Latest | Recent Articles | Multimedia Page | TV | Search | Blog

Email this article | Print this article | Link to this Article

If you don't get MER, you just don't get it!
(202) 362-5266 - 27 June 2004 - MER@MiddleEast.Org
News, Views, & Analysis Governments, Lobbies, & the
Corporate Media Don't Want You To Know
The most honest, most comprehensive, and most mobilizing news and analysis
on the Middle East always comes from MER. It is indispensable!"
Robert Silverman - Salamanca, Spain
Free

Kurds on 'the return'

Mid-East Realities - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - 27 June 2004:
Substitute "Palestinians" for Kurds, and "Israelis" for Arabs, and there is a whole different twist to 'the return' of the Kurds featured in this front-page New York Times article last Sunday. Another great irony of our times is that even as the Americans and the Israelis help facilitate what the Kurds are doing in Iraq they demand the Palestinians give up their 'right of return' even though it is enshrined in many U.N. Security Council resolutions going back to 1947...not to mention all the repeated 'great power' promises to the Arabs going back nearly a hundred years now to the time of Lawrence of Arabia and the grand Paris "Peace Conference" of that era. It was then 'the peace to end all peace', and it is now something similar in our own lifetimes.
Time after time the lies and hypocrisy of the Western powers who took over the region with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire have brought such conflict and bitterness to the Arab and Muslim peoples of the greater Middle East. And now, as the new millenium is underway, the lies and hypocrisy of the "modern world", led by the United States, are setting the stage for what may be even greater bloodshed and hatred in the years now ahead.


Kurds Advancing to Reclaim Land in Northern Iraq


MAKHMUR, Iraq, June 17, by Dexter Filkins Thousands of ethnic Kurds are pushing into lands formerly held by Iraqi Arabs, forcing tens of thousands of them to flee to ramshackle refugee camps and transforming the demographic and political map of northern Iraq.

The Kurds are returning to lands from which they were expelled by the armies of Saddam Hussein and his predecessors in the Baath Party, who ordered thousands of Kurdish villages destroyed and sent waves of Iraqi Arabs north to fill the area with supporters.

The new movement, which began with the fall of Mr. Hussein, appears to have quickened this spring amid confusion about American policy, along with political pressure by Kurdish leaders to resettle the areas formerly held by Arabs. It is happening at a moment when Kurds are threatening to withdraw from the national government if they are not confident of having sufficient autonomy.

In Baghdad, American officials say they are struggling to keep the displaced Kurds on the north side of the Green Line, the boundary of the Kurdish autonomous region. The Americans agree that the Kurds deserve to return to their ancestral lands, but they want an orderly migration to avoid ethnic strife and political instability.

But thousands of Kurds appear to be ignoring the American orders. New Kurdish families show up every day at the camps that mark the landscape here, settling into tents and tumble-down homes as they wait to reclaim their former lands.

The Kurdish migration appears to be causing widespread misery, with Arabs complaining of expulsions and even murders at the hands of Kurdish returnees. Many of the Kurdish refugees themselves are gathered in crowded camps.

American officials say as many as 100,000 Arabs have fled their homes in north-central Iraq and are now scattered in squalid camps across the center of the country. With the anti-American insurgency raging across much of the same area, the Arab refugees appear to be receiving neither food nor shelter from the Iraqi government, relief organizations or American forces.

"The Kurds, they laughed at us, they threw tomatoes at us," said Karim Qadam, a 45-year-old father of three, now living amid the rubble of a blown-up building in Baquba, northeast of Baghdad. "They told us to get out of our homes. They told us they would kill us. They told us, `You don't own anything here anymore.' "

Ten years ago, Mr. Qadam said, Iraqi officials forced him to turn over his home in the southern city of Diwaniya and move north to the formerly Kurdish village of Khanaqaan, where he received a free parcel of farmland. Now, like the thousands of Arabs encamped in the parched plains northeast of Baghdad, Mr. Qadam, his wife and three children have no home to return to.

The push by the Kurds into the formerly Arab-held lands, while driven by the returnees themselves, appears to be backed by the Kurdish government, which has long advocated a resettlement of the disputed area. Despite an explicit prohibition in the Iraqi interim constitution, Kurdish officials are setting up offices and exercising governmental authority in the newly settled areas.

