11 October 2017
| Alan Burkitt-Gray
The government of Iraq is telling two of the country’s three mobile operators to move their headquarters to Baghdad, the capital.
The move follows a 93% vote last month by people in the
region of Kurdistan, in the north of Iraq, in favour of
independence. The two Iraqi operators facing the demands are
both based in Kurdistan.
Korek Telecom is based in the Kurdish capital, Erbil and
Asiacell is in the city of Sulaimaniya. Korek, in which Orange
has a stake, started operating in 2000, earlier than any other
operator in Iraq. It has had an Iraq-wide licence since 2007
and its network is nationwide. Asiacell claims nearly 12.5
million customers with a network that covers 99.96% of the
The third operator in the market is the Iraqi subsidiary of
Kuwait-based Zain, which set up the year after the 2003 US-led
invasion of Iraq. It began in the south before expanding to the
rest of the country, and is headquartered in Baghdad.
According to local sources, Asiacell and Korek have not yet
received any formal demand from the Iraqi government to move to
Baghdad. The threatened action against Asiacell and Korek
accompany Iraqi moves against Kurdish politicians who supported
A Kurdish news service, Rudaw, said an official from Asiacell
had told it that the operator’s "line of
communication with regard to licences and regulation is the
Baghdad-controlled Communication Media Commission". The company
official added, said Rudaw: "Asiacell is committed to all the
rules and decisions issued by the relevant governmental bodies
according to the law."
Sirwan Barzani, the managing director of Korek Telecom, told
Rudaw that he does not know what Baghdad means by the demand,
calling it "unclear". "We basically received a permit from
Baghdad to work and we do not know what the purpose is of this
new decision," Barzani told the media service.
Mawlud Bawa Murad, the transport and communication minister for
Kurdistan, acknowledged two weeks ago that the Iraqi government
holds authority over Asiacell and Korek, as the operate