You don't belong here – Leave unconditionally within 24 hours – or else we are prepared to use all means including force, if necessary"
Armed men, in civilian clothes distributed fliers to Arab and Turkoman families in Kirkuk – but mostly to Arab families.
A general census is to be held in Iraq on October 24.
And all through the political crisis – and until this day, PM Nouri al Maliki keeps on statements affirming the date of the census – again and again, as if there was nothing else on his mind.
Kirkuk is oil rich; it is the main area that is "disputed" between the central government and the semi-autonomous Kurd region in the north of Iraq. It is city of mixed population: Kurds, Turkoman and Arab and a small community of Christians. During Saddam's reign he waged a campaign to "Arabize" the area in fear that once the Kurds (who had their own "region" and government, supported by the U.S. after the Gulf war) got their hands on the city – and its oil revenues, they would completely separate and become an independent Kurd state.
After the occupation in 2003, a new constitution was written for Iraq – in it some provisions touching on the Kurd issue. Item 140 came into being, according to which the "disputed areas" issue would be settled once and for all, by four steps: normalization, census, referendum and according to the referendum the fate of the area will be decided by the people living there.
After the occupation in 2003, great displacement took place in all regions of Iraq, and a demographic change took place. So many Iraqis are now refugees outside the country more are displaced inside Iraq. Many people in Iraq believe that this displacement was not random – least of all that which took place in Baghdad – and Kirkuk.
"Deputy Governor of Kirkuk city, Rakan Saeed told me on the phone, "We have issued a statement and called on the central government to send security forces to protect the Arab and Turkoman families. The Asayesh (the Kurd intelligence agency – controlled by the two prominent Kurd parties, the Kurdistan Democratic party, led by president of Kurdistan region, Masoud Barazani, and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, led by Iraqi president Jalal Talabani) have been distributing these fliers door to door for three days. They are carrying weapons and spreading fear and confusion and we fear the consequences. They (the Asayesh) are under the orders of their (political) parties and if the central government wished – it could settle the situation with a few words with their leaders".
But Maliki has 139 seats backing his nomination to PM's office since yesterday's announcement – and he needs to top 163. So he needs 24 seats and the Kurd coalition has been cast in kingmaker's role.
Mohsin al Sadoun, prominent Kurd politician, told McClatchy, "Our acceptance or refusal of any candidate for PM's office is contingent upon his response to our demands", the first of which is the Kirkuk issue.
The Arab Political Council in Kirkuk issued a statement calling on the Iraqi government to shoulder its duties towards the people of Kirkuk, "These actions are in defiance of the authority of the central government under whose authority Kirkuk lies – But if there is no response from the central government, then we will protect our neighbourhoods. Either the residents will step up or the local authorities should form a force to secure our neighbourhoods".
"We want the central government to settle this issue" said Saeed, "We want it settled according to the law – and not with innocent people getting hurt. These are just militias obeying their leaders – and the central government should be strong enough to resolve an issue like this without deterioration in the security".
But can Maliki afford to do this at this time??
It remains to be seen.