and murder of a 25-year-old
female journalist, and said that journalists are often the target of the

In related news, the Kurdistan Democratic Party's website
( reported on 9 May that the Kurdistan Regional
Government's Interior Ministry has said that 54 stolen cars have been
returned to the city of Mosul "to be handed over to their rightful owners
and in some cases to civilian offices in the city." An unnamed U.S. Army
general reportedly oversaw the return of the stolen vehicles, which were
transported in a convoy (the report did not say from where) to the northern
city's governorate office. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

Palestine Chronicle, 16th May

UNITED NATIONS - As the United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator asked
the United States authorities in Iraq to improve security, other UN
officials turned their focus to the refugee problem, calling for return or
compensation for up to 1 million people displaced internally by Saddam
Hussein and preparing for the repatriation of up to 500,000 external exiles.

On the first day of a three-day visit, Under-Secretary General for
Humanitarian Affairs Kenzo Oshima met with the head of the US civil
authority, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, and reiterated the UN's concern over
the continuing lack of security, which is seriously impeding its ability to
deliver humanitarian aid.

"We are concerned about the security situation," he told reporters after the
meeting. "Without adequate security the delivery of humanitarian assistance
will be hampered. We are concerned with security and we are very strongly
interested in the restoration of law and order. I raised this issue with
Ambassador Bremer."

Mr. Oshima also met with Ramiro Lopes da Silva, UN Humanitarian Coordinator
for Iraq, the heads of other UN agencies in Iraq, and Iraqi officials
working in the various ministries. They, too, raised concerns over security
in a city that has been swept by looting, shooting and robbery.

Tomorrow Mr. Oshima is due to visit the UN humanitarian team in Basra in the
south, Iraq's second largest city, and on Sunday he is scheduled to tour
port installations in Um Qasr, where the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is
taking delivery of food cargoes for the reactivation of the public
distribution system in June.

Meanwhile, a representative of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the
world body should be asked to help in resolving the issue of internal
refugees displaced by the previous regime, including 600,000 to 700,000
Kurds in northern Iraq, more than 100,000 Kurds, Turkmen and Assyrians in
the Kirkuk area, tens of thousands of Arab Shiites in the centre and south,
and 100,000 to 200,000 Marsh Arabs in the south.

At the same time any solution had to assure fairness for more than 200,000
Arabs brought into the north to replace the Kurds, Mr. Annan's
Representative on Internally Displaced Persons, Francis M. Deng, said in a
statement in Geneva.

"Forced displacement is one of the more insidious assaults on human rights
and can undermine and violate ethnic identity and dignity. The quicker the
displacement can be acknowledged and addressed, the more likely it will be
that stability and unity will be brought to Iraq," Mr. Deng added.

He said reconstruction and development funds, including oil revenues, should
be used to help people return or obtain compensation for land and property
lost but in either case "fairness must be assured for the more than 200,000
Arabs" brought in to the Kirkuk area.

"To help these diverse groups better manage their returns and their
competing land and property claims, the United Nations should be requested
to assist, given its experience in this area," Mr. Deng declared. "It could
provide objective advice and assistance with returns and help set up
effective claims commissions to adjudicate property disputes."

On the question of external refugees, a spokesman for the UN High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said the agency was preparing for the
return of up to 500,000 Iraqis, mainly from Iran and Jordan.

UNHCR was now operating in Iraq's three main regions, and was also checking
on thousands of internal foreign refugees, mainly Palestinians and Iranians,
many of whom had been evicted from their homes while others wanted to
repatriate due to tension with host communities, spokesman Kris Janowski
said in Geneva.

On another critical issue  children  UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) Executive
Director Carol Bellamy is set to visit Iraq this weekend for a three-day
stay. "There's much more that needs to be done to improve the chances of
survival for children and to get this country pointed in the right
direction," Ms. Bellamy said in a statement on the eve of her departure.

"We are alarmed by the high numbers of children being injured by munitions,
and by anecdotal reports of children who are reported to have disappeared.
The faster we get coherent education and health systems functioning again,
with paid staff, the less children will fall through the cracks," she added.

[United Nations News Center.] Published at the Palestine Chronicle.

Seattle Times, 17th May

More than 47,000 antiquities initially believed looted from the Iraq
National Museum in Baghdad actually were taken for safekeeping by museum
staffers who now refuse to hand them over to either their U.S. occupiers or
remnants of the hated former government, U.S. investigators said yesterday.

