UN officials are expressing concern about growing evidence of “collective punishment” being carried out by Kurdish security forces against Arab families in the city of Kirkuk, with a new purge apparently having begun in the wake of last week’s ISIS attack.
Reports from aid workers in Kirkuk suggest that several hundred Sunni Arab families have, in the past couple of days, been contacted by Kurdish security forces and informed they have to leave or face being “forced” out of town, accusing them of being part of an ISIS “sleeper cell.”
On Friday, ISIS attacked several targets around Kirkuk, killing a number of security members. The operation was seen as an attempt to divert Kurdish security forces from participating in the ongoing invasion of Mosul. ISIS launched multiple counterattacks around the area.
Historically, Kirkuk had a large Kurdish population, but during the Saddam Hussein government, the oil-rich city was heavily purged in favor of a Sunni Arab population. At the start of the ISIS war, the Kurdish Peshmerga took over Kirkuk, annexing it into Iraqi Kurdistan, and there have been concerns ever since that they intend another wholesale population transfer to try to consolidate their gains.