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Eli Lake

Kurdish Protectors Vow to Keep Their 'Jerusalem'

While Peshmerga contol has proven beneficial to the people of Kirkuk so far, it’s just going to imperil a unified Iraq going forward.
They don't look like they're leaving.

They don't look like they're leaving.

Photographer: Marwan Ibrahim/AFP/Getty Images

One of the more remarkable facts about Iraq in 2015 is that Kurdish fighters today protect the diverse, oil rich city of Kirkuk from a Jihadist army.  And while this arrangement has proven beneficial to the people of Kirkuk so far, it’s just the kind of thing that imperils a unified Iraq going forward.

Touring the city yesterday, I came  to understand the full symbolic importance of Kirkuk for Kurds. Saddam Hussein spent decades driving tens of thousands of Kurdish families from Kirkuk’s neighborhoods and replacing them with Arab families. Kurdish leaders spent these decades vowing to take the city back.