July 3, 2015
- Arabs Fleeing Islamic State Upset Kurdistan’s Ethnic Balance – Yaroslav Trofimov
Ever since Islamic State surged through Iraq’s Sunni belt last summer, some 30,000 Arab Iraqis have moved to the Kurdish town of Shaqlawa, normally home to 25,000 residents. In all, more than 1.5 million people from elsewhere in Iraq have sought refuge in the Kurdistan region, with more arriving each day.
For a region with a population of 5.2 million, this is a huge demographic transformation. In addition to putting an enormous strain on public resources, the influx of Arab Iraqis threatens to reshape Kurdistan’s very identity and to undermine the goal of establishing an independent state.
Rizgar Nasir, Shaqlawa’s mayor, noted: “When we resisted ISIS, these Arab people didn’t fight and escaped. Now, our Peshmerga [soldiers] are being martyred on the front lines every day, making sacrifices to protect these Arabs who are all staying here instead of fighting against ISIS themselves.” (Wall Street Journal)