Iraq’s Diyala province threatens to
November 3, 2011
DIYALA, Iraq, — Provincial council members in
Iraq’s Diyala province have threatened to declare
autonomy if the Iraqi government fails to respond to
their demands, including an end to operations by
army units from outside the province.
The demands were made by members from the Iraqiya
party, which holds 17 of the 29 seats on the council
in the volatile province north of the capital
The demand to send home army units from outside of
the province is an apparent reference to Kurdish
Peshmerga forces, which the Kurdistan Regional
Government deployed to Diyala last summer to stem
Members of the Diyala provincial council with Iraqi
Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi.
Kurds in the province.
The council members also called on the Iraqi
government to release all innocent detainees and to
stop transfering prisoners from the province to
detention facilities in other parts of the country.
“The Iraqiya bloc in Diyala Provincial Council has
submitted a memorandum to the Baghdad government
that contains nine legitimate and legal demands to
resolve all the problems of the province,” Suhad al-Hayali,
a Diyala provincial council member from Iraqiya,
told Al-Sumaria News.
“If the Baghdad government does not respond to our
memorandum in three days, we will take all legal
measures to declare the province an (autonomous)
region in line with the constitution.”
In calling for autonomy, officials are threatening
to create a federal state which would limit the
federal government’s oversight and administrative
powers in the province.
The threat by Diyala provincial council comes just a
few days after the Salahaddin provincial council
declared “administrative and
economic” autonomy within a “unified Iraq.”
Iraq’s former dictator Saddam Hussein was born in a
village in Salahaddin and the province was home to
many high-ranking officials from his regime.
Both Diyala and Salahaddin are Sunni Arab-dominated
provinces. Other predominantly Sunni provinces such
as Anbar and Nineveh have said in the past that they
would also consider declaring autonomy.
Iraq’s constitution allows one or more provinces to
declare autonomy if the province’s residents vote
for the measure in a referendum.
The autonomy bid by the Sunni provinces comes
shortly after the Iraqi government declared that it
had detained dozens of Baathists in the army and
other state institutions on charges of plotting a
The central government recently ordered that dozens
of professors be fired from Salahaddin province’s
universities on the grounds that they were
affiliated with the Baath Party.
The provincial administrations in all four provinces
are dominated by Iraqiya, which is the
second-largest parliamentary bloc in Iraq. Iraqiya’s
leader, Ayad Allawi, was a top contender for the
post of prime minister but lost to Nuri al-Maliki,www.ekurd.net
who created a larger parliamentary coalition.
Although Iraq is no longer engulfed in the bloody
sectarian conflict that gripped the country after
the fall of Saddam’s regime in 2003, many
politicians and observers have warned it could slide
back into sectarian strife once US troops leave the
country at the end of the year.
Last week, Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Massoud
Barzani cautioned that Iraq could face a new round
of sectarian and ethnic conflict once US forces pull
The Kurdistan Region is currently the only
autonomous region in the country. It consists of the
three northern provinces of Erbil, Sulaimaniyah and
Some of the southern Shiite-dominated provinces such
as Basra have also toyed with the idea of creating a
federal state but have never put forth a formal
proposal or a referendum.
Diyala province, a
restive part of Iraq outside the Kurdish autonomous
region of Kurdistan but home to many Kurds. The Diyala district, which includes a string of villages and
some of Iraq's oil reserves, is home to about 175,000 Kurds, most of them
In June 2006, the local council of Khanaqin proposed that the district be
integrated into the autonomous Kurdistan region in northern Iraq.
During the Arabisation policy of Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, a large number of
Kurdish Shiites were displaced by force from Khanaqin. They started returning
after the fall of Saddam in 2003.
Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution is related to the normalization of the
situation in Kirkuk city and other disputed areas like Khanaqin.
Kurdistan's government says oil-rich Khanaqin should be part of its
semi-autonomous region, which it hopes to expand in a referendum in the future.
In the meantime, Khanaqin and other so-called disputed areas remain targets of
Sunni Arab insurgents opposed to Kurdish expansion and vowing to hold onto land
seized during ex-dictator Saddam Hussein's efforts to "Arabize" the region.
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