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The Question of Identity: Ethnicity, Language, Religion, and Gender

Islamic Period:  The Concept of Ethnicity

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Voting day, Kirkuk, Northern Iraq.

Voting day, Kirkuk, Northern Iraq.

Elections mobilize and transform senses of ethnic identity. The elections in Iraq in 2005 produced a strong showing for the Kurdistan Alliance, in the north of the country. Saddam Hussein had attempted to dilute Kurdish claims to the oil-rich area of Kirkuk in the mid-1970s by settling Sunni Arabs there. Kurds and Turkmen driven from their homes during this period have since returned. A long-postponed referendum will eventually decide whether Kirkuk becomes part of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. Approximately a quarter of the population is of Arab, Turkmen, Assyrian and Armenian descent. Those anxious about the possibility of Kurdish domination assert their separate identities in various ways, notably in mobilizing political parties (such as the Iraqi Turkmen Front) to contest elections and plebiscites.

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