Iraqi gov't delays nationwide census yet
again, snarled in years long dispute
November 30, 2010
BAGHDAD, — Iraq's government Tuesday
once again pushed back a nationwide census that has
been stalled in a years long dispute over how to
count the ethnic breakdown between Arabs and Kurds
in the nation's north.
The census will be Iraq's first nationwide count in
more than two decades.
Planning Ministry official Mahdi al-Alaq said no new
date has been set for the population count that was
supposed to take place Dec. 5.
Political leaders have been unable to resolve a
disagreement over whether Iraq's central government
or the semiautonomous Kurdish region should carry
out the census in disputed lands that are ethnically
Photo shows a demonstrators hold a large Kurdish
flag in Erbil, Kurdistan region of Iraq, in March
Officials will meet again on Thursday to try to
settle the matter.
"The reason behind the delays in holding the census
is the deep mistrust among political groups
regarding the disputed areas," said Kurdish lawmaker
A 1997 census that put Iraq's population at more
than 26 million excluded the three northern
provinces that comprise the semiautonomous Kurdistan
region. Officials have agreed to count the three
provinces in the new census.
The count has been put off numerous times because of
disputes over who should be legally counted as a
resident in squatter-plagued areas in Iraq's north
that Kurds,www.ekurd.netSunni Arabs and Turkomen each claim as
Leaders recently agreed to ask the residents to
identify their ethnicity as part of the census
questionnaire — which had been one of the last big
sticking points in the debate.
Ultimately, the census will help decide which group
has a majority and, potentially, ruling authority,
over a swath of disputed land in Diyala, Tamim and
The ethnically mixed city of Kirkuk, which sits on
top of one-third of Iraq's estimated $11 trillion in
oil reserves, is the part of the disputed swath.
Kirkuk city is historically a Kurdish city and it
lies just south border of the Kurdistan autonomous
region, the population is a mix of majority Kurds
of Arabs, Christians and Turkmen, lies 250 km northeast of
Baghdad. Kurds have a strong cultural and emotional
attachment to Kirkuk,www.ekurd.net
which they call "the Kurdish
Jerusalem." Kurds see it as the rightful and
perfect capital of an autonomous Kurdistan state.
Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution is related to
the normalization of the situation in Kirkuk city
and other disputed areas through having back its
Kurdish inhabitants and repatriating the Arabs
relocated in the city during the former regime’s
time to their original provinces in central and
The article also calls for conducting a census to be
followed by a referendum to let the inhabitants
decide whether they would like Kirkuk to be annexed
to the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region or having
it as an independent province.
The former regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
had forced over 250,000 Kurdish residents to give up
their homes to Arabs in the 1970s, to "Arabize" the
city and the region's oil industry.
The last ethnic-breakdown census in Iraq was
conducted in 1957, well before Saddam began his
program to move Arabs to Kirkuk. That count showed
178,000 Kurds, 48,000 Turkomen, 43,000 Arabs and
10,000 Assyrian-Chaldean Christians living in the
Iraq's Planning Ministry says it has hired 250,000
workers to go door-to-door across the country for
the count. Officials want to try to wrap up the
census in one day to prevent people from moving from
one area to another in an attempt to register twice
— and therefore boost their ethnic population tally.
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