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FRONTLINE/World Rough Cut
The reporter shakes hands with the police chief. Police chief in his office with wounded officer. Suspected insurgents inside interrogation cell. Police arm machine gun on top of patrol vehicle.

Rough Cut
Iraq: Law and Disorder
On patrol with Kirkuk's police chief
 

 

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Length: 10:31

Karzan Sherabayani

A native of Kirkuk, the multilingual Karzan Sherabayani went to live in Italy in 1980, where he created his own Kurdish theater company. He learned film and television production at Tele Europa and later trained to become an actor. In 1992, Sherabayani moved to England. After living in exile for 25 years, Sherabayani returned to Kirkuk three times in 2005. From these visits, he produced and directed the feature-length documentary Return to Kirkuk about his experiences. Most recently, Sherabayani has reported and produced several short films for the U.K.'s Channel 4 news and the BBC.

This will be the third "Rough Cut" Karzan Sherabayani has produced for FRONTLINE/World from his native city of Kirkuk. Judging by this latest report, the situation there continues to deteriorate. To show what residents must face every day, Sherabayani goes on patrol with the city's police chief, a man he introduces as the most-wanted policeman in Kirkuk, because of the many insurgents who would like to kill him.

Maintaining order for Police Chief Sarhad Qadir and his officers is not only fraught with danger but, in the current climate, an impossible task.

Since President Bush heralded Kirkuk as a model of restraint earlier this year, insurgents have stepped up their car bombing campaign across the Kurdish capital. For Qadir, it means never leaving his office or home without a heavy police guard. Two of his bodyguards were killed in a car he was traveling in; he has been shot at and attacked by roadside bombs; and, most recently, someone tried to poison him. It's his cooperation with the coalition that has made him such a target. But he tells Sherabayani why he is the right man for the job.

"I stood up against the brutal Ba'ath regime and fought as a peshmerga for my freedom," Qadir says. "I am not going to give up now because of this." His office at police headquarters receives a constant stream of grieving wives and mothers, wounded police officers and other victims of the violence.

This past October, the city saw some of its worst attacks since the fall of Saddam. Forces responded with a major security crackdown and hundreds of suspected insurgents were rounded up.

With his usual mix of doggedness and charm, Sherabayani succeeds in getting permission to visit some of these insurgents who have been detained at a special interrogation center. Although he's not "officially" allowed to question them, the police officer accompanying him is too fearful to show his face, so Sherabayani and his cameraman enter the detention cell alone. What follows is a tense exchange set off by Sherabayani asking how many of the men are Sunni Arabs. Many raise their hands, but one man, speaking in English and introducing himself as an oil worker, claims that it's the Americans who are creating this division between Sunnis and Shiites, and he wants no part of Sherabayani's quizzing.

On patrol, the camera captures a city barely holding itself together. The streets are littered with the wreckage of recent car bomb attacks. Thick concrete security barriers line many neighborhoods, and there are shrines to fallen police officers. Qadir pulls up to one of these, which honors his 29-year-old brother.

"You don't seem very optimistic," Sherabayani says at one point, as the two men drive together.

"I'm not," the police chief replies.

Qadir explains what he feels is behind the rising violence. The insurgents hate the Kurds, he says, because the Kurds are preventing them from bringing down the coalition.

"They believe if they can make the coalition forces fail in Kirkuk, they can make them fail in all Iraq. The Shiites kill Sunnis, and the Sunnis kill Shiites, but," he adds, "both kill Kurds."

Jackie Bennion
Senior Interactive Producer

REACTIONS

joe zanudo - Santa Ana, Calidornia
A very good, incisive piece about a very under-reported facet of the war. Many Americans do not understand the specific dynamics of the deadly ménage a trois in which the Kurdish people are currently forced to join. Being part of Iraq makes little sense for these American allies. America should push for their independence.

Honey Bianchi - London, UK
Another balanced and informative report on a specific situation in Iraq. From the film and the above comments, one can see that a solution to some will be far from that for others. What is apparent is that there many individuals who are so firm in the belief they are right, they will go to any lengths to deny society the same rights as a whole.

Adnan K. - Adelaide, Australia
For a long time Kurdish people have been in revolt for this city. Many, many lives have been taken from them. Demographic implantation in Kirkuk to sway directions of politics is one source of the current chaos. Thank you Karzan for your brave efforts to deliver honest representations of Kirkuk.

(anonymous)
Thank you, Karzan Sherabayani. You are the first man doing the excellent report in Kirkuk.

Douglas - Washington, DC
This rough cut video presents a glimpse into the complex conflict and the deteriorating security situation in Kirkuk - a city recently lauded by the Bush administration as a model of progress in Iraq. Indeed, if this is what qualifies as progress, I would hate to see what failure looks like. When watching these images it is impossible not to feel saddened and incredibly frustrated by our policies in Iraq.

Key West, FL
The situation in Kirkuk can only be successfully given from a one-sided view. By researching the conflict between the minorities, one has to see the opinion from all the innocent people's of Kirkuk, and judge for yourself how the situation is unfolding. I do not believe Karzan is trying to make Kirkuk look like a Kurdish City; the city belongs to its residents, not what a reporter might make it seem otherwise. I disagree that Kirkuk has a Turkomen majority, or an Arab majority. However I do agree it's multi-ethnic in nature and will stay that way. Kurds have a bigger political power because of the democracy the United States and its allies have brought to Iraq. That's essentially the root of democracy; the majority will be in power. I think the first response to this video suggests a Saddam Hussein kind of monarchy on Kirkuk. The Kurds are U.S. allies for the sake of human beings and to allow the region to be peaceful, so it can prosper economically. Article 140 does not call for any ethnic cleansing to be done in Kirkuk, rather the reverse process, where people have gained lands of innocent Kirkuk residents. These lands should be returned to the people of Kirkuk whether Turkomen, Kurd, or Arab. It does not suggest, nor has anyone suggested turning Kirkuk into a Kurdish city -- simply undoing what an evil president has, to allow Kirkuk be a functioning city. This is not a call for getting rid of any minority population, rather helping everyone in the long run.

Das - Milwaukee, WI
How can people live under such conditions? The multi-ethnic discord must be resolved! There should be UN peacekeeping forces.

Washington, DC
This report gives a one-sided view of the situation in Kirkuk. It makes it seem as if Kirkuk is a Kurdish city with Arab and Turkman minorities. In fact, Kirkuk used to have a Turkman majority and is currently multi-ethnic.The Kurds are currently the main political power because of their alliance with the US. But actually transforming Kirkuk into a Kurdish city will require a bloody process of ethnic cleansing and will result in even more conflict in Iraq.

Ronald Bastiani - Milwaukie, OR
Excellent show. Very informative. Sad situation. Karzan report's is beautifully handled. Personally I feel Iraq needs to be divided along its ethic groups; Kurds should get Kirkuk.