Iraq: Parliament forms committee to investigate Khurmatu violence

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ERBIL, Kurdistan – The Iraqi parliament has voted to establish a multi-ethnic committee to investigate events that took place in Tuz Khurmatu after the city came under the control of Iraqi and Shiite forces in October. The legislature made its decision the same day the city again came under mortar fire by an unknown group.
Representatives from five parliamentary committees will conduct the investigation: human rights, media, immigration and displacement, legal, and security and defense, explained Farhad Qadir, member of the Iraqi parliament for the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), on Monday.
“The committee will have Kurdish, Arab and Turkmen representatives, and its findings will become the official position and decision of the Iraqi parliament,” Qadir said, who is from the area and is a member of the committee. 
Tuz Khurmatu, home to Kurds, Turkmen, and Arabs, came under Iraqi and Hashd control in October when the Peshmerga pulled out of the disputed areas. Kurds in the town were targeted with violent attacks, arson, and looting. 
Thousands of Kurds from Tuz Khurmatu are sheltering in the Kurdistan Region, still unable to return to their homes. 
The parliamentary committee will begin work next week. It has been tasked with ensuring “that the displaced families return as soon as possible, reveal the violations, and hold violators accountable,” read a statement published by the Iraqi parliament on Monday. 
The Kurdish parliament has called the events “genocide,” and an independent investigation carried out by the UN has confirmed that there was targeted violence committed against the Kurdish population. 
KRG Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani welcomed the parliament’s move, calling it “a good decision” in a press conference on Monday. 
Barzani had earlier called for the implementation of Article 140, the passage in the Iraqi constitution that is supposed to resolve the disputed areas through holding a census, reversing the Arabization process, and holding a referendum for the population to decide if they want to be under the authority of Erbil or Baghdad. 
Baghdad has been under pressure to take some action on the October events. A joint delegation of three KRG opposition parties visited the Iraqi capital last week. They asked Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to normalize the situation in Tuz Khurmatu as well as Kirkuk. 
In addition, a delegation of people from Tuz Khurmatu accompanied by Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Aram Sheikh Mohammed visited a number of Iraqi and influential Shiite leaders last week. 
Iraq’s Shiite Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani and Ammar al-Hakim, head of the ruling Shiite National Alliance, promised to send teams to Tuz Khurmatu to investigate reports of violence and find a mechanism to resolve the situation. 
The security situation in the Tuz Khurmatu area remains poor, as was evident when the city again came under mortar fire by unknown forces on Monday. 
Five mortars targeted Tuz Khurmatu, said Mala Hassan Garmiyani, member of Saladin provincial council. 
"In response, Turkmen Hashd shelled Mount Hanjira and the area around Khurmatu,” he added. 
Iraqi helicopters assisted in the retaliatory attack. 
Garmiyani could not immediately confirm if there were any casualties, but Rudaw’s correspondent reported that six Turkmen were injured. 
The Kurdish provincial council member stressed that the identity of those responsible for shelling is unknown. "There are non-unified ISIS militants, but it is not known whether they do this or others forces."
The Hashd spokesperson in Tuz Khurmatu, Ali Hashim Husseini, asserted that a local Kurdish militia, the Liberation Army, was responsible. 
This is not the first attack on Tuz Khurmatu in recent weeks. The city was shelled on December 12, causing deaths and injuries among the Hashd.
Federal Iraqi forces and Hashd al-Shaabi militias are both present in the area. In addition, there are at least two armed groups operating around Tuz Khurmatu. There is an unknown group that is possibly made up of ISIS fighters as well as the Liberation Army that has vowed to oust the Hashd from Tuz Khurmatu. 
The Liberation Army was formed in response to reports of abuse by Shiite militias of the Hashd against the Kurdish population in Tuz Khurmatu when the disputed area was taken over by Iraqi and Hashd force. 
Iraqi and Shiite forces launched a large anti-ISIS operation in southern and western Kirkuk province last week to combat ISIS militants in the area.