Professor Gareth Stansfield Talks Disputed or Kurdistani Areas

10 months ago

Professor Gareth Stansfield presented a seminar on the issue of the disputed or Kurdistani areas claimed by both the Iraqi and Kurdistan Regional Governments. The open event took place at the University of Kurdistan Hewlêr, and attended by the UKH’s staff and students.

Professor Stansfield, Director for the Centre for the Kurdish Studies at the University of Exeter, opened the seminar with a description of the current situation of the disputed areas that include Kirkuk and other areas.

The distinguished professor has been conducting research about the Middle East with a particular interest in the Iraqi Kurdistan and the Kurdish politics for decades. He first visited the Kurdistan Region in 1996 while on a mission by the government of the United Kingdom. He has been visiting the Kurdish areas ever since on regular basis.

He opened the seminar outlining the various, often complicated dynamics that concern the disputed areas or what is known as Article 140 of the Iraqi constitution.

He touched on the ever changing relationship between Erbil and Baghdad. The two sides joined forces to fight against the Islamic State especially in Mosul that was liberated in late July 2017, an event that was widely celebrated and was then seen as the start of an era for a friendly relationship between the Iraqi and Kurdish governments. The relationship, however, did not last when the two sides entered a brief, though bloody war in October that year that saw the KRG losing vast territories of the disputed areas to the Iraqi armed forces, including Kirkuk.

The dynamics on the ground, sametimes with foreign backing, have contributed to the sophistication of the facts on the ground, something that researchers have to seriously take into account and adjust to, Professor Stansfield said. The presence of various armed groups such as the Iraqi army, the Kurdish Peshmerga, and the Hash al-Shaabi in the disputed areas are the main factors to read the environment.

The research conducted on the fate of the disputed areas has seen major shifts over the last decade, Professor Stansfield said.

The rapid rise of the Islamic State in the summer of 2014 created a whole new level of dynamics, followed by the weakening of the radical group and then the military standoff between the Iraqi and the Kurdish armed groups in the aftermath of the Kurdish referendum that was held in September 2017, the professor explained.

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