100,000 Kurds ‘have fled Kirkuk’ since Iraqi Army takeover

A Kurdish Peshmerga fighter checks his weapon, north of Kirkuk, Iraq. (Reuters)
Updated 19 October 2017
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100,000 Kurds ‘have fled Kirkuk’ since Iraqi Army takeover

IRBIL/BAGHDAD: About 100,000 Kurds have fled Kirkuk for fear of sectarian reprisals since Iraqi government forces took over the city after a Kurdish independence referendum condemned by Baghdad, regional Kurdish officials said on Thursday.
Baghdad’s forces swept into the multi-ethnic city of more than 1 million people, hub of a major oil-producing area, largely unopposed on Monday after most Kurdish Peshmerga forces withdrew rather than fight.
Iraqi forces also took back control of Kirkuk oilfields, effectively halving the amount of output under the direct control of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in a serious blow to the Kurds’ independence quest.
Baghdad’s recapture of Kirkuk, situated just outside the KRG’s official boundaries on disputed land claimed by Kurds, ethnic Turkmen and Arabs, put the city’s Kurds in fear of attack by Shiite paramilitaries, known as Popular Mobilization, assisting government forces’ operations in the region.
Nawzad Hadi, governor of Irbil, the KRG capital, told reporters that around 18,000 families from Kirkuk and the town of Tuz Khurmato to the southeast had taken refuge in Irbil and Suleimaniyah, inside KRG territory. A Hadi aide told Reuters the total number of displaced people was about 100,000.
Hemin Hawrami, a top aide to KRG President Masoud Barzani, tweeted that people had fled “looting and sectarian oppression” inflicted by Popular Mobilization militia.
“Where is @UNIraq @UNHCRIraq?,” Hawrami said in another tweet, suggesting UN humanitarian agencies were doing little to help newly displaced people.
Lisa Grande, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, had urged all parties on Wednesday to do their utmost “to shield and protect all civilians impacted by the current situation.”
Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi said on Wednesday that security was being maintained in Kirkuk by local police backed by the elite Counter Terrorism Service, trained and equipped by the US mainly to fight Daesh militants. “All other armed group should not be allowed to stay,” Al-Abadi said.
Sunni Kurds comprise the largest community in Kirkuk followed by Shiite Turkmen, Sunni Arabs and Christians, according to the Iraqi Planning Ministry in Baghdad.
An Iraqi military statement on Wednesday said government forces had also taken control of Kurdish-held areas of Nineveh province, including the Mosul hydro-electric dam, after the Peshmerga pulled back.
Iran and Turkey joined the Baghdad government in condemning the Iraqi Kurds’ Sept. 25 referendum, worried it could worsen regional instability and conflict by encouraging their own Kurdish populations to push for homelands. The Kurds’ long-time big power ally, the US, also opposed the vote.
With the referendum having given Al-Abadi a political opening to regain contested land and shift the balance of power in his favor, it may prove a gamble that makes the KRG’s quest for statehood more elusive.
KRG Foreign Minister Fala Mustafa Bakir told broadcaster CNN that his side never meant to engage in war with the Iraqi Army. He said there was a need for dialogue between the KRG and Iraq to enable a common understanding. The dispute, he added, was not about oil or the national flag but the future of two nations.
Crude oil flows through the KRG pipeline to the Turkish port of Ceyhan have been disrupted by a gap between incoming and outgoing personnel since Baghdad’s retaking of Kirkuk.
An Iraqi Oil Ministry official in Baghdad said on Thursday that Iraq would not be able to restore Kirkuk’s oil output to levels before Sunday because of missing equipment at two fields.
The official accused the Kurdish authorities previously in control of Kirkuk of removing equipment at the Bai Hasan and Avana oilfields, northwest of the city.
Kurds have sought independence since at least the end of world war I when colonial powers carved up the Middle East after the multiethnic Ottoman Empire collapsed, leaving Kurdish-inhabited land split between Turkey, Iran, Iraq and Syria.


Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Updated 49 min 39 sec ago
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Recent appointments in Egypt show rise of women to high political office in Mideast

  • Recent appointments in Egypt are the latest example of the rise of women to high political office in the region
  • “The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position”

CAIRO, LONDON: The appointment of two more female ministers this month to the new Egyptian Cabinet means women now fill eight out of 34 positions, the highest number in the modern history of Egypt.

Hala Zayed is the new health minister while Yasmine Fouad takes over as environment minister. Both women replaced men and join culture minister Inas Abdel-Dayem, tourism minister Rania Al-Mashat, Nabila Makram (immigration minister) Ghada Wali (social solidarity minister), Hala El-Saeed (planning minister) and Sahar Nasr (minister of investment and international cooperation).
The appointments by Egypt’s new Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly have been welcomed as forward thinking by social and political commentators.
Dr. Magda Bagnied, a writer and professor of communication, told Arab News: “I believe whoever planned for those eight effective ministries was looking forward for the future of Egypt since they are all interconnected in some way, and having females leading them is a leap forward.
“A country’s rank and status is measured by the role of women. The higher the number of leadership roles for women, the further the country is considered to be on the road to development.”
Four out of 15 new deputy ministers are also women and women now hold 15 percent of the seats in Parliament.
The rise of women to high political office in the Arab world is by no means restricted to Egypt.
Jordan also has a record number of women ministers after Prime Minister-designate Omar Razzaz appointed seven women to the 29-member Cabinet sworn in last week.
“The men’s monopoly has been broken,” the Jordanian National Commission for Women declared in a celebratory statement which also praised the prime minister’s “clear position.”
The appointment of the women ministers may help to assuage disappointment about the make-up of the rest of the — all male — Cabinet.
Twenty-three members of the new Jordanian Cabinet have been ministers before and 13 were members of the outgoing government that was brought down by popular protest.
Rawan Joyoussi, whose posters became one of the defining images of the protests, said: “I was hoping that women would be empowered and I am happy with that. But as far as the composition of the rest of the government is concerned, I think we have to play our part to create the mechanisms that will hold the government accountable.”
In the UAE, women hold nine out of 31 ministerial positions, and one of them, Minister for Youth Shamma Al-Mazrui, is also the world’s youngest minister, appointed in 2016 when she was only 22.
This makes the UAE Cabinet nearly 30 percent female, which is higher than India, almost equal to the UK and far ahead of the US, where Donald Trump has just four women in his Cabinet.
The general election in Morocco in October 2016 produced 81 women members of Parliament, accounting for 21 percent of the total 395 seats. The Islamist Justice and Development Party (PJD), which won the most votes, also ended up with the highest number of women MPs, 18.
Though elections in Saudi Arabia were open to women only in 2015, it ranks 100th out of 193rd in the world league table of women in national governing bodies, slightly above the US at 102nd place.
A policy briefing from the Brookings Institution think-tank in Washington says that one of the best ways for a country to ease economic pressure and boost productivity is to increase female participation in the workplace and in political life.
“Introducing diversity through gender parity will benefit economic growth and can help Arab countries to generate prosperity as well as the normative and social imperative of change,” wrote analyst Bessma Momani.
Yet in some parts of the Middle East, female representation seems to be going backward.
In 2009, four of Kuwait’s 65 MPs were women. In 2012 there were three and in 2013 only one. In 2016, 15 women stood for election to the 50 open parliamentary seats (the other 15 are appointed). Only one, Safa Al-Hashem, who was already an MP, was successful.
Qatar has no women MPs or ministers at all.
Egypt’s appointment of two more women ministers does not have the appearance of tokenism. The new Health Minister, Hala Zayed, 51, has a solid background in the field as a former president of the Academy of Health Sciences, a hospital specializing in cancer treatment for children.
She was also government adviser on health, chairwoman of a committee for combating corruption at the ministry she now heads and also has a Ph.d. in project management.
Similarly, Yasmeen Fouad, 43, the new environment minister, has four years’ experience as a former assistant minister in the same department, where she was known as “the lady for difficult missions,” and liaised with the UN. She is also an assistant professor of economics and political science at Cairo University.
Egypt’s first female minister was Hikmat Abu Zaid, appointed minister of social affairs in 1962 by President Gamal Abdel Nasser, who dubbed her “the merciful heart of revolution.”
Now there are eight like her, demonstrating that in the Middle East, “girl power” is on the rise.