Iraq’s next count to include data on ethnic and religious affiliation
By Shakir al-Khateeb
Azzaman, May 19, 2009
The forms to be used for the country’s next census on October 24 will contain questions on Iraqis’ religious and ethnic affiliation, a senior government official said.
But Mahdi al-Allaq of the Planning Ministry said there is nothing in the forms with regard to sectarian belonging.
The census may put to rest issues regarding the ‘exact’ numbers which each of the country’s minorities claims for itself.
But analysts say it won’t be without problems particularly in disputed areas.
At issue will be the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, for instance, which the Kurds allege to be predominantly Kurdish in character, an allegation which the country’s Arabs and Turkmen reject.
Allaq said the government has allocated $80 million to carry out the count and has mobilized at least 250,000 of the country’s half a million teachers for the purpose.
The official said no area of Iraq will be excluded from the count and that the government is seeking assistance from specialized organizations such as the U.N. and the E.U.
The exclusion of information on sectarian affiliation is bound to leave issues regarding the percentages of both Shiites and Sunnis unsettled.
Analysts say there are many among the Sunnis who dispute that fact that the Shiites are the majority.
But Allaq said the government is keen not to politicize the October count.
“We are not concerned with politics. Our aim is to carry out the count merely for planning purposes to give the decision-makers information on the country’s economic conditions and issues with a bearing on the Iraqi society,” he added.