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Iraqi Official Opposes Asking About Ethnicity In Census

BAGHDAD -- An Iraqi official says there is a "general inclination" to not ask people about their ethnicity in the national census scheduled for December 5, RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) reports.

Iraqi Planning Minister Ali Baban said on October 20 at an event marking Interntional Census Day that the situation in Iraq has changed from previous censuses when people were asked to specify their ethnicity.

"In earlier censuses there were no disputed areas between the federal government and the regional government of Kurdistan," Baban said. "There were no struggles because of the ethnic affiliations of some areas. But today, we have these kinds of problems."

"We should listen to the objections expressed by some of the [political] parties that carry considerable weight in Iraqi society," he added, without naming those parties.

"We are all Iraqis in the end," Baban continued. "We should take all the objections into consideration and listen to everyone, and we think that removing this question would solve problems and create some kind of consensus between different parties."

The autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) formally objected to Baban's comments later the same day. KRG Planning Minister Ali al-Sindi said Arbil that the Kurdish region rejects any proposal that will not include a question about a person's ethnicity. He said it violates law No. 40 from 2008.

Al-Sindi also warned that Kurds will boycott the census if the question about ethnic identity is removed. "If this omission is implemented, the Kurdistan region will not take part in the census," he said.

Al-Sindi accused Baban of seeking to politicize the census. He said dropping the question about ethnicity will create problems instead of solving them. He noted that removing the question will affect all ethnic groups in Iraq, not only Kurds.

Iraq's national census -- the first since 1987 -- was originally scheduled for October 3 but was then postponed until December 5.