ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Iraqi authorities announced Monday the state will return Arab families that were brought to disputed areas in the Khanaqin and Golala regions during the regime of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to their original homes.
A government delegation that visited the areas included Salim al-Jabouri, speaker of Iraqi Parliament, Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi and Darbaz Muhammad, Iraq's immigration minister. The officials from Baghdad reached an agreement with local authorities in Khanaqin and Golala to return the Arab families not originally from the areas who were brought there by Saddam's government after the forced displacement of the original inhabitants.
In a bid to shift the demographics of northern Iraq towards Arab domination, the regime targeted Kurdish inhabitants and other minorities such as Yezidis, Assyrians, Shabaks, Armenians, Turkmen, and Mandeans. These minority groups endured mass displacement and cultural assimilation.
The Khanaqin and Golala regions had previously been inhabited by non-Arab minorities, most notably Kurds. The areas were later "Arabized" by evicting the locals and bringing in Arab tribes.
After the fall of the Baath regime in 2003, both Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) claimed jurisdiction over these areas.
The issue over the territories disputed between KRG and Baghdad was meant to be solved through a referendum in those areas. According to Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, a referendum should be held to ascertain whether those Arabized regions should be attached to the Kurdistan region or stay within Iraq.
The former Iraqi regime engaged in the active expulsion of minorities from the mid-1970s. In 2001, the United Nations recorded a total of 805,505 displaced persons living in the Kurdish provinces of Erbil, Duhok, and Sulaimani.
According to Human Right Watch, the Arabization campaign dates back to the 1930s, with consecutive Iraqi administrations attempting to alter the ethnic composition of northern Iraq by expelling Kurds, Turkmans, and Assyrians from their homes and repopulating the areas with Arabs relocated from central and southern Iraq.
International human rights law identifies the forced displacement of populations as a crime against humanity, and victims of that policy have a right to return to their homes or be compensated.