The Kurds of Baghdad: What their Future Concerns?
The Kurds have been living in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, since a long time. However, their present numbers have declined in the aftermath of all the crises that this diverse city witnessed.
After the Iranian-Iraqi war, Many Kurdish families left Baghdad. They preferred to emigrate to the European exile or, to a lesser extent, move to the three provinces of the Iraqi Kurdistan region (IKR), Erbil, Duhok and Al Sulaimaniyah.
The American invasion of Iraq in 2003 led to many consequences. The rift between Shiite and Sunni people was one of these outcomes. By the time the sectarian war erupted, the situation in Baghdad was very dangerous. So, many Kurds were determined to look for a new haven in order to protect their youth from killing. Hence, The largest wave of their immigration occurred in the wake of the civil war in Baghdad, 2006-2007
Since that time, many media sources declared that there are only a few hundreds of Kurdish families still living in Baghdad. The Kurdish political parties welcomed the new Kurdish arrivals from Baghdad into the IKR. They were sure that such Kurds, who have age-old historic roots in Kurdistan, could be a source of support for the future of the IKR. Some of them were well-educated people and they could consolidate the educational system, the others were rich families and that they could back the economy of IKR.
Therefore, the greatest number of Kurds who remained living in Baghdad are the Faili Kurds (FKs). Despite opposing views about their descent, many studies affirm that FKs are Kurds in their nationality and Muslum-Shiite in their faith. Very few of them have family roots or relatives in the provinces of the Iraqi Kurdistan. They historically came from the cities located at the confluence of the Iraqi-Iranian border, such as Wasit, and Diyala. Consequently, these two cities along with Baghdad are considered as the essential electoral districts for FKs party organizations.
During Saddam's fight against the Iraqi Kurds in the 1980s, the FKs were punished by the Ba'ath regime. It took a decision to expel them into Iran because it had accused them of sympathizing with the Iraqi Shiite movements backed by Iran. Additionally, it charged them with aiding the Iraqi northern Kurdish fighters led by Mustafa Barzani, the father of Masoud Barzani the leader of the Iraqi Kurdistan Democratic party. Saddam's regime was persuaded that the Kurds and the Shiite wanted to topple the government. Hence, it aspired to undermine that resisting front and therefore it deprived thousands of FKs of their Iraqi citizenship and confiscated their possessions. The other FKs who had been able to avoid such policy suffered in Iraq from severe circumstances. For instance, they could not have been able to find a job at the formal institutions as it was impossible for them to obtain the security clearance from the Iraqi authorities. Such a condition was necessary for obtaining any government position.
After 2003, the FKs thought that the life would be better. However, they were surprised when they discovered they had been wrong in their opinions. Things get worse as their problems have not been solved. This could be attributed to the fact they are still marginalized socially and politically. Indeed, many of them assert that the FKs are the weakest link in the relations between Baghdad and Erbil.
The Kurdish referendum on independence have put the FKs on the horns of a dilemma. While the Kurdish parties urged the FKs to endorse the referendum, some politicians in the central government threatened the Kurds in the southern and central regions of Iraq with revenge in case they welcomed this plebiscite. For Instance, a prominent member in the ruling Shiite State of Law Coalition, Sa'ad Al Moutalibi, said in a televised interview: " If the Iraqi Kurdistan region moves forward to the independence, the Kurds of Baghdad will not be permitted to live in the capital".
In reaction to such a statement, It is said that some radical Kurdish politicians recommended implementing the principle of reciprocity by deporting the Arab families from IKR.
The FKs of Baghdad are now afraid they would be targeted by the criminal groups. They might attack the FKs for retaliation, blackmail, ransom, or for looting their properties.
From another standpoint, there is also now a hostile campaign through the Social Media calling for expulsion thousands of the Kurdish families from the capital to the Kurdistan region.
In fact, those helpless FKs, the majority of whom are against the separatism, are not highly welcomed in the Kurdistan region because of their sectarian affiliation. For example, In 2006 my friend went to Khanaqin, where the Kurdish parties control, to find a work at a university. His request for the appointment was rejected, for he was a Faili Kurd and he also did not speak Kurdish.
The most of the FKs do not know the Kurdish dialect. As we have mentioned above, they live in the Arabic-speaking cities; furthermore, they were forced by the Ba'ath regime to ignore their heritage, to overlook their roots, and to deny their culture.
After holding the Kurdish referendum on independence on Sept 25, the Kurds of Baghdad have become worried that the community and the political parties will conduct discriminatory policies against them. This undoubtedly will result in increasing the societal tension and then will encourage them to leave their current areas where they have lived peacefully with the others.
In sum, Post-IS Iraq is going to lose more of its population mosaic. The absence of the governmental role in managing the human diversity in such a mixed population city as Baghdad will leave behind many catastrophic consequences. This means there would be more fragmentation of the Iraqi's political geography. This is what the enemies of Iraq hope to achieve by all means.
Diyari Salih; an Iraqi academic, Ph.D. in Political Geography, Baghdad, Post-Doctorate in International Relations, Warsaw, Focuses on the Geopolitical Issues in Iraq.