The shift in population is raising fears in Iraq that the Kurds are trying to expand their control over Iraqi territory at the same time they are suggesting that they may pull out of the Iraqi government.

American officials say they are trying to fend off pressure from Kurds to move their people back into the area. "There is a lot of pressure in the Kurdish political context to bring the people who were forced out back into their hometowns," said a senior American official in Baghdad, speaking on the condition of anonymity. "What we have tried to do so far, through moral suasion, is to get the Kurds to recognize that if they put too much pressure on Kirkuk and other places south of the Green Line, they could spark regional and national instability."

But local occupation officials appear in some areas to have accepted the flow of Kurds back to their homes. According to minutes of a recent meeting of occupation officials and relief workers in the northern city of Erbil, an American official said the Americans would no longer oppose Kurds' crossing the Green Line, as long as the areas they were moving into were uncontested.

And Kurdish and American officials say the occupation authority has been financing projects here in Makhmur, a formerly Arab area recently resettled by Kurds.

The biggest potential flash point is Kirkuk, a city contested by Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen. Kurdish leaders want to make the city, with its vast oil deposits, the Kurdish regional capital and resettle it with Kurds who were driven out in the 1980's.

To make the point, some 10,000 Kurds have gathered in a sprawling camp outside Kirkuk, where they are pressing the American authorities to let them enter the city. American military officers who control Kirkuk say they are blocking attempts to expel more Arabs from the town, for fear of igniting ethnic unrest.

"The Kurds are pushing, pushing," said Pascal Ishu Warda, the minister for displaced persons and migration. "We have to set up a system to deal with these people who have been thrown out of their homes."

To treat the burgeoning crisis, American officials last month approved spending $180 million to compensate Arab families thrown out of their homes; earlier they set up a similar program, with similar financing, for the Kurds.

The Americans have distributed handbills in Arab and Kurdish camps calling on Iraqis to file claims and produce ownership documents.

But some Iraqi and American officials say those claims could take months or even years to sort out, and will provide little immediate help to the families, Arab and Kurdish, languishing in the camps.

Some people said American officials waited too long more than a year to set up a mechanism to resettle displaced Iraqis. By then, they said, the Kurds, tired of waiting, took matters into their own hands.

Peter W. Galbraith, a former United States ambassador, who has advised the Kurdish leadership, said he recommended a claim system for Kurds and Arabs to Pentagon officials in late 2002. Nothing was put in place on the ground until last month, he said, long after the Kurds began to move south of the Green Line.

"The C.P.A. adopted a sensible idea, but it required rapid implementation," Mr. Galbraith said. "They dropped the ball, and facts were created on the ground. Of course people are going to start moving. If the political parties are encouraging this, that, too, is understandable."

Kurdish leaders say they are merely taking back land that was stolen from them over four decades. Publicly, the Kurdish leaders say that they are committed to working within the Iraqi state as long as their federal rights are assured, and that no Arabs have been forced from their homes.

But in the villages and camps where the Kurds have returned, Kurdish leaders are more boastful. They say they pushed the Arab settlers out as part of a plan to expand Kurdish control over the territory.

"We made sure there wasn't a single Arab left here who came as part of the Arabization program," said Abdul Rehman Belaf, the mayor of Makhmur, a large area in northern Iraq that was emptied of Arabs and is now being resettled by Kurds.

Mr. Belaf is a member of the Kurdish Democratic Party, one of the two main Kurdish political parties active on the other side of the Green Line; virtually all of Makhmur's officials belong to the party, too.

"We haven't stopped yet," he said. "We have more land to take back."

Before the war began in 2003, Arab settlers worked the fields in the areas surrounding Makhmur. Most of the settlers were brought north by successive waves of Mr. Hussein's campaign to populate the north with Arabs, killing or expelling tens of thousands of Kurds.

Exactly what happened when Mr. Hussein's army collapsed is disputed. Kurdish officials say the Arab settlers fled with the army. No expulsions were necessary, they said.

But some Arab families, like those who settled around Makhmur long ago, have largely been left alone.

