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Kurdish authorities 'evicting Arabs from Kirkuk'

Kurdish authorities have reportedly demolished homes of Arab families in Kirkuk [Stock image: Getty]

Date of publication: 3 November, 2016

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Hundreds of Arab families have had their homes destroyed on orders by Kurdish authorities, said Human Rights Watch, in the wake of the IS attack on the Iraqi city
Kurdish authorities are evicting hundreds of Arab residents from Kirkuk after an Islamic State sleeper cell attacked the city last month, Human Rights Watch has said.

At least 325 families have been forced out of the northern Iraqi city since IS militants launched a surprise counter-attack on October 21 while Iraqi troops advanced on Mosul.

Orders from the Kurdistan Regional Government threatened to demolish residents' homes if they did not move to refugee camps.

"Forcing families out of their homes and into the streets or to unsafe parts of the country is a serious violation of their rights and does nothing to strengthen Iraq's political cohesion," said Lama Fakih, HRW deputy Middle East director.

"While KRG security forces are working to protect civilians from IS, they should ensure that their security measures don't endanger civilians or undermine their rights."

On the morning of October 23, the Security Committee of Kirkuk Governorate issued an order to all internally displaced people living in Kirkuk who were not in camps to leave their homes by 8am the following day.

Houses would be bulldozed if they did not comply.

The order, posted online, was taken down, but authorities carried out evictions regardless, HRW said.

With just a few hours' notice, 325 families were forced out, most from the June First neighbourhood, and at least 100 homes were destroyed.

Arabs, including longtime residents of Kirkuk and those who fled nearby towns taken by IS in 2014, seem to be the sole victims, HRW said.
Evicting Arab families from their homes with only one day's notice and razing them to the ground is absolutely the wrong way to combat the security risk posed by IS
KRG officials have claimed that demolitions targeted illegally constructed buildings, yet HRW found there have been no similar demolitions affecting Kurdish residents, although their households were also allegedly illegally built, according to a local sheikh.

Brigadier Sherzad Maraf, a member of the Security Committee of Kirkuk Governorate, denied that the forcible displacements are taking place, as did the governor of Kirkuk.

However, Rakan Said al-Jubouri, the deputy governor, told HRW that he visited the neighbourhood and saw hundreds of homes destroyed by Peshmerga and Asayish forces.

"Evicting Arab families from their homes with only one day's notice and razing them to the ground is absolutely the wrong way to combat the security risk posed by IS," Fakih said.

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights said on October 25 that it was "concerned by the severe measures the authorities in Kirkuk have been taking against internally displaced people living in the city".

But the issue is not new, HRW's research found.

Since 2015, it has documented the forcible displacement of Arabs.

KRG authorities provided various reasons - the homes belonged to ISIS fighters, homes contained bombs or were constructed without permits.

In the case of the Laylan camp, 25 kilometres south of Kirkuk, the authorities said that residents had to leave to make room for displaced people from other parts of the country.

According to aid workers, security forces expelled more than 12,000 internally displaced people from Kirkuk governorate in September 2016 alone.

HRW has called on Kurdish authorities to "immediately end" unlawful forced displacements and demolitions which violate international law, and to compensate and rehouse families affected.

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