Members of the museum staff have "sworn on the Quran not to reveal the ...
secret place" where they hid treasures for safeguarding before the war,
chief investigator Col. Matthew Bogdanos said yesterday.

"They won't divulge the place until the United States leaves and there is a
new government," he said.

They have promised investigators an inventory of the items stored there.

by Louis Charbonneau
Yahoo, 19th May

VIENNA (Reuters) - The head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency
warned on Monday that a nuclear contamination emergency may be developing in
Iraq and appealed to the United States to let his experts back into the

"I am deeply concerned by the almost daily reports of looting and
destruction at nuclear sites," International Atomic Energy Agency chief
Mohamed ElBaradei said in a statement.

He said he was especially worried "about the potential radiological safety
and security implications of nuclear and radiological materials that may no
longer be under control."

He said the reports the IAEA has received described uranium being emptied on
the ground from containers then taken for domestic use and radioactive
sources being stolen and removed from their shielding.

"We have a moral responsibility to establish the facts without delay and
take urgent remedial action," ElBaradei said.

The U.N. agency has warned that stolen radioactive material could end up in
the hands of terrorists who could use it to make dirty bombs, which combine
radioactive material with a conventional explosive like dynamite to spread
it over a wide area and is aimed more at causing panic than physical damage.

The IAEA chief first asked the United States on April 10 to secure nuclear
material stored under U.N. seal at Iraq's Tuwaitha nuclear research center
and was promised by the United States that its military would keep the site

One of the sources stored at Tuwaitha is caesium 137, a highly radioactive
powder that would be especially dangerous in a dirty bomb. In 1987, a
canister of caesium powder found in a Brazil junkyard exposed 249 people to
radiation, killing four.

After numerous media reports that Tuwaitha and other nuclear facilities in
Iraq had been looted, ElBaradei wrote again to the U.S. on April 29
requesting permission to send a mission to Iraq to investigate the looting

The IAEA has received no response from Washington and said that the
contamination in Iraq could lead to a "serious humanitarian situation."

There have already been media reports that residents near Tuwaitha have
exhibited symptoms of radiation sickness.

There are more than 1,000 other radioactive sources in Iraq, many of which
were stored at Tuwaitha.

Washington Post, 20th May

Reuters: Four Marine Corps crewmen were killed yesterday when their CH-46
Sea Knight helicopter crashed into a waterway near Karbala in Iraq, defense
officials said.

The officials, who asked not to be identified, said the four were the only
persons aboard the twin-engine troop transport when it went down.

The Pentagon gave no details of the crash. It said only that the helicopter
was missing and presumed to have gone down near Karbala, about 68 miles
southwest of Baghdad.

Marine Corps Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, a Defense Department spokesman, said there
was no indication that groundfire was involved in the incident.

RETURN OF THE NATIVES (and see New Kurdish Order)

NO URL (sent through list)

by Tom Hundley
The Chicago Tribune, 16th May

KHAN BENI SAAD, Iraq -- In the first days after the fall of the old regime,
men with assault rifles came into their homes and ordered them to leave.

In some villages, the gunmen gave them 24 hours. In others, they were more
generous, offering the villagers a week to pack up and even promising that
they could return to harvest their crops.

No hard feelings. Just the reality that the men with the guns make the

In this case, the gunmen were Kurds, members of the Patriotic Union of
Kurdistan, a militia that has the Pentagon's blessing to operate in northern
Iraq. They said their orders came directly from Jalal Talabani, the PUK
leader and a man with close ties to the U.S. leadership in Iraq.

The victims were Shiite tribesmen from the south who had been living in
villages around Khanaqin, near the Iranian border.

There is no personal enmity between the two groups. The men with the guns
were simply reclaiming homes seized during Saddam Hussein's genocidal purge
of the Kurds, which lasted from the mid-1970s through the 1980s and resulted
in the emptying of 3,800 villages and the deaths of 200,000 people.

The Shiites were originally from the southern city of Nasiriyah. Landless
peasants, they, too, were forcibly transplanted to Khanaqin in a Stalinist
effort by Hussein to "Arabize" the north and weaken Shiite solidarity in the

"I always knew it was their land--the Kurds' land. That's why I didn't feel
so angry when they came back," said Dauod Selman Jabber, 38, a farmer.

So Jabber's family and hundreds of others from their tribe, the
al-Sherafeyyeen, packed meager belongings into battered vehicles and

They have taken shelter where available. In the town of Khan Beni Saad,
about an hour north of Baghdad, one group of about 250 from another tribe
has found refuge in an abandoned prison. They spruced up the cells with
family pictures and carpets.

