My coverage of a city hearing in Brooklyn on statues thought by some to no longer represent New York City’s values:
For my latest YouTube interview, I spoke to Iraqi Turkmen activist Dr. Ali al-Bayati about who the Iraqi Turkmen are, and his thoughts on ISIS’s defeat, sectarianism in Iraq, Kurdish independence and more. Check it out and please subscribe:
The Iraqi victory over Kurdistan in Kirkuk exposed the autonomous region’s weaknesses and divisions. Kurds in Iran, Syria and Turkey have an array of opinions on who is to blame for the ordeal. Mohammad Abdulssattar Ibrahim, from Syria Direct, and I spoke to Kurdish politicians, analysts and activists around the world and came up with this:
Caught between their people and the state they serve, Kurds in the Iraqi army fear for their jobs and lives in today’s Iraq where Kurdistan and Iraq are fighting over disputed territories. My latest:
Tuz Khurmatu is a mixed Kurdish, Turkmen and Arab city about 55 miles south of Kirkuk. During the battle of Kirkuk beginning on October 15, Iraqi forces took the city from Kurdish forces. A day later, they moved onto Kirkuk.
Many Turkmen rejoiced following the Iraqi victory in Tuz Khurmato. For many Kurds, on the other hand, the loss was a tragedy. The city has long been a scene of clashes between Kurds and Turkmen. I spoke to Arsalan Ali, a local Kurdish politician in the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party, about recent events in Tuz and the Kurdish perspective on them. As you’ll see, there is significant criticism of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) among many Kurds. The PMU is a largely Shia (and in Tuz, ethnically Turkmen) pro-government militia. The interview has been translated from the original Arabic below. Following Iraq’s retaking of the city, Ali went to another city in the Kurdistan region:
Me: What happened at the start of the conflict?
Ali: The PMU stationed themselves in Kurds’ homes and expelled people from them in the military district. Another night PMU members threw two grenades at a Kurdish emergency services station in the Jemili neighborhood. They also spent fifteen minutes launching RPG rockets at this station. This started the skirmishes.
Me: What is your opinion on the PMU’s actions in Tuz Khurmatu?
Ali: This is a hostile and very offensive act. This group is affiliated with Iran and works to create sectarian and national strife.
Me: Why is Tuz Khurmato important to Kurdish people and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in your opinion?
Ali: Firstly because it was KRG land and its doors to Kirkuk and Sulaymaniyah. But there are Kurds and Arabs and Turkmen living there and there used to be no problems. During the war with ISIS, the Iraqi army didn’t stay and the Peshmerga (military of Iraqi Kurdistan) came to protect the city and all its sects. Now the PMU wants to expel Kurds from the Tuz completely, like they did earlier to put us under their control. But we were born there, so we’ll defend it.
(A Kurdish shop allegedly destroyed by the PMU in Tuz Khurmatu. Source: KRG press release)
Before the victory of Iraqi forces against Kurdish forces in Kirkuk on Monday, I spoke to the leader of the PMF – a pro-government, largely Shia militia – in the city. He said they had no plans to attack the city, nor any issue with Kurdish independence ambitions. Some Peshmerga and Kurdistan Regional Government officials made similar statements. Of course, the reality just weeks later was quite different. My latest words/pics for The New Arab: