Article-140 | |

Iraqi Kurdistan is that part of northern Iraq that borders Turkey to the north, Syrian to the west, and Iran to the east. Following the 1991 Gulf War and the subsequent Kurdish popular uprising, the former Iraqi regime retaliated with a vicious onslaught that drove tens of thousands of families from their homes into neighboring countries.

Under pressure from the media and public opinion, and as called for by UN Security Council Resolution 688, the Governments of the United States, United Kingdom, and France intervened along with other governments to establish a no-fly zone and safe haven in April 1991 that allowed the refugees to return to their homes. In an effort to intimidate the people and to create a power vacuum, later in 1991 the former Iraqi regime unilaterally withdrew its forces and administration from many areas of Iraqi Kurdistan.

In 1992 the people of Iraqi Kurdistan held their first free general elections. As a result, the Kurdistan National Assembly –recently renamed the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament- and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) were established. These were the first internationally observed elections in Iraq.

All these events led to the establishment of a demarcation line that separated the KRG-administered areas from the rest of Iraq. This artificial line did not determine the real boundaries of Iraqi Kurdistan. The line cuts through Iraqi Kurdistan separating out more than 40% of the territory that has been predominately Kurdish and subjected to extreme abuse by the former regime. This area also includes significant numbers of Arabs, Turkmens, and Christians. Tens of thousands of Kurdish families were expelled from these areas, notably from Kirkuk, and replaced by Arabs from southern Iraq.

This boundary line per Article-143 of the Iraqi Constitution (which is based on article 53 of the ‘Law of Administration for the State of Iraq’) was unilaterally, and undemocratically, determined in October 1991. The demarcation line was militarized and within one month, in November 1991, more than 20,000 families were forced to migrate from areas south of the line - mostly from Kirkuk areas - to the territory north of the line.

Constitution Article-140 lays down a clear road map to define the final boundaries of the territory to be administered by the KRG. The excessive delay in implementing this article is the primary cause of tension and administrative problems in the so-called disputed areas. These are areas that suffered severely from ethnic cleansing and community destruction under the former regime.

Failure to implement Article-140 is also in violation of the policy the Iraqi government announced in June 2006. The Iraqi Prime Minister then stated that “the government will be committed to implement Article-140 of the Constitution which is based on Article-58 of the ‘Law of Administration for the State of Iraq’, also known as the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL).

The Article specifies three phases for implementation that includes normalization, a census, and a referendum on Kirkuk and other disputed areas. The government was to start by taking appropriate steps for the normalization phase, including rejoining detached districts and sub-districts to Kirkuk governorate, and completing this phase no later than 29 March 2007. The census phase was to be completed by 31 July 2007, and the referendum phase by 15 November 2007. The overall question is, thus, why hasn't the Iraqi federal government met its commitments? Since 2003, successive Iraqi governments have failed to implement this constitutional article.

Following the 2003 war, the Kurdistan leadership took an active part in rebuilding a new Iraq, including participation in the process of drafting the country’s permanent constitution. The constitution, which was overwhelmingly approved in a countrywide referendum, recognized the Kurdistan Region as a federal region within a sovereign and independent Iraq.

Kurdistan Region President Masoud Barzani has repeatedly called for the implementation of Article-140 and has shown considerable flexibility in this regard. The President and other Iraqi Kurdistan authorities have so far agreed to repeated delays and postponements of this Article.

The Iraqi federal government has a legal and moral responsibility to implement this article and to allow the people of these areas to decide their future. The Kurdistan Region will not waiver in its efforts to see the status of these areas resolved peacefully through Article-140.

We do not intend to annex or control the so-called disputed areas, as repeatedly suggested by certain ill-informed media sources. We want the people of these areas to be presented with the opportunity to decide for themselves what they want.

The results of the recently held provincial elections have clearly demonstrated what the people of these areas really want. They overwhelmingly voted in favor of the Kurdistan List. Had the people of Kirkuk also been able to participate in the recent elections, the results would likely have been the same.

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