Jabber and about a dozen other families from his tribe have settled at
abandoned army barracks in the same village. Their cows and goats now graze
where soldiers once trained.

Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in March, humanitarian agencies feared a
war would trigger a flood of refugees, up to a million or more. That never
happened. Thus far, the biggest population transfers have been Iraqis
evicted from houses that are being reclaimed by Kurds.

Human Rights Watch, which has looked into the matter, estimates that 5,000
people from the Khanaqin area have been forced from their homes.

"People are on the move all through Iraq. This group is the largest that we
have identified so far, but we believe there are displacements in Mosul and
Kirkuk and other places," said Peter Bouckaert, a senior researcher for the
humanitarian group in Baghdad.

"I wouldn't call it ethnic cleansing--I reserve that phrase for nastier
folks--but something has to be done for these people," he said.

Jabber blamed one man for his tribe's plight.

"It's Saddam's fault. If we had stayed in Nasiriyah, this never would have
happened. But he moved the Kurds out of their lands and then he moved the
Arabs, so it's his fault," he said.

"After 33 years of work and 12 family members, I now have nothing because of
this man," Hamid Mayh, another farmer from the village, said in agreement.

What the villagers are hoping for is that someone in authority will give
them land.

"We are now asking the authorities--whoever they are--to allow us to have
someplace in the shade," said Ali Murad Hussein, 66, one of the village

But there is no authority in the Iraqi hinterlands. Only men with guns.

"Before, if I had a quarrel with you, I went to court to settle it. Now I
have to shoot you or you will shoot me to reach a settlement," said Murshid
Shilfat, 45, another displaced farmer.

And for this state of affairs, they blame the United States.

"The Americans came and got rid of Saddam Hussein, but what did they do for
the people?" asked Shilfat. "The Americans are responsible for this chaos."

Because of the security crisis, very few aid agencies operate in Iraq, and
none has ventured into Khan Beni Saad. The few supplies these farmers
managed to bring with them are running low, and they are worried that soon
they will be hungry.

"The people are restless. But if the Americans would give us some rations,
they would relax," said Mayh. "The people don't want a rebellion against the
Americans, but if we are hungry, things can go wrong."

NO URL (sent through list)

by Sabrina Tavernise
The New York Times, 17th May

KIRKUK, Iraq, May 15  Old and painful fault lines are beginning to open in
the messy ethnic patchwork of Iraq's north.

Since the end of the war, Kurds in the area have been making the trek from
the towns to which they were banished by Saddam Hussein during brutal ethnic
cleansing campaigns of the 1970's and 1980's back to the places where they
grew up.

But the homecomings can be awkward affairs. In many instances, returning
Kurds confront Arabs who were brought in to replace them as part of the
government's strategy of establishing a firm hold over the rich oil
resources of the north.

Now Kurdish leaders want them out but the Americans want to move
deliberately in order to protect legitimate property rights. In an interview
this week, Sami Abdul Rahman, one of the highest-ranking members of the
Kurdish Democratic Party of Massoud Barzani, criticized the American
approach as too slow.

"We can compromise on everything but Arabization," Mr. Rahman said. "The
Arabs are leaving the land they stole, but Americans are bringing them back.
This is the biggest insult to the Kurdish people. Those who delay decisions
will have to face popular anger."

The American authorities say they do not have the manpower or the system to
sort out property claims. Their objective is to temporarily freeze living
arrangements in their prewar condition, intervening on occasion when a
weapon is involved. In some cases, American forces have asked returning
Kurds to stay away from vacant villages. Kamal Kerkuki, 49, a Kurd from this
city whose land was taken away in the 1960's during the first sweep of the
area by the Baath Party, said some of the more aggressive Kurds have even
been jailed for short stretches.

Sorting out the truth can be difficult. Stories are exaggerated and emotions
often run high. The problems in the city proper peaked a few weeks ago, said
Col. William Mayville of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. But the provinces are
still tense. Just today, Colonel Mayville agreed on a split of the harvest
between the Arabs who planted it and the Kurds who own the land.

The Kurds "are the victims," Colonel Mayville said. "But part of what they
are asking to redress could cause more victims."

While the debate goes on, many Arabs who fear retribution are simply
abandoning the farms and villages they occupied decades ago. A drive through
the foothills here is a surreal tour through a land of empty villages, some
slowly being resettled by Kurds. Here in Kirkuk, the heart of the Kurdish
enclave, Arabs have even been beaten, taken hostage and threatened with

But cool-headed Kurds are working with American forces to defuse a
potentially explosive situation. Mr. Kerkuki spent this afternoon persuading
a Kurdish family to protect an Arab husband and wife who had fled in fear.

