The tense security situation in liberated areas of Iraq renders them sensitive to false reports of abandonment by the security forces.
Rumours were recently spreading on social media that the Iraqi Army and Federal Police had retreated from the province of Kirkuk, especially in the town of Daquq. These claims were found to be false and the security forces have reassured the local population that their presence in the region will continue.
Some people in Daquq believe that there are certain divisive forces that are intent on playing on people’s fears of instability, especially in a region that has seen ISIS occupation and clashes between Kurdish and central Iraqi forces.
The province of Kirkuk has been disputed between the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and the central government of Iraq. The Iraqi Army took full control of the province in October 2017 after the Kurdish referendum, when 93% of the people of the KRG voted for independence, which was eventually annulled due to strong pressure from the central government and international forces.
The province comprises a mix of people, including Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and others, representing the diversity of Iraq. Although these groups have been living in relative peace, as stated in the video, there are nonetheless existing tensions which outside forces may take advantage of.
There are towns similar to Daquq in their social and ethnic mixture where tensions between different groups came to a boil after the Kurdish referendum. Tuz Khurmatu, in neighbouring Salahhadin province, saw the presence of a variety of forces over the past few years vying for control over the city, including ISIS. In the aftermath of the Kurdish referendum there were clashes between the Iraqi forces, backed by the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), and the Kurdish-dominated Peshmerga forces. Most Shia Turkmen supported the PMU while the Kurds backed the Peshmerga.
The fear of a similar exploitation of group differences in towns like Daquq make such places sensitive to false rumours, which may trigger unwanted violence. The security forces in Daquq are making it clear that there is no basis to the rumours that the security of the town is under threat.
Demonstrations of solidarity among the residents of Daquq were evident especially after the banishment of ISIS from the area.