Landmark Decision Looms: Iraqi Parliament Puts Halabja's Provincialization to a Vote
In a momentous development today, the Iraqi parliament convened to vote on the proposed provincialization of Halabja, marking the culmination of ten years of tireless efforts by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) to secure official recognition for Halabja as a province within Iraq.
During the fifteenth session held on Monday, September 18, 2023, the Iraqi parliament engaged in deliberations over a bill that would establish Halabja as the nineteenth province of Iraq, integrating it into the nation's provincial landscape.
The bill underscores the significance of designating Halabja as a province, citing factors such as its robust economic growth, burgeoning population, and the substantial devastation inflicted by the Ba'ath regime's chemical attack on the city in 1988. Article 2 of the bill stipulates that the Kurdistan Regional Government will be tasked with defining the province's boundaries and administrative divisions.
The journey toward provincial status for Halabja commenced in 2014 when it was initially declared a province by Nechirvan Barzani, who served as the Prime Minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government at the time. However, this declaration encountered delays and was met with neglect when presented to the Iraqi Council of Ministers in 2015, during the tenure of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Notwithstanding these setbacks, the Kurdistan Regional Government remained steadfast in its calls to the Iraqi Federal Government, urging them to make a definitive decision regarding Halabja's provincial status, with repeated appeals made by Prime Minister Masrour Barzani's ninth cabinet.
Halabja province is situated in the southeast of Sulaimani city and comprises four districts: Sirwan, Khurmal, Biara, and Bamo. Historically, Halabja has served as a bastion of thought and culture; yet, it is also etched in history for the tragic events of March 16, 1988, when the Ba'ath regime's chemical attack claimed the lives of 5,000 Kurdish civilians and inflicted injuries upon thousands more.
Despite enduring these hardships, the city of Halabja has not received adequate compensation and support from successive Iraqi governments across various domains, encompassing humanitarian, political, legal, health, and development sectors. The fate of Halabja as Iraq's nineteenth province now lies in the hands of the Iraqi parliament following today's historic vote.