ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Local Kurdish farmers in the northwest part of Iraq's Kirkuk province complained on Friday that a group of ethnic Arabs is secretly harvesting wheat cultivated over the past few years on hundreds of acres of Kurdish-owned property.
According to the farmers, this began in Mama village, located in the district of Dibis where there are around 10,000 acres of farmland land. In Iraq, one acre is equal to 2,500 square meters.
“Our family’s agricultural land here alone is 120 acres in which we planted seeds and grew the wheat with full