"Saddam's people asked me to take Kurdish lands in 1987, and I said no," said Salim Sadoon al-Sabawi, a 60-year-old Arab farmer in the village where his family has lived for generations. "When the Kurds returned, they left me alone. There was no violence. We are like brothers."

Asked what the Kurds did to the Arabs who migrated into the area recently, Mr. Sabawi paused, and his son, Arkan, broke in. "They threatened people with death," Arkan said. "They told them to get out."

"Let's be honest," Mr. Sabawi told his son. "The Arabs who left all came here as part of the Arabization program. They kicked out the Kurds. It wasn't their land to begin with."

Mr. Belaf, the Kurdish mayor, said that before the war, the area around Makhmur was 80 percent Arab. A year later, he said, it is 80 percent Kurdish, as it used to be.

As hard as life is for Arabs in refugee camps, it seems to be hardly better for the Kurds displacing them.

Adnan Karim, 34, said his home was burned by the Iraqi Army in 1987. He began a life on the run after that, fighting Mr. Hussein as a pesh merga, marrying, having children and moving from one place to another. Last year he returned to an old military camp near Kirkuk, Qara Hanjir, hoping the new government would set aside some land for returnees like him. Nearly a year later, he is still waiting in a camp.

Mr. Karim said he was trying to provide for his wife and three children with a $40-a-month pesh merga pension and money from odd jobs. But much of his money is spent buying water from a truck.

Watching his children play in the dirt around him, Mr. Karim, a bedraggled man, gave in to despair.

"I have spent my whole life this way," he said, "just as you see me." Siunday New York Times, 20 June


Please forward MER articles to others in their entirety with proper attribution.
We welcome your comments and information in the new MER FORUM.

MID-EAST REALITIES
www.MiddleEast.Org
Phone: (202) 362-5266
Fax: (815) 366-0800
Copyright 2004 Mid-East Realities, All rights reserved


If you don't get MER,
you just don't get it!

MER is free
Click here to subscribe by email


June 2004


Magazine






About the new MiddleEast.Org
(June 30, 2004)


U.S. Ordered Brits to Attack Iran - Brits Balked
(June 30, 2004)
The order was given in secret by the U.S. commander in Iraq, General Ricardo Sanchez, who was already scheduled to be replaced, quite likely because of his involvement in the horrendous Iraqi torture scandal. But anyone who thinks General Sanchez gave the order without checking first with his neocon bosses back at the Pentagon -- Wolfowitz and Feith, who then of course check with Rumsfeld who then tells the President, Condi, and Colin -- just doesn't understand even at this late date how the invasion/occupation of Iraq came about nor how the Pentagon planning has been progressing for Iran, Syria, North Korea, just as soon as the excuses can be managed.

Bush and U.S. Exposed - book by book by book
(June 30, 2004)
This list of books exposing the Bush presidency for what it really is all about is an essential corrective to all the propaganda and TV clips constantly bombarding the American people... In many ways though some of these books are more significant, however in a TV/Movie age even collectively they will not have the same impact though they do help set a climate for skepticism and anxiety. This particular list was compiled a few months ago by USA Today so it's hardly complete at this point. But it is a good starting place for those wanting to choose a little holiday reading, however depressive, sometimes shocking, surely politically and historically depressing.

America's Baghdad - Corruption, Barricades, Boozing, Fear and Incompetence
(June 29, 2004)
Baghdad is awash with stories of the corruption, cronyism and incompetence of the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority, which was dissolved this week.

Brits Departed Palestine Leaving Civil War - MER FlashBack
(June 29, 2004)
"Contrary to contemporary assertions, the British and the Americans have done far more to prevent democracy in the Middle East, and to inhibit independent economic development as well, then they will ever admit."

Bremer Slinks Away; CIA Slinks Forward
(June 28, 2004)
Thus now Bremer hastily and rather shamefully slinks away without much fanfare, a few days early so they say, even as Iraq continues to seeth in hatred and a slow-simmer civil war.

Baghdad Shuffle
(June 28, 2004)
It's historic alright. A huge historic bungle that is quite literally exploding in their faces as they try to appear to go but actually stay with their carefully chosen Iraqi faces now out front. Over the weekend on ABC News one of the neocon political commentators made a little mistake and clearly called the American-appointed 'interim Iraqi Prime Minister' a "CIA agent" -- it was a rare moment of candor in public in today's confused, uptight, and secretive Washington.

