UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
IRAQ: Test census to be conducted
BAGHDAD, 19 September 2005 (IRIN) - The Iraqi government is to conduct a test census across the country on 16 October as part of preparations for a general count of its population in 2007, an official said.
Faisal Abdel Amir, a senior official at the Ministry of Planning and Development Cooperation, said the planned national census in 2007 would also correct the distortion created under an "Arabisation" programme during Saddam Hussein's regime.
The programme forced Kurds, Turkmen and other minorities to list their ethnicity as "Arab" or risk losing their homes, jobs and lives.
More than 50,000 professionals including school teachers will conduct the test census, including in the three Kurdish provinces in north Kurdistan.
The last population census conducted in October 1997 found the Iraqi population to be just over 22 million, but without the people of Kurdistan. It covered only 15 governorates unlike the 1987 census which included all of Iraq's 18 governorates.
A separate census found that the population of the northern Kurdish governorates stood at 3.8 million.
In 2004, a count was conducted after the Iraqi National Assembly agreed that it was necessary to do it in order to facilitate the January elections. Officials, however, said the counting was incomplete, especially after Sunni Arabs boycotted the poll.
"We expect very good results," Abdel Amir added. "If the population collaborates in this democratic process our employees will find it much easier to complete the coming census of 2007."
Dildar Karam, 41, a Kurdish resident of Kirkuk said the Iraqi population was anxious about the new census, especially locals from his area who wish to see the problems of ethnicity in their oil-rich city resolved.
"With God's blessing us, we will get back our rights and the recognition of the true lands," he said.
The Arabisation programme, which started in the 1970s, banished Kurds from Kirkuk, placing Arabs in wealthier residential areas. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), during the late 1990s some 250,000 Kurds and other non-Arabs were forced to give up their homes and leave the city.
Most went to northern Iraq, some moved in with relatives, but many ended up in squalid camps, such as al-Salam near Chamchamal on the southern tip of the northern region and Benislawa, near the northern city of Arbil.
Since Saddam Hussein’s fall in April 2003, Kirkuk has been the scene of ethnic tension. The recent return of Kurds has added to local problems and led to the displacement of Arabs.
Abdel Amir said the census would also take into account displaced people. It will be conducted a day after the national referendum on a new constitution.
Organisers of the plebiscite have said they had encountered numerous obstacles in the registration of some 16 million people for the 15 October vote.
For example, a lack of security in the western Anbar governorate, which has been the scene of fighting between insurgents and US forces since 2004, had presented difficulties for those involved in the registration, due to threats from insurgents.
Officials said militant groups were threatening people by placing messages on internet sites and posting notices outside mosques.
Themes: (IRIN) Other
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