Full text of President Barzani’s speech in Kirkuk

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President Barzani: Kurds Ready To Engage In Dialogue With All Kirkuk’s Citizens, Constitution Should Be Implemented To Resolve Conflict

President Barzani recently visited Kirkuk, subject of the current conflict
over the Iraqi provincial election law and scene of a recent terrorist
attack, for the first time since the 2003 liberation in order to carry a
message of peace and fraternity from Kurds to the ethnically-mixed city.
While he committed to seeing the Iraqi Constitution enforced, he called
for Kirkukis to use this opportunity to define their own destiny and
create a model for peaceful co-existence. He rejected claims that Kurds
are trying to unilaterally annex the city or deny its Iraqi identity.

Transcript of President Barzani’s Speech in Kirkuk, 8 August 2008.

"We come to bear a message of brotherhood and peace for all the people of Kirkuk - Kurds, Arabs, Turkomans, Chaldeans and Assyrians.

We are here to thank the people of Kirkuk for taking part in the recent large demonstrations [against the unconstitutional passing of an Iraqi provincial law which would deny them their right to democratically elect their own provincial leadership]. We are also here to give our
condolences to the families who lost loved ones in the terrorist attack during those demonstrations and we pray for a speedy recovery for the wounded.

We have come to express a firm desire to engage in dialogue with all the different groups in Kirkuk. We believe this is a good opportunity to reflect and try to find solutions for the problems we are facing.

I warmly welcome you all and I am really happy to be here with you. We have long wanted and wished for this gathering to take place. Today we are carrying a message of love, peace and fraternity; a message of peace from the Kurds towards the Arabs, Turkomans, Chaldeans, Assyrians and all other people in this city.

We are here to tell you that we believe in democracy. The main slogan of the September Revolution [Iraqi Kurdish resistance movement 1961-1975] was "democracy for Iraq, civil rights for the Kurdish people". The rationale for this slogan was that without a democratic system, the problems of Iraq could never be solved.

We believe that the Kurdistan Region is a region for all: Kurds, Arabs, Turkomans, Chaldeans and Assyrians. Equally, Kirkuk is a city for these same people. When we talk about Kirkuk as belonging to the Kurdistan Region, we do not seek to deny Kirkuk its Iraqi identity. Kirkuk, like Basra, Ramadi, Erbil, and Sulaimniya is an Iraqi city.

In the draft constitution of the Kurdistan Region, we have made sure that the rights of all people are protected regardless of race, ethnicity, or religion; especially those of Turkomans, Chaldeans, Assyrians and Arabs, because many different groups live in the Kurdistan Region, not just the Kurds.

We never oppose anyone on the basis of their ideology or political opinions. We believe in dialogue. It is true that there are problems, but some people went too far on the Kirkuk issue. Unfortunately, some people are trying to create divisions among us. Instead [of allowing them to be successful], we would like to make Kirkuk an example of peaceful co-existence between different religious, sectarian and ethnic groups. This is first and
foremost the responsibility of the people of Kirkuk; outsiders can only have a helping role. However, I think there are some external people who are trying to manipulate this internal process to determine the fate of Kirkuk for their own ends.

You all know the extent of the oppression inflicted on the Kurdish people and Turkomans and Arabs [under the previous regime]. We never accused our Arab brothers of these terrible crimes of Arabization, displacement, and the destruction of our villages , [but rather the disastrous regime that violated all Iraqis’ rights].

You must remember the 1991 uprising in the Kurdistan Region when thousands of Iraqi soldiers surrendered and were captured by the Peshmergas. Not a single Iraqi soldier was tortured, at a time when our wounds were still bleeding and when there were still hundreds and thousands of wounded victims of the chemical attacks lying in hospitals. The captured Iraqi soldiers were treated with dignity. They were freed to return to their families. This is
proof that the friendship bond between Arabs and Kurds was strong and will remain strong.

We would like to reach common understanding and do away with our fears. I will not hide anything from you; there may have been violations and infringements on the part of the Kurdish side in Kirkuk. But rest assured that this is against our policy. A short while ago, I heard from Rokan [deputy governor of Kirkuk and an Arab] that the Arabs in Kirkuk are
disappointed and are concerned about the situation. The Kurds in Kirkuk are also disappointed and concerned; but we must get over this and open a new chapter.

I call on Arabs, Turkomans and Christians of Kirkuk to engage in dialogue with us. Let us accept each other and be honest with each other; this is the only way we can achieve our goals. Let us not wait for others to force their agendas upon us.

There are many outside hands at play in Kirkuk. We would like to counter these attempts with our honesty and a message of peace and love and dialogue.

Do you remember the time when Kirkuk was liberated [in 2003] from the previous regime? Our Peshmerga forces were in Kirkuk alone and could do whatever they wanted. Did they commit any violations against anyone in Kirkuk? Did they discriminate against any particular group in Kirkuk? But all these positive actions must be commended and reciprocated. When the Kurds never hear anything positive from the Arabs, no doubt it causes tensions
to sometimes rise.

I repeat that we must get over this chapter and try to find solutions. There are some who have profound disagreements with each other over many issues; but when it comes to the issue of Kirkuk and the Kurdish cause in general, they all unite.

The issue of Kirkuk is very clear. There is a constitution approved by the majority of the people of Iraq. There is Article 140 in this constitution related to Kirkuk. This Article will only be abolished when the Iraqi constitution is abolished. Those behind the 22 July conspiracy in the Iraqi parliament wanted to abolish Article 140. Those people wanted to create divisions in Iraq. Article 140 of the constitution will not be cancelled until all its provisions are implemented.

We do not create problems, but rather want to find solutions to problems. I am here with Kosrat [Kurdistan Region Vice President] and other officials to reiterate our calls for peace, love, fraternity and understanding.

Finally, I would like to thank Kirkuk provincial council for their efforts and hard work. I would also like to thank the governor of Kirkuk and all the people of Kirkuk including Kurds, Arabs, Turkomans, Chaldeans and Assyrians. I hope you all will rise to your responsibilities and not allow others to interfere in your affairs. "