University of Kurdistan-Hawler, Erbil,
April 19, 2017
Dear distinguished guests,
Good morning and you are all very welcome,
I am glad to be here with you at this important conference, thanks for inviting us.
I commend the organizers of this conference, especially the University of Kurdistan-Hawler, the International Organization for Migration, and the Georgetown University's Center for Contemporary Arab Studies and the Institute for the Study of International Migration.
The Migration and displacement is not a new phenomenon for us, the Kurdish people, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. Since the creation of Iraq in 1921 and forcefully annexing Kurdistan to Iraq, we as Kurds have faced oppression, tyranny and displacement at the hands of the successive regimes in Iraq from the monarchy to republican and until the fall of Saddam’s regime in 2003. During this period, the people of Kurdistan had faced displacement dozens of times. And until now many Kurdish diaspora in the west died and haven’t had the chance to return home.
After 2003, the operation of Iraq liberation, the displacement towards the Kurdistan Region from Iraq has dramatically started, where Christians, Sunni Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen became the target and victim of the violence by the sectarian conflicts and terrorism across Iraq.
A large number of the displaced people sought shelter in the Kurdistan Region, and we opened our doors to them and provided them security and safety and all services without discrimination. During the period of 2003 to 2010, more than 600,000 the displaced people came to Kurdistan Region including:
- 200,000 Christians
- 194,474 Sunni Arabs
- 202,000 Kurds
- 121,000 of other components of Yezidis and Faily Kurds and Turkmen as well as other ethnicities.
Out of that number, nearly 100,000 displaced persons of all components especially Christians and Sunni Arabs have stayed in the Kurdistan Region and they still live here. While some of the displaced people migrated abroad and others had returned to their areas of origin especially when security situation somehow improved after 2010.
However, following the withdrawal of the US forces in Iraq in 2011, due to the sectarian, discrimination and marginalization policies, the violence, killing and robbery had increase and created the vacuum for the reemergence of terrorism and ISIS overran, as a result, we have faced the largest waves of displacement and the biggest humanitarian crisis which is unprecedented in the in the history.
Once again the Kurdistan Region became the only safe heaven to receive and welcome the displaced people across Iraq, especially Ninewa, Salahaddin and Anbar provinces. Between 2014 until now, 1.8 million displaced people arrived in Kurdistan Region, and we as KRG have opened our doors towards them, and have provided them protection and services without any discrimination while, they were neither allowed nor assisted to go to Baghdad and other areas by the Iraqi government.
Currently, more than 1.3 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are in the Region, and the rest, some of them have returned to their homes and the others migrated to outside of Iraq, however, there are still people who try to leave the country. We have made every effort to shelter the IDPs and provide them with basic services to alleviate their suffering in coordination with the people of Kurdistan Region, United Nations Agencies and the local and international NGOs.
Whereas, due to the withheld of the KRG’s federal budget share by Baghdad, the costly war against ISIS and drop of oil prices, which is the KRG’s main source of revenue, we have faced the biggest crisis, we were on the brink of collapse. Fortunately, with the resilience of the people, the Peshmerga and security forces’ heroic resistance and with the limited assistance from the international community, we have been able to continue providing limited and moderate civic services to the entire population including IDPs and refugees.
It is of great concern, the Iraqi government has not provided sufficient assistance neither to the Kurdistan Region nor the IDPs as it should be, while it has been has been evading its humanitarian responsibility towards the IDPs and leaving the huge burden of the IDPs and Syrian refugees on the people in Kurdistan and KRG.
Currently, the IDPs crisis is very complex and it is multidimensional including political, security, humanitarian, financial, economic, social, legal and governance aspects. Therefore, we do not expect immediately after the defeat of ISIS, influxes of IDPs return to their homes in the liberated areas will take place.
The ISIS war and sectarian conflict have removed the trust among all ethnicities, the infrastructure of the liberated areas is completely destroyed, the governance system collapsed, majority of the IDPs lost their belongings, properties, livelihoods and their homes destroyed. The security situation is fragile and complex. Thousands of people joined ISIS and supported this terrorist group and have committed horrific crimes against innocent civilians and armed forces.