Mr. Kerkuki, the Kurdish representative to the American forces here, has
worked 18-hour days on ethnic conflicts in Kirkuk since the war began,
resettling both Kurds and Arabs. He also speaks his mind.

"Americans have one policy: everything should wait until a solution can be
found through law," he said in his car between interventions. "But I told
them, 'If you went home now and saw someone in your house who kicked you out
12 years ago, you wouldn't want to wait around.' "

Consider Muhsen Zanganah, a father of five who has been living in a camp
about 60 miles from here since losing his home in the late 1980's. Two weeks
ago, he packed up his family and brought them here, to his old neighborhood.
Finding his house gone, he occupied the first empty one he found.

Today, American soldiers told him he had two weeks to leave.

"I have lived for years in a tent," he said angrily, sitting on the porch of
the house. "If I have to leave, where will I go? The Americans are
protecting the Arabs. Kurds are very angry about Americans in Kirkuk."

The Arab who made the complaint "was a senior member of the Baath Party,"
Mr. Zanganah said. "If he comes back to force my family to leave, I will
kill him."

Arabs are afraid. In Qadesiya, "For Sale" signs hang on the walls of
courtyards. In interviews today, three families said they felt threatened;
two said they planned to leave. One Arab woman, a teacher, said Kurdish
militias were coming into neighborhoods at night and firing guns to scare
people away.

"They are correcting a mistake with a mistake," said the woman, who moved to
Kirkuk in 1980. "On TV, Kurds are saying Kirkuk is only for the Kurds. They
say only 'original Arabs' can remain here. What are we, fake?"

Kurds have been using hard language. The regional parliament, located in the
city of Erbil, drew up a law during its Monday session that will set up some
ground rules for "cleaning the traces of the Arabization process" from the

People continue to wait to return to their hometowns. About 50 Kurdish
families are living in the Iraqi Army's Emergency Reserve barracks on the
edge of town. More families are living in a sports stadium nearby. Thousands
still reside in tent cities.

"They will have to wait, but they are not willing to wait for a long time,"
Mr. Kerkuki said. "We cannot control them. America cannot control them."

by Sabrina Tavernise
Houston Chronicle, from New York Times, 17th May
[in Kirkuk]

KIRKUK, Iraq -- Ethnic tensions between Kurds and Arabs exploded into
violence in this northern city on Saturday, as clashes in several
neighborhoods left at least five dead. It was the worst violence in this
city since the war.

Pickup trucks carrying armed men drove into Kirkuk from the town of Hawija,
witnesses said. Kurdish witnesses to the violence said the armed men were
Arabs, who were shouting slogans of support for Saddam Hussein. Gunfights
ensued in two neighborhoods, said people who had been wounded in the

By late afternoon, it remained impossible to determine who was responsible
for the shooting. The wounded seemed to be predominantly Kurdish, though the
dead were split almost evenly between Arabs and Kurds.

The violence began three days ago, when Kurds harassed Arabs in an outdoor
market and a bridge called Asho-Hada. Rouad Aziz, a resident of Qadesiyah,
said he had been beaten and threatened by Kurds on Friday. The Kurdish
police said Arabs had cut the throats of four Kurds in another neighborhood
on Thursday. The body of a man who had been decapitated was in the city
morgue on Saturday.

"Yesterday Arabs were brought in with stab wounds, and today patients have
been mostly Kurds," said Dr. Akhmed Makhmud, the head doctor on duty at the
Republican Hospital. He said 20 patients were being treated for gun wounds,
one in intensive care.

As U.S. forces try to keep order, complicated ethnic tensions could prove to
be a pitfall. U.S. soldiers interviewed on Saturday said that sorting out
the truth was difficult.

"It's tribal fights," said Sgt. Christopher Choay, of the 173rd Airborne
Brigade. "It's hard for us to tell who is who. We can't take anyone's side.
We're like a messenger caught in the middle."

by Louis Meixler
Las Vegas Sun, 17th May

MAKHMUR, Iraq (AP): It's harvest time in the rolling, golden hills of
northern Iraq. And this year's expected bumper crop is aggravating a bitter
dispute over who owns it - Kurdish landowners expelled by Saddam Hussein, or
the Arab farmers who replaced them.

