Monday, March 31, 2003

Other coverage of humanitarian aid in Friday's New York Times:

In a jump from a Page 1 story titled "Iraqis Abandon Post and Kurds Advance," on page B4 of the "Nation at War" section, Hania Mufti, a researcher for Human Rights Watch, declares that the northern Iraqi oil town of Kirkuk "is a disaster waiting to happen." HRW, Pulitzer Prize-winning C.J. Chivers reports, has warned that a coordinated plan is needed for Kirkuk to avoid interethnic violence and reprisal killings against Iraqi officials.

Kirkuk lies just south and west of the border with the part of the Kurdish Controlled Region run by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

From the HRW site, linked above as well:

"Since the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi government has systematically expelled an estimated 120,000 Kurds, Turkomans, and Assyrians from Kirkuk and other towns and villages in this oil-rich region. Most have settled in the Kurdish-controlled northern provinces. Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has resettled Arab families in their place in an attempt to reduce the political power and presence of ethnic minorities, a process known as 'Arabization.'

"Those who were displaced were forced to abandon their homes, were stripped of most of their possessions, and were deprived of any means of livelihood. Scores of expelled Kurds and Turkomans interviewed by Human Rights Watch during a September 2002 mission to Iraqi Kurdistan described the relentless pressure by the state to drive them from their homes by making their daily lives intolerable.

"Human Rights Watch researchers now based in Iraqi Kurdistan said the United States has not prepared for returning displaced residents of Kirkuk.

" 'We have found no evidence that U.S. political and military leaders have prepared for the consequences of a massive influx of returnees with grievances against those who forced them from their homes, as well as those who now live in their homes,' said Mufti."