In a bit of news from across the globe, Iraq will hold its first census in more than 20 years later this year.
BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Plans are on track to take Iraq’s first complete census in 23 years, a process that will help answer questions critical to the future of Iraq’s northern oilfields, such as “how many Kurds live in Kirkuk?”
The long-delayed count, which may shut down the country for two days in October, is also expected to determine how many Iraqis live abroad and how many have been forced to move within Iraq in seven years of war, census chief Mehdi al-Alak said.
The census was postponed for a year over worries it was being politicized. Ethnic groups in contested areas like the northern city of Kirkuk, home to Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and a valuable part of Iraq’s oil fields, opposed it because it might reveal demographics that would undermine political ambitions.
The count could provide answers or create more squabbles in a diverse nation riven by sectarian violence following the U.S. invasion in 2003 and now trying to bolster fragile security gains while deciding how to share out its vast oil wealth. Iraq has the world’s 3rd largest crude oil reserves.
The autonomous Kurdish region in the north claims Kirkuk as its own. The census will determine whether Kurds are the biggest ethnic bloc in the city, which could bolster that claim.
It will also find out how many people live in Iraqi Kurdistan, which will define its slice of central government revenues, currently 17 percent. If the census finds Kurds are a greater percentage of the total population, the constitution says the region gets more money, and retroactive payments.