Fields have been scorched, and farmers are reaping with assault rifles slung
over their shoulders. The U.S. Army has brokered a profit-sharing agreement
between the two sides, but even U.S. officers admit it is difficult to
enforce and, in some cases, ignored.

"It's a complete mess," said Maj. Blain Reeves, an infantry officer with the
Army's 101st Airborne Division. He spends much of his time in an office in a
grain silo complex, mediating disputes.

The fields outside Makhmur are awash with barley to the horizon. Combines
troll the land, slicing crops in half, then ejecting black barley kernels
through a chute into a nearby dump truck. Bedouin shepherds follow the
combine with their flocks, which eat the barley stalks left behind.

The dispute over the barley fields is one of the most explosive in northern
Iraq, a zone of tension between Kurds and Arabs since the earliest days of
Saddam's regime. Kurds estimate several hundred thousand of their brethren
were expelled as part of Saddam's drive to break a Kurdish revolt. Arabs
were shipped in to take their places.

With Saddam driven from power, Kurds are beginning to return home. Now, the
Arabs are fleeing.

Saddam's campaign focused on areas like Kirkuk, a key oil-producing city in
the north, and villages like Makhmur, 50 miles to the southwest in the heart
of Iraq's breadbasket.

Jamil Arab Qadir, a Kurdish farmer, says Iraqi officials told him in 1995
that if he didn't give up his 87-acre barley farm in Makhmur to an Arab, his
family would be trucked hundreds of miles south to an overwhelmingly Arab
part of the country.

The 57-year-old farmer returned Tuesday with his wife and 13 children to

"I feel like I have been reborn," he said, walking through a field of dry
stalks that crunched beneath his feet. He says he will not let the Arab
farmers who planted the barley - and fled during the fighting - return.

"They were supported by Saddam Hussein. But since Saddam Hussein no longer
exists, they can't stay," he said. "We won't let them."

U.S. officials worry about Arab-Kurdish clashes in the area. A week ago,
they brokered an agreement between regional officials that would force both
sides to split the harvest's profits. A separate agreement was reached
Thursday for Kirkuk.

Both sides accepted it under U.S. pressure - grudgingly.

"The Kurds have lost for so many years," said Khasro Goran, the deputy mayor
of Mosul, who helped negotiate the deal. "Why can't an Arab lose for one
year? "

As three Arab clan leaders wearing white robes with gold-trimmed black
cloaks waited to discuss land complaints with Goran, he explained why he
approved the agreement.

"What can we do, kill each other?" he asked. "The Americans wanted this. The
Americans just don't want anyone to get mad."

Sheik Abdelaziz, the head of a leading Arab tribe in the area, was equally
pessimistic. "Frankly, we didn't have any other choice," he said.

The agreement is so sensitive that Abdelaziz would only speak if his full
name and the name of his tribe were not printed.

Under the U.S.-sponsored deal, Arabs and Kurds must split all profits from
the grain sales, though the exact percentage depends on where the grain was
harvested. The agreement can be enforced only if Arabs are there to claim
their share.

Arabs made up two-thirds of Makhmur under Saddam, but many fled as the
regime collapsed and Kurdish militiamen began moving south. Now that 101st
Airborne troops control the area and guard the enormous grain silo that
looms over the town, some Arabs are beginning to return.

"The Arabs see us here and they're saying 'Hey, the U.S. is here. Let's go
back,'" Reeves said. "So the Arabs come back and they want a piece of the

That can be difficult, as Hamid Ali now knows. The 35-year-old farmer was at
Reeves' office at the grain silo Wednesday, trying to get his share.

Ali said he returned last week to the farm where he once worked and found
Kurds tilling the fields.

"We went to the land and told them about the agreement," he told Reeves.
"They told us that we'd been using their land for the past 12 years and that
we had no more rights."

Like some Arab farmers in the area, Ali is a sharecropper. He farmed land
Saddam gave to other Arabs who have since rented out the property and moved
to nearby cities.

Without ownership documents, Ali has little chance of recouping the time and
money he invested in the crop. The dispute over nature's bounty continues,
and the Americans stand in the middle, trying to figure out the complicated
ethnic politics of Saddam's Iraq.

"I definitely feel for the farmers. They're the guys who did the work,"
Reeves said. "If these guys have any proof, I'll fight for them."

Dawn, 20th May

KIRKUK, May 19, Reuters: At least 10 people have been killed in clashes
between Arabs and Kurds in Kirkuk in the worst violence in Iraq's northern
oil city since the invasion, a local police official said on Monday.

