Mapping Militant Organizations
|Disbanded||Group is active.|
|Updated||June 15, 2012|
The Islamic Movement of Kurdistan (IMK), a Sunni Muslim organization in the Kurdish region of Iraq, was founded in 1987 by a group of Kurdish Islamic scholars that were all part of the non-political “Union of Religious Scholars” (Yaketi Mamostayani Ayni Islami), led by the late Shaykh Uthman Abd-Aziz (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/not_in_website/syndication/monitoring/media_reports/2588623.stm).
Despite renouncing violence, the movement has an armed militia of several hundred men. It is, since 1998, based in Halabjah, Sulaymaniyah Governorate, in Northern Iraq, the town where Iraqi forces unleashed chemical weapons during the ‘Anfal Campaign’ of 1988.
In 1999 the Islamic Movement of Kurdistan merged with another armed Islamic group, the Islamic Al-Nahdah (Renaissance) Movement, to form the Islamic Unity Movement in Kurdistan, but the original name of the movement was readopted after the groups split again in 2001 (RFE/RL. Iraq Report, vol. 5, N°3 (January 25, 2002) ), quoting the Suleimaniyeh weekly newspaper Komal on January 10.)
The IMK maintains its headquarters in Halabja, where it occupies the mayoralty. Although it is the third-largest political force in the Kurdish enclave, it failed to reach the 7 per cent threshold in the 1992 Kurdish elections necessary for participation in the regional parliament – playing by the rules the IMK gathered only 49,108 votes (out of roughly one million), or about 5 per cent, insufficient for parliamentary representation (“Results of Parliamentary Election in Iraqi Kurdistan Help [sic] May 1992”, available at http://www.kurdistanparliament.org/election.htm.) It has thus been reduced to competing for influence in local elections and has remained largely confined to the Halabja area, where it could mutate but hardly proliferate. Its main rival is the staunchly secular Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), which controls the government in the eastern half of Iraqi Kurdistan. In 1993 the PUK ceded control of territory around Halabja, Tawella and Panjwin to the party after heavy fighting, and the party controlled Halabja from 1998 to 2000.
Disaffected with the political process, it contented itself with consolidating its presence in areas where it enjoyed popular support. There it set up its own consultative shura (council) and system of law enforcement, and began providing health, education and social services to its members (Amnesty International, Iraq: Human Rights Abuses in Iraqi Kurdistan since 1991 (London, 1995), p. 20. The IMK made no apparent attempt to impose Shari’a law in these areas).
The IMK’s attempt to establish a parallel administration to that of the main Kurdish parties – the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) – led to friction and, eventually, armed clashes between the PUK and IMK in December 1993. These were soon overshadowed, though, by the more serious armed conflict that broke out the following year between the PUK and KDP, in which the IMK at times joined with the KDP (Amnesty International, op. cit., pp. 98-130).
The IMK competed in local elections in the spring of 2001 and netted around 20 per cent of the vote in both the KDP- and PUK-controlled regions, and more than 50 per cent in the Halabja area (Inga Rogg, “Die Kurden im Bann der Islamisten”, Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 2 December 2002.)
The Islamic Movement of Kurdistan holds (2005) two ministerial posts in the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan-dominated government. This co-operation appears to be principally a temporary coalition dictated by pragmatic considerations.
Armed hostilities, which resulted in deaths were reported between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and Islamic Groups, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Workers Party, and the Kurdistan Democratic Party. The heaviest fighting began in September 2001, when a newly created Islamist group, the Ansar al-Islam, seized control of some villages near the Iranian border and attempted to institute a strictly Islamist theocratic regime. The Islamic Movement of Kurdistan reportedly does not impose strict Islamic law (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq/imk.htm).
After the death of Mullah Osman Abd-al-Aziz in 1999, his brother, Mullah Ali Abd-al-Aziz, assumed control of the IMK and joined the PUK’s half of the Kurdistan Regional Government, taking charge of the Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs, as well as the Ministry of Justice (“B004 Radical Islam In Iraqi Kurdistan The Mouse That Roared.pdf.” Web. 30 Apr. 2012. http://www.crisisgroup.org/%7E/media/Files/Middle%20East%20North%20Africa/Iraq%20Syria%20Lebanon/Iraq/B004%20Radical%20Islam%20In%20Iraqi%20Kurdistan%20The%20Mouse%20That%20Roared.pdf)
The Islamic Movement is receiving aid from Iran and is also said to receive money from other Islamic countries. The Islamic Movement of Kurdistan has offices in various towns in Northern Iraq, including Suleimaniyya and Irbil.
