Kirkuk Kirkuk, daily life in a split city
Description: Anti terrorist units seach houses for weapons.
Kirkuk, 200 miles north of Baghdad, lies in the middle of God's sand box. A seemingly endless stream of small hills stretch to her grey and unfinished suburbs. Kirkuk is a city of grey bricks, dusty roads bordered with litter, corrugated iron roofs and low hanging knots of electrical wires. Under this poor and unpromising looking surface lies 13 percent of Iraq's known oil reserves. All the problems of Iraq meet in this city of about one million souls. Before the invasion, Kurds, Turkmens, Arabs and Christians lived together in relative harmony. But the dawning democracy and rich oil fields attract many 'dark hands' from afar.
Oil has a firm grip over Kirkuk. Saddam imported thousands of Arabs from the South to control the oil reserves. They took over the houses of Kurds and Turkmen who were forced to flee. But the Arabs are now leaving (some 11.000 Arabs left Kirkuk in 2008). The Kurds conquered the city side by side with the Americans in 2003 and now form the majority. They want Kirkuk to be part of their own autonomous region of Kurdistan, as it once was. But the central government in Baghdad is not letting Kirkuk go. Kirkuk became a disputed area and will not vote in the coming elections at the end of January.
Yet, in spite of the political hassle, the Kirkukis still get along. They have intermarried and live in the same streets. The Turkmen green-grocer stands next to his Kurdish colleague at the bazaar where I buy my oranges. But violence has increased since the fall of Saddam.