Kurds on 'the return' - Palestinians into ghettos
(June 27, 2004)
Substitute "Palestinians" for Kurds, and "Israelis" for Arabs, and there is a whole different twist to 'the return' of the Kurds featured in this front-page New York Times article last Sunday. Another great irony of our times is that even as the Americans and the Israelis help facilitate what the Kurds are doing in Iraq they demand the Palestinians give up their 'right of return' even though it is enshrined in many U.N. Security Council resolutions going back to 1947...

Worst Crisis Since WWII?
(June 26, 2004)
"the most foolhardy civilian leadership in the modern history of the United States." (Newsweek) "A vacuum has opened up at the heart of world politics where US leadership ought to be found." (Financial Times) "The unpalatable truth is that the Bush administration has failed in almost everything it has touched."

The Historical Moment - MER Flashback Four Years
(June 25, 2004)
MER FLASHBACK to 25 June 2001: Months before what is now known as "9/11" MER published these articles indicating that a major strike by Osama Bin-Laden against the U.S. was imminent and that the Israelis were more determined than ever to subjugate the Palestinians. We wrote at the time: "In these conditions any spark can ignite the blaze; and sometimes such giant fires consume more than was originally anticipated, sometimes even those who start them."

BBC Hired by British Government to Broadcast TV to Middle East
(June 24, 2004)


More Readers' Comments from Around the World
(June 24, 2004)
Just some of the many Readers's Comments continually pouring in to MER from around the world.

Thank you for previewing the new MiddleEast.Org
(June 23, 2004)


Cheney and Rumseld "linked to murder" of CIA scientist in cold war years
(June 23, 2004)
Secret documents have revealed US Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld are "linked to the murder" of a senior CIA scientist.

It's Now the Second Half of 1948
(June 23, 2004)
As always Professor Tanya Reinhart from Tel Aviv University writes with extraordinary insight. "...the Israeli military and political leadership are aiming, eventually, at a total destruction of the Palestinian authority, and, with it, the process of Oslo, which is now dominantly considered by them a 'historical mistake'."

Information Warfare - Israel Wins Big
(June 22, 2004)
For 10 years Tim Llewellyn was the BBC's Middle East correspondent. In this passionately argued polemic he accuses British broadcasters, including his former employer, of systematic bias in covering the Arab-Israeli conflict, giving undue prominence to the views of the Israelis while all but disregarding the roots of the crisis and what is being done to the Palestinians.

Gearing Up for IRAN and North Korea
(June 21, 2004)
"...waiting to confront Iraq would have allowed the United States to confront more immediate dangers.... Because our military is stretched so thin in Iraq, we cannot threaten military action in Iran or North Korea." Martin Peretz and The New Republic

REVOLT in WASHINGTON
(June 20, 2004)


Nader Speaks to Buchanon
(June 15, 2004)
He's going after the real conservative vote, so he says.

Crusade II - Reagan first brought the neocons to power
(June 09, 2004)
Cheney, Wolfowitz, Perle, Abrams, Bush...and the list goes on. Those who have recently led the crusade to invade Iraq, subjugate the Palestinians, and fight Islam, were brought to power in Washington for the first time some 23 years ago when Ronald Reagan of the once far-right was victorious over Jimmy Carter of the once mid-left in American politics. And some now forget that the man who greatly helped bring Ronald Reagan to power was none other than George Herbert Walker Bush, former head of the CIA, who now became Vice-President for the next eight years and then himself succeeded Reagan as President in 1989.

Realities of the "Reagan Plan" for the Middle East
(June 06, 2004)
The seeds for the Intifada and for Israel's increasingly aggressive escalating occupation of and dispossession of the Palestinian people were sown in the years of the Reagan Presidency. Indeed it was Ronald Reagan who first brought what we today call the "neocons" to power in Washington, and the right-wing Republicans who forged such a close alliance with the Israeli Likud of Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Shamir, and Ariel Sharon which had come to power in Israel in 1977 for the first time.




© 2004 Mid-East Realities, All rights reserved