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Kurds Curse ‘Traitors’ on Kirkuk Fall Anniversary

Today marks the third anniversary of the fall of Kirkuk after a group within the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) made a secret deal with the authorities in Baghdad and allowed the Iranian-backed militias of the Iranian Militias in Iraq and Syria IMIS to overran the city.

What happened back then?
On 16 October 2017, pro-Iran IMIS militias, together with the Iraqi army and after a back-room agreement with a group from the PUK, attacked the Peshmerga positions in Kirkuk, Tuz Khurmatu, and Khanaqin to push them back from the disputed Kurdish territories.

The move was apparently in retaliation for the landmark independence referendum a few weeks earlier. However, it resulted in the killing and injuring of hundreds of civilians while more than 200,000 Kurds were displaced from these areas.

A faction within the PUK, led by Bafel Talabani, Lahour Jangi, and several others, were immediately held responsible for the catastrophe. A day later, Jafar Sheikh Mustafa, then commander of PUK’s Unit 70 of Peshmerga forces, who is also a member of PUK’s politburo and currently serves as the vice president of Kurdistan Region, revealed that a small group from his party “were responsible for the treason”.

He said that the late PUK secretary general Jalal Talabani would punish this group as “traitors” if he was alive on that day.

“Those immature people within the PUK are responsible for the disaster in Kirkuk and Tuz Khurmatu,” Kosrat Rasoul, PUK’s then Deputy Secretary General said on 18 October 2017.

Aras Jangi, brother of Lahour Jangi, and one of the key figures known responsible for the fall of Kirkuk, was however defending the developments from the first moment. He repeatedly appeared on televised interviews describing the situation in Kirkuk as “absolutely safe” while the local Kurds were escaping Kirkuk in fear of mass detentions by IMIS.

Bafel Talabani, on the other hand, appeared later in an interview showing a document to prove that “38 officials” from the PUK had signed the secret agreement with Baghdad to allow IMIS in Kirkuk. However, some of the officials on the list later denied ever signing such a paper.

Three years have passed now and the city is under the full control of IMIS . Hundreds of Kurdish officials have been removed from their offices and a large number of locals are still displaced.

Hundred of Kurdish villages in Kirkuk are under imminent threat of Arabization which is being supported by the Baghdad-appointed governor and administration in the Kurdish province.