In relation to the displacement crisis, we believe that the durable solution is the return of IDPs to their place of origin; we never support either stay in the Kurdistan Region nor migrate to outside.
Our policy in KRG has been clear and consistent; we support voluntary return of IDPs and will provide them with all facilitation and assistances so that they return to their home. However, the return process of this huge number of displaced people will not take place naturally. Therefore, we have to look at the IDPs crisis rationally and create a shared understanding about this crisis among all stakeholders.
We should carefully deal with the IDPs’ crisis in order to prevent retaliation and restore trust among all ethnicities to ensure long term stability, peace and coexistence.
Despite of our continued efforts in KRG, with Iraqi Government and the international community on the issue of stabilization and reconstruction in the liberated areas, unfortunately there has not been any improvement in this regard. We believe that there is an immediate need to develop a joint strategy and long term plan for stabilization inclusive all sectors between KRG and Iraqi Government with the participation of the representatives of all minorities to jointly implement with transparency and accountability with the technical and financial support from the international community to ensure long term stability.
So far, there is not any kind of cooperation and coordination between Kurdistan Regional Government and the Iraqi Government, nor among international communities and other relevant stakeholder about this critical issue. This is of great concern for us; because with the current approach, the stabilization process will not succeed, on the contrary it will result in further division and disparity, injustice by supporting one geographic area at the expense of the other areas and further worsening the situation.
The Kurdistan Regional Government is the decision maker in the areas liberated, protected and secured by the Peshmarga forces. Therefore, it is critical to have constant discussion and dialogue among KRG, GoI and the international community, especially UN-agencies about the IDP’s return, stabilization and reconstruction process in the liberated areas.
On this occasion, for the above stated purpose, I ask all UN-agencies to appoint their senior representatives or coordinators in Kurdistan Region, so that we start the dialogue and discussion to develop a joint plan to support IDP’s return and the stabilization and reconstruction in the liberated areas under KRG’s jurisdiction.
With the current approach, in Baghdad they may not be able to help us and the unilateral decisions without the participation of the KRG will not succeed, as the KRG is the main stakeholder, decision maker and in the forefront in the war on ISIS and liberation of the areas were under ISIS and hosting millions of IDPs and refugees as well as providing safety and protecting all ethnicities.
The absence of UN representatives with decision making authority in Kurdistan Region is one of the obstacles for continued dialogue on this important issue to have concerted efforts to set a comprehensive plan to avoid uncoordinated and disorganized efforts to make this strategic process successful, additionally, to engage the representatives of all ethnicities, and to benefit from the technical expertise and financial capabilities of UN-agencies, local and international NGOs in the returning process and the stabilization and reconstruction in the liberated areas.
As the stabilization and reconstruction of the liberated areas has become the priority, there is a need for an immediate attention and support be given to the stabilization of the provinces which are hugely affected by the displacement waves including Erbil, Duhok, Slemani, Kirkuk and other provinces. It is unfair, these provinces be left alone after all their civic infrastructure and services depleted and exhausted as a result of hosting the huge number of IDPs and refugees. Therefore, the process of stabilization and reconstruction should be inclusive of all affected provinces and the affected communities without prejudice, and the reconstruction of the liberated areas should not be at the expense of the host communities in these provinces.
Finally, I reiterate that with the current approach, the stabilization and renovation process in the liberated areas, without a having a comprehensive and inclusive plan with the full participation and engagement of all communities, will not succeed. Since the model of centralism and top down decision making is dysfunctional.
Therefore, we look at this conference with great importance which is held on the right time to study the problems, obstacles and challenges in all aspects. I hope that the conference study the displacement crisis scientifically and come up with realistic and practical recommendations so that we can benefit from to find long term solutions for restoring peace, stability and coexistence for all communities, and to end violence, terror, war and secure a bright and prosperous future for all communities across Iraq.
Thank you again, we wish you success and hope this conference results in fruitful outcomes.
Once again, you are all welcome again. . . .