As officials prepared for city council elections this week, Arabs and Kurds
fought over the weekend in mainly Arab districts in the southern part of the
city, 250kms north of Baghdad, senior official Jwamma Kakey said.

Most of the fatalities occurred on Saturday but there was further violence
on Sunday. It was not clear what triggered the fighting but a senior US
military official said members of each community blamed the other for the

"Both sides could be right. Some political language could be all you need as
a catalyst," said Colonel William Mayville, commander of the 173rd Airborne

"My sense is that there are external forces at work."Looting and violence
among the city's mix of Arabs, Kurds, Turkmens and Assyrians first erupted
after troops loyal to Saddam fled the city nearly six weeks ago.

Tension between majority Arabs and the Kurds has been partly driven by
disputes over land or property seized under Saddam's "Arabisation" campaign
in the region. Many Kurds demand the right to return to homes from which
they were expelled under Saddam.

The trigger for the latest violence was believed to be a combination of rows
over resettlement and the pursuit of former Baath party members, according
to US military officials.

They said hospital reports seen by them indicated at least nine people had
been killed and around 40 injured in the fighting, which local witnesses
said was ignited by arguments between in the city market and protests in
some districts.

Multi-ethnic delegations were sent to the troubled districts to appeal for
calm and on Monday Kirkuk's streets were virtually empty, with shop shutters
pulled down.

"The situation has calmed down and we are tightening security," said Kakey,
a senior member of the city's fledgling 500-strong police force. "We are
holding joint patrols with US forces to control the situation."

Mayville said the US military had changed its tactics in response to the
most serious clashes since Iraqi forces fled the city on April 10.

Snap checkpoints were being manned at the entrance to the city, he said, but
declined to talk about other changes.US forces tightened security around
Kirkuk's town hall on Monday, setting up new fences topped with barbed wire
around the building in a move planned before the weekend fighting.

"In a week or two you may find there is a similar incident but I don't
believe this is fertile ground for Baathist people to come back in and take
this place over," Mayville said.

Kirkuk is preparing for municipal elections this week, marking another step
in US efforts to establish local government in Iraq. A council was appointed
in Iraq's third largest city, Mosul, a fortnight ago.

On Saturday some 300 community leaders are to choose a 30-member city
council which will appoint a mayor and his deputies on Monday."An interim
government is a strategy to release stress until we get a more detailed
government plan in place," Mayville said.

Before the latest clashes, there had been signs of cooperation between Kurds
and Arabs over disputed farmland.Under a negotiated settlement, harvests
will be divided equally between the groups, with the state receiving 10

by Charles A. Radin
Boston Globe, 20th May

KIRKUK, Iraq -- A wave of village burnings, forcible evictions, and armed
clashes between Kurdish forces and Arab fighters is sweeping through
north-central Iraq in an outbreak of ethnic strife that threatens the
tenuous cease-fire imposed by the US-led coalition.

The clashes have centered on the pivotal oil-rich city of Kirkuk and could
have great influence on who wields political and economic power in Iraq.

Following fresh evictions and the burning of two Arab farm villages, Arab
irregulars attacked the regional government building in Kirkuk on Saturday,
and they fought with Kurdish forces on the streets of the city with
automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades on Sunday. Officials say at
least 10 people were killed in the violence last weekend.

Several freshly charred villages -- Albu Saraj, Jamboor, Al Behar, and
others -- were observed by reporters on both sides of the main highway
through the Kirkuk area. Residents of larger towns said efforts to eject
Arab residents forcibly are occurring daily.

Major Robert Gowan, a spokesman for the US military in Kirkuk, said, ''We
are trying not to allow any forcible evictions. We are trying to stop people
from being killed.

''We want to freeze the situation in place and have property disputes
settled by some kind of court,'' he said. ''But this is a very tough,
emotional issue.''

Hoshyar Zebari, director of international relations for the Kurdistan
Democratic Party, the dominant political force in the conflict area, said
American intervention is ''a point of tension between us and the coalition

''Unfortunately, they do not comprehend the sensitivity of this process of
Arabization'' that was pushed with steadily increasing force during nearly
40 years of Ba'ath Party rule in Iraq, he said. ''It was ethnic cleansing,

Zebari said the Arab settlers who were pushed out immediately after the
recent war ''are being brought back with the mighty power of the United

''This is going to be a flashpoint issue. It is very tense,'' Zebari said.

