ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Landowners in Kirkuk Province are being sued by central and southern Iraqis who were given property initially taken away from Kurdish and Turkmen residents during the Ba’athist era as part of Saddam Hussein’s Arabization campaign.
“This deed belongs to my forefathers; it is over 100-years-old, and we are originally from here,” Omar Tarjili, a Kurd who is facing eviction from his property in the Laylan subdistrict of Kirkuk’s Daquq district, told Kurdistan 24.
According to Tarjili, “Arab individuals, who were given these lands during the time of the Ba’athist Regime, have returned and they’ve sued us.”
During an interview with Kurdistan 24, the spokesperson of Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture, Hamid Adel Naiyf, remained vague on the topic. “The problems in Kirkuk are very complicated, and there are some laws, dealing with those problems, through which we hope to solve them,” he stated.
“As a Ministry, we are in charge of implementing, not issuing, directives that are given to us by the courts,” Naiyf added. He did not mention whether or not the Ministry would address the rights of the Kurds, the owners of the properties.
“In 1975, then Iraqi government brought Arabs and gave them those properties,” owner of a plot of land in Kirkuk, Shemil Hessen-Agha, told Kurdistan 24, pointing to old houses built by the Arabs after Baghdad gave them pieces of land.
“From then on, the government gave out plots of 150,000 square meters to Arabs,” Hessen-Agha said, without revealing details on whether the lands were sold at reduced prices or given out for free.
“By 1987, all the Kurds were kicked out, and then even the properties owned by them were distributed among Arabs.”
Hessen-Agha’s statement is a reference to the Arabization policies of Iraq’s former Ba’athist regime in Kirkuk Province and other Kurdish-populated areas in Nineveh, Salahuddin, and Diyala.
The move was part of efforts to change the demography of the areas by forcibly displacing Kurdish residents and replacing them mostly with Arabs from central and southern Iraq.
After the fall of former Iraqi president Hussein in 2003, the lands were given back to their Kurdish and Turkmen owners after the Arabs left voluntarily in return for a sum of money guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution.
However, Hessen-Agha claims Ba’athist-era occupiers are now returning with court orders to retake the lands from their rightful owners with the official support of the current Baghdad-appointed governor of Kirkuk, Rakan Said.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany