FCT 2014 Speech by FCT Kirkuk, Ahmed Askari (Member, Kirkuk Provincial Council)
Forum for Cities in Transition 5th annual gathering
28 October 2014
Honoured guests and delegates of the meeting of the Forum for Cities in Transition, it is a pleasure to be here with you all, and I extend the greetings of the people of Kirkuk to you.
Firstly, we would like to thank the organisation – the Forum for Cities in Transition – and the organisers of this event, for gathering participants from all of these distinguished cities.
Our delegation consisted of six participants, representing all the different ethnicities, religions and groups within Kirkuk.
Unfortunately, of these six, five were refused visas by the British Embassy in Amman, Jordan, and the British Consulate in Erbil, the capital of the Kurdistan Regional Government.
I am fortunate to hold British citizenship, which has enabled me to be in your humbled presence.
Ladies and gentlemen, I feel it necessary to clarify for you the current situation in Kirkuk. Kirkuk is one of the biggest cities in Iraq, comprising of a population of nearly 1.5 million residents.
It is a city of great wealth, rich in natural resources, especially oil and gas deposits.
It is an important strategic commercial centre, between the cities in the north and south of Iraq.
It is a multi-ethnic city that is made up of more than four ethnic groups.
It is also a city of different religious persuasions, such as Christianity, Islam and Yezidism, amongst others.
Within these religions also exists the different denominations, such as Shia/Sunni and Catholic/Protestant.
There are dozens of political parties of various ideologies and beliefs.
Politically, the city is in the midst of a struggle between the central government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil.
According to the current Iraqi constitution, Kirkuk is a disputed area.
However, the people of Kirkuk have coexisted and enjoyed good relations historically, and continue to do so.
Esteemed participants, in addition to Kirkuk’s own local problems, it now faces terrorism in the form of the group known as ISIS (Daiish).
Currently, one-third of Kirkuk’s territory is under the control of this terrorist group.
This has resulted in the creation of a frontline with ISIS more than 70km.
The people of Kirkuk, with all its constituent parts, have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with the other governments of Iraq in the fight against the biggest enemy of humanity, known as ISIS.
Up until now, with the backing of the people of Kirkuk, its administration, the Kurdistan Peshmerga forces and the coalition partners, Kirkuk has continued to steadfastly defend itself.
Many of our sons and daughters have become victims to this unprovoked conflict.
However, work and daily life in Kirkuk continues in relative normality.
The security forces have been able to protect the lives and homes of the people of Kirkuk.
Ladies and gentlemen, as a result of the savage treatment inflicted by ISIS on the provinces under its control, a large number of people have been internally displaced and have sought refuge in Kirkuk.
This has placed further pressures on the province.
Finally, we would like to call on the international community, freedom-loving people in the world and non-governmental organisations to support the people of Kirkuk, all the cities of Iraq and Syria in their fight against this genocidal, international terrorist and inhumane group.
We also call upon them to help the displaced people who have been forced from their homes, their lives and in this modern age are witnessing their relatives being sold as slaves.
We salute the valiant people of Kirkuk, the peshmerga forces who are acting as a counter-terrorist and defensive force.
We salute the brave peoples of Kobani, Shangal, Qaratapa, Rumadi, and all the people and places that continue to fight this evil known as ISIS.