Independent Ninawa After the Islamic State?

“Everyone is going to have to accept the reality that some parts of the province will be annexed – Article 140 of the Constitution has been enacted because of the IS group,” al-Rashidi says, referring to Iraq’s so-called disputed areas. These are parts of Iraq that authorities in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan say belong to them but which the government in Baghdad says are part of Iraq.  As Iraqi Kurdish military have fought the IS, they have taken control of some of the disputed areas.

All efforts are now focussed on getting rid of the IS fighters from Ninawa. “But we should also form an interim local authority to replace the current one, whose mission is to negotiate the new administrative set up here, with Baghdad,” al-Rashidi explains. “In practical terms, we are going to have a small, weak region that needs close connections to other provinces, like Anbar, Diyala or Salahaddin, to make it stronger [the latter are all Sunni Muslim-majority areas] and to help improve the local people’s lot . Because they have been neglected by the central government for years. It’s an effort that will require years,” al-Rashidi tells NIQASH.

This problem is part of the reason that many are still opposed to the idea of a semi-autonomous region. They want to keep Ninawa a regular province of Iraq but, they say, this requires a genuine political partnership with Baghdad, free of sectarian or ethnic bias.

“Decentralization is the only cure,” argues Saad Hani, who ran as an independent candidate for Ninawa in recent elections. “Administrative decisions should be made within the province but there should be direct support for the province from the central government. That ensures that the danger of division is avoided and that internal and external threats are minimised.”

Of course, for some of Ninawa’s residents all of the above means nothing. Various ethnicities and sects in the province – the Yazidis, Turkmen, Christians and Shabak – have all been badly hurt by the IS group. And they do not want to go back ever again. Instead they are still calling for an independent region – or perhaps a special area in Ninawa that would come under United Nations supervision – for the badly treated minorities of Ninawa.

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