August 11, 2002


Forced to Move, Kurds Hope for Hussein's Ouster (JOHN F. BURNS, August 11, 2002, NY Times)
Creating an Arab majority on the great Mesopotamian plain north of Baghdad is not a new policy for Iraq. Nor is it an innovation by Mr. Hussein, who, like all Iraqi leaders since the state's founding in 1921 is an Arab, from the Sunni sect of Islam, to which most Kurds belong. But Mr. Hussein, especially since his 1991 gulf war defeat and the creation of the Kurdish enclave, has accelerated efforts to drive minorities out, and bring Arabs in, to the region that sits atop some of the world's greatest oil reserves.

To resist Mr. Hussein's enforcers is to risk severe punishment, including execution, according to Kurdish refugees and human rights organizations. So the Siddiqs took care to say nothing provocative when the men with the truck arrived. The children were coached not to cry or ask questions, and above all to say nothing derogatory about Mr. Hussein.

"If you say anything, they will shoot you," said Mr. Siddiq, 38, an electrician who owned a repair shop in Kirkuk. [...]

According to United Nations figures, more than 800,000 people have fled north into the Kurdish enclave since 1991, nearly a fifth of the enclave's population of 3.6 million. But Kurdish refugee organizations say that about 250,000 of those who have moved were forced out after rejecting "Arabization," like the Siddiqs.

Rizgar Ali, a Kurdish official responsible for assisting the resettlement of Kurds in the enclave, cited official Iraqi figures that show that Kurds constituted 54 percent of the population of Kirkuk Province in 1954, compared with only 25 percent now. Meanwhile, he said, Arabs have risen to more than 50 percent of the population from less than 10 percent. [...]

Some were then stripped of all property and moved from the northern area into the Arab heartland of Iraq. Other families have been told that their changed status makes them only "second-class Arabs," and that their homes and jobs are to be given to "genuine Arabs" who are moving north under policies that provide subsidies to Arab migrants. [...]

[A]t the Barda Qaraman refugee camp, more than 100 Kurdish families struggle to get by without sanitation, and some, like the Siddiqs, without even a tarpaulin for shelter. They say they wish only that Mr. Bush will make good on his pledge to get rid of Mr. Hussein.

"We hear the good news about George W. Bush on the Voice of America every night, that he's going to shoot Saddam Hussein, and it's all we talk about," Mr. Siddiq said. "We believe Mr. Bush can carry us back to Kirkuk. But can you tell him, please, to hurry up?"

Is it just me or does this story not completely contradict Mr. Burns' own front page piece from a month ago : Kurds, Secure in North Iraq, Are Cool to a U.S. Offensive (JOHN F. BURNS, July 8, 2002, NY Times) :
[W]hile an American-led military campaign to topple Mr. Hussein holds out the possibility of making their freedoms more secure, the Kurdish leaders, backed by almost every Kurd who discussed the issue, said Washington would be asking them to put all they have gained from their decade of autonomy at risk of a fresh Iraqi offensive.

"We are not ready to take any risks, and if we are not sure of the outcome of any step, then we are not ready to take that step, because we are not sure of improving our circumstances," Massoud Barzani, leader of one of the two main Kurdish political groups, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, said at his mountaintop headquarters outside Salahuddin, north of Erbil.

He added, alluding to the centuries of oppression Kurds suffered from Turks, Arabs and Persians, "This is a golden era for Iraqi Kurds."

The Kurdish Golden Era is a period during which they were being ethnically cleansed? And in July Mr. Burns and the Times said the Kurds wouldn't help fight Saddam because they didn't want to risk their newfound "freedom", but in August they want us to "hurry up" and attack Saddam? Are there two different reporters named John Burns? Does either of them have an editor?
Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2002 6:38 AM
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