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Iraq’s Sunnis Divided Over Need for Their Own Federal Region

By RÛDAW 16/5/2013
An Iraqi soldier escorts civilians as they leave anti-government protests in Hawija, April 22. Photo: AP
An Iraqi soldier escorts civilians as they leave anti-government protests in Hawija, April 22. Photo: AP


BAGHDAD, Iraq – Iraq’s Sunni Muslims are united in their opposition to the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, but divided over whether the large minority should be pushing for the type of autonomy enjoyed by the ethnic Kurds in the north.

A recent wave of protests against Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s government in the Sunni provinces – and a bloody government crackdown against demonstrators last month – has fueled calls for a federal Sunni Arab “triangle” in the densely populated regions of Iraq.

“Now Sunnis understand why the Kurds had insisted on having their own federal region,” said Zafir Alani, a leader of the powerful Sunni Iraqiya bloc.  “They wanted to secure their rights and avoid finding themselves at the mercy of central authority,” he explained, saying “Maliki’s unfair and unjust rule” had driven the Sunnis to demand their own enclave.

Iraq’s ethnic Kurds gained autonomy following the 2003 US-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein. The Kurdistan Region has its own government, parliament, constitution and army.

But Alani conceded that, “Sunnis have not agreed on the mechanism for such a federal region, and its implementation is not possible at this time.”

Tariq Al-Hashimi, the Sunni vice president who fled Baghdad in 2011 after facing terrorism and murder charges, said that federalism was the right answer for Iraq.

“From experience, I believe federalism is an optimal system for a multinational state. We are in the process of forming a Sunni federal region and there is enough support for the project. The announcement will be made at a proper time,” he said, painting perhaps an overly optimistic picture of events.

.“I am for a Sunni region and the region does not necessarily need to be called a Sunni region. Sunnis have long wanted to have their own region,” Hashimi said.

The idea of dividing Iraq into Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish zones was first proposed by US Vice President Joseph Biden, when he was a senator.  But Washington no longer backs that proposal.

All Sunni politicians do not back the idea of creating their own federal region, which constitutionally can be achieved through a referendum.

“The idea of a federal Sunni region is not acceptable,” said Haris Jenabi, spokesman of the Sunni Endowment Diwan.  He refused to reply to a question by Rudaw about what would happen if the vast majority of Sunnis vote for federalism.

Qasim Kerbuli, a member of the organizing committee behind Sunni protests in Anbar province, said that the creation of a federal Sunni region is a last resort.

“We don’t demand such a region at this time. Our priority is that Mr Maliki has to step down,” he said.  “We are not ready to live under Maliki’s oppression. Our options are very clear: change of prime minister or a federal region for Sunnis. 


Schkak Mareské | 16/5/2013
The very creation of Irak as a state was from the beginning a tragic mistake,a British experiment with bloody and tragic consequences including genocide and mass graves.For some,seemingly,the scope of the tragedy is still not big enogh to undo this murderous experiment. Don't be so blind, the map of the Mideast is being redrawn on the ground with blood.
Kurdistan | 17/5/2013
Iraq is a fake state created by England. They never asked the people who live there, to decide, that was a big mistake. Now diffrent people and sects who hate each other live under one fake and failed state called "Iraq". And Kurds suffered so much as a minority in this fake borders. Insallah the population of the Kurds will increase so that Kurds can strengthen their autonomy which will hopefully lead to an independent Kudistan, Insallah.
fhussona | 17/5/2013
a federal system is the way for all the Arab states and possibly also to create the Muslim state too. The vast majority of Arabs would like to go back to having a unified decentralized state that was by and large successful for them for 1300 years. a federal way made up of sect and homogeneous regions or semi autonomous states.
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