Officials in Kirkuk decided to cut the electricity supply to the national grid to protest the lack of power in the oil rich city for more than 20 hours every day.
Abdulrahman Mustafa, Governor of Kirkuk said, "Kirkuk has cut the electricity that is generated in the province from the national grid, and has decided to supply Kirkuk province alone until the Ministry of Electricity responds to our needs".
Supply to the national grid was cut in the presence of the commanders of police and Peshmerga after the first decision of its kind agreed between the residents of this multi-ethnic city. It was approved by the representatives of the Turkoman, Arab and Kurd groups, Monday 17th January.
Hasan Torhan, Turkoman member of the provincial council, said in a joint press conference, that all the members were agreed on this issue:
"We might have political differences, but we unite to provide services for our province. What prompted us to make this decision is the stance of the people of Altun Kopri (town) who strongly protested the lack of electricity and threatened to burn down the governorate building if they do not get their fair share of electricity.
"Let the government in Baghdad be informed that the world has become a small village and that what took place in Tunisia has reached a small town in Kirkuk (province) and can spread to every city in Iraq. We used to get four hours of electricity in a day, and now we have almost 14.
"The Ministry of Electricity has double standards regarding distribution of power to the provinces. We have in our possession documents that show that while the residents of KIrkuk get four hours per day, some other provinces get 10 hours or more. We contacted the deputy minister and the deputy Prime minister for energy, but they gave us nothing but empty promises.
"This is why we made a decision that will force the government to respond to our demands. And this is what happened: As soon as the electricity supply was cut, PM al Maliki sent a delegation from the ministry, and we will discuss with them the matter of justice for Kirkuk in power supply.
"Kirkuk is not the only province suffering from discrimination in this matter. The situation is the same in Mosul, some areas of Baghdad and some other provinces".
Razkar Ali Hama Jan, Head of the Kirkuk Provincial Council:
"It is shameful for some officials to adopt discriminative and favouratist treatment with the provinces. They inmplement one policy in Kirkuk, Salahuddin (Sunni majority), and even some neighbourhoods of Baghdad, that has increased the suffering of their residents in comparison with the mid and southern (Shiite majority) provinces. The provincial council will file a formal complaint against the ministry for unjust distribution of electricity theough the national grid".
After hearing all this, I just had to check. How much truth was there in these allegations of discrimination according to sect, so I spoke to our stringers in the provinces and asked for official electricity figures - And this is what I got:
Province Hours of power in 24 hours Population
Wasit 10 - 12 Shiite majority
Amara 10 - 12 Shiite majority
Basra 10 - 12 Shiite majority
Thi Qar 12 Shiite majority
Muthanna 12 Shiite majority
Babil 12 Shiite majority
Diwaniyah 12 Shiite majority
Diyala 8 Mixed
Nineveh 2 - 4 Sunni Majority
Kirkuk 4 Sunni majority
Anbar 4 - 5 Sunni majority
My neighbourhood 4
Although these are not all the provinces, the pattern is clear. Even I was surprised.
And Diyala is funny - Truely mixed!
Demand for electricity in Iraq today is estimated to be around 12 - 14 mw, and supply is just over 6 mw. Experts say that Iraq is not likely to be in a position to supply that much power before 2014.