The Islamic Movement of Kurdistan states that its ideological goal is Kurdish nationalism. Currently, the IMK preaches a nonviolent policy in order to achieve this goal. This decision has further increased the tension in the region between IMK and other organizations that believe violence is necessary in order to insure Kurdish independence (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq/imk.htm).
In 1999 the IMK merged with the Islamic AL-Nahdah (Renaissance Movement) to form the Islamic Unity Movement in Kurdistan however the original name was readopted after the two groups split in 2001.
The Islamic Unity movement embarked on a large-scale da'wah activity in Iraq's Kurdistan. It set up two independent radio stations and inaugurated a large mosque. However, some parties, including Iran and the PUK, interfered to win the loyalty of one party to the detriment of the other. As a result, dissent surfaced among the ranks of the new movement until the new coalition collapsed in 2001. The movement split into two groups: the Islamic Movement under Mullah Ali Abd-al-Aziz and the Islamic Jama'ah under Shaykh Ali Baper (al-Siba’i, Hani. Ansar Al-Islam, Ansar Al-Sunnah Army, Abu-Mus’ab Al-Zarqawi, and Abu-Hafs Brigade. 2004. Web. 30 Apr. 2012. http://cryptome.org/ansar-al-islam.htm).
The Islamic Movement of Kurdistan is based in the Halabji region of Northern Iraq and has offices in various offices including Suleimaniyya and Irbil. It has been reported that the IMK receives logistical and financial support primarily from Iran but additionally from Syria, Saudi Arabia and Egypt (http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/iraq/imk.htm). After 1998 the IMK began to receive funding from the United States and currently the IMK is still listed as eligible for U.S funding under the Iraqi Liberation Act. However, currently the IMK no longer receives U.S support because of its alleged role in contribution to the formation of Ansar al-Islam, a fundamental Islamic movement with goals of Kurdish nationalism. According to the Economist, “within hours” of the 11 September attacks, the PUK accused the IMIK and Jund alIslam of receiving training and money from both al-Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence agents with the aim of creating a haven for Osama bin Laden (“Bandwagon”, Economist, 27 September 2001.)
Since its formation, Iran has always been a strong supporter both financially and logistically of the IMK and exerts considerable influence over its politics. It is believed that Iran’s support of the IMK is based on its wish to destabilize the Kurdish region as a way for Iran to reassert its influence.
The Islamic Movement of Kurdistan denounces violence and believes in the nationalization of Kurdistan through political means.
The Islamic Movement of Kurdistan is known as a non-violent political party. The party’s main support comes from Northern Iraq in the region of Halabjah. In the region controlled by the IMK, the party established its own infrastructure and ruling party, naming Sheikh Uthman Abd al-Aziz as mufti. In the 1992 elections, the IMK received 5.1% of the vote, which was the third largest after the PUK and the KDP. However, because the group failed to get 7% overall they were largely discredited from the political process. As of 2005, the IMK held two ministerial posts in the Patriotic Union of the Kurdistan dominated government. Many believe that “this cooperation appears to be a temporary coalition dictated by pragmatic considerations.”
The Islamic Movement of Kurdistan denounces violence and believes in the nationalization of Kurdistan through political means. From 1993-1998 there was a series of violent clashes between the IMK, PUK and the KDP however this is not classified as terrorist attacks, rather ethnic/regional violence.
There were a number of factions within IMK during the 1990s. Hamas not to be confused with the Palestinian Hamas nor the group named Hamas in Iraq, was a faction that battled with IMK in 1993 and 1994 and finally split in 1997. Tawhid, another of these factions, also split with IMK in the late 1990s and merged with Hamas in July 2001 to form the Islamic Unity Front (IUF). The Second Soran Unit (SSU), the final major faction that split in 1998, merged with the IUF in August 2001 to form Jund al-Islam, which would soon become Ansar al-Islam.
Despite the fact that the IMK does not hold a significant regional presence in Northern Iraq, the group has a fairly large impact on political and social life especially in Halabjah. In Halabjah, the IMK represents not only the ruling party but additionally controls life through Sharia law. However, many reports state that the IMK does not strictly follow Sharia law.