Arabization of Kurdish areas began with the Ba'ath Party's rise to power in
1963, according to Rezgar Ali, a member of the Kirkuk City Council and the
Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK. The new rulers of Iraq formed their
army primarily from Arab tribes and clans, looted and burned Kurdish
villages, and killed many young Kurdish men.

''I was one year and six months old. We fled to the mountains with nothing
but the clothes on our backs,'' Ali said.

The policy became official soon after Saddam Hussein took control in 1979.
Poor families in Baghdad and other central cities were offered 10,000 Iraqi
dinars -- a huge sum in those days -- and guarantees of housing and
employment if they moved north.

Arabization intensified in the aftermath of the Anfal campaign, when Ba'ath
forces killed more than 100,000 Kurds, systematically slaughtering men and
boys near fighting age and killing women and young children as well. The
campaign intensified again following the Kurdish rebellion after the 1991
Gulf War.

Knowledge of this history, Ali said, is necessary to understand the current
atmosphere, in which ''some of the Kurds . . . burned [Arab] villages as
revenge for the history of injustice and so the Arabs could not come back to
these villages.''

Although many of the burned sites have been marked with PUK letters, it
''does not mean an official came and wrote it,'' Ali said. He insisted that
Arabs who settled in Kurdish areas ''go back where they originally came from
. . . we don't want revenge on the settlers.''

The ethnic clashes are occurring only days before 300 community leaders are
scheduled to elect a 30-member city council that will appoint a mayor, a
crucial step in the attempts by the US-led coalition to foster democracy in

Amid the smoldering ruins of Albu Saraj, an Arab village that until 2 1/2
weeks ago was home to an estimated 750 people, Naji Mizeyal told how his
clan moved north 35 years ago, when he was 11.

''The whole clan came at once, about 20 families,'' Mizeyal said. ''We had
nothing. We lived in tents and built this village.'' The clan became
prosperous, growing wheat, barley, corn, and sesame.

Around May 1, Mizeyal said, Kurds from a nearby village blockaded their only
road and confiscated cars. They began shooting at the Arabs at night. After
two women and four children were killed, he said, the village was evacuated.
The Kurds, accompanied by peshmerga fighters, began coming at night to burn

A delegation from Albu Saraj that tried to open talks was fired upon several
days later, and two members of the group were killed, he said. Then a
message was sent to the Arabs that no one would bother them if they
returned. A group of more than 30 men went -- and was fired upon.

The Albu Saraj residents notified American troops in the area, who, Mizeyal
says, ''wrote a report and told the neighboring village they should not
shoot at us anymore. They did not obey.''

The former Albu Saraj residents are now dispersed in the area, their
youngest children sheltering in Arab villages that Mizeyal said ''are well
protected,'' while the adults and the older children live ''in tents . . .
in the wilderness. There is no water, no electricity. There is no food.''

Ahmad Jalil, 23, has not been chased out of Tawuq, a major town south of
Kirkuk, but it is likely he will be soon. His is the last of 50 houses in
Tawuq still occupied by families who moved in during the Arabization.

''People have been threatening me and painting PUK on my house . . .
shooting in the air, for a week now,'' Jalil said. ''They've gone through
the whole neighborhood. The latest family to go took off this morning.

''Where will we go?'' the young mason said anxiously. ''I came here when I
was seven years old. I didn't know there was such a thing as Arabization

''This is my only home. My father died here. All my brothers were born here.
I am taking care of six orphans. Where will we go?''

Qassem Abdullah, also 23, stood close by. He and Jalil grew up together in
Tawuq. They went to the same school and played football. Sometimes they work
together. But that doesn't affect Abdullah's feelings about Arabization. His
friend has to go.

''The people who are coming back from Kurdistan need their houses back,''
Abdullah said. ''The people who came through Arabization should leave. It is
not personal. We will still be friends.''

by Sabrina Tavernise
New York Times, 20th May

SEEHA, 19th May: American troops trying to quell ethnic clashes in northern
Iraq came under fire on Sunday night, as tensions between Arabs and Kurds
continued to simmer, increasing the dangers faced by troops charged with
keeping the peace.

One soldier was injured in the firefight, which followed clashes in Kirkuk
on Saturday that left at least nine people dead. On Sunday in Erbil, in a
move that could deepen hostility between the groups, the Kurdish regional
parliament passed a toughly worded law that would "cancel the history of
Arabization in Kurdistan."

Under the law, non-Kurds who came to three northern cities during Saddam
Hussein's campaign to populate the north with Arabs, would be forced to
leave. The law gives no specifics on how it would be carried out.

The American soldiers who were attacked Sunday were on their way to Hawija,
about 20 miles from Kirkuk, thought to be the hometown of many of the Arab
men involved in the clashes on Saturday.

Capt. Joel Fischer of the First Infantry Division said that Arabs who took
part in the clashes in Kirkuk were armed and that interviews with men
stopped at vehicle checkpoints over the weekend revealed that many of them
had come from Hawija.

But the trip to search and secure the town proved more difficult than the
soldiers had expected. On the road into Hawija, about 9 p.m., troops from
the First Infantry Division and the 173rd Airborne Brigade stopped for a
break at this village. Suddenly, armed men appeared in a barley field along
the dark country road.

"All of a sudden, the town erupted in gunfire," said Lt. Ryan Williams, a
member of the approximately 35-man task force. Seeha is about eight miles
from Hawija.

The fighting continued for about an hour, with the American soldiers taking
heavy fire during the first 30 minutes. Even after reinforcement tanks
rolled in, the men from the village kept up their fire for 30 minutes more,
Captain Fischer said.

One American soldier was shot twice, but he was not critically wounded. A
bullet lodged in his protective vest, and another in his body. He was
evacuated in a medical helicopter. Even after two Apache helicopters flew in
to give support from the air, the convoy could not move forward. It was not
until after 11 p.m. that troops were finally able to continue toward Hawija.

"They were good shots," Captain Fischer said in an interview in Kirkuk after
the troops returned from the operation. "There was a high volume of fire,
and it was fairly accurate. It was coordinated. I heard reports of tracer
rounds being fired as we moved forward."

The fight highlighted the difficulties American troops face as they try to
pick their way through ethnic disputes. They must strike a balance between
Arabs and Kurds, sometimes without knowing whom they are fighting. This
weekend, for example, fliers were distributed by an unknown group in an Arab
area, warning residents to leave or be forced out.

"You just need to be out there and see what's going on," Captain Fischer
said. "Then you determine where to be out in force. If you go out in force
all the time, it loses its effect."

The exhausted battalion finally reached Hawija in the early morning hours
today. They set up several checkpoints on the main roads in and out of the
town and began checking each passing car for weapons. By midmorning today a
serpentine line of cars waiting to be searched snaked along one of the main
roads into the village.

"The word is out that Americans have come to check for weapons," said Sgt.
Mark Douglas of the First Infantry Division. "There's a lot of money coming
through this town."

As the morning wore on, many questions remained about the night's firefight.
Villagers, mainly Arab farmers, were out inspecting the damage. No one was
hurt, they said, but they lost property. By their count, American artillery
killed five cows, six or seven sheep and a donkey, tore holes in six houses
and destroyed two tractors. In all, about 60 families live in Seeha.

The farmers admitted that they had fired on the soldiers but said they had
not known they were shooting at Americans because of the darkness. Tense
after the weekend violence in Kirkuk, they said they mistook the troops for
invading Kurds. About 15 people fired for 30 minutes, said Akhmed Saleh, one
of the farmers who took part in the gunfight.

"It was the Americans' mistake," said Mr. Saleh, standing near a gaping hole
in his neighbor's house caused by American tank fire. "We didn't know they
were Americans." The farmers said they were armed with only simple rifles
and had stopped firing and fled as soon as they realized whom they were
fighting. They said they had no other guns.

The Americans, however, were skeptical. By morning, they had confiscated 15
or 16 automatic weapons, including AK-47 guns and two Belgian-made guns,
Captain Fischer said. "The weapons we found were not typical of farmers,"
the captain said. "One of the guns they had I couldn't afford. The movement
tactics we saw were not from farmers."

Kirkuk today was quiet. Local representatives from the Arab and Kurdish
communities were talking to people in neighborhoods, urging calm. A joint
meeting in a mosque on Sunday night seemed to reach a truce, though shooting
continued in the Qadesiyah neighborhood. A Turkmen representative was shot
in the hand while he was leaving a meeting on Sunday.

Everyone in the north has a gun. After the fall of Kirkuk, American forces
found more than a division's worth of weapons and ammunition in strategic
points around the city.

"There were houses filled floor to ceiling and wall to wall with tank ammo
and artillery rounds," Captain Fischer said. "They were quickly emptied

It was unclear when more clashes would occur, but Captain Fischer said he
was sure that at some point they would.

"It will flare up again," he said. Easing the problem "will require patience
on everyone's part, including ours. You have to define what the problem
actually is and talk through it."

Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
To unsubscribe, visit
To contact the list manager, email
All postings are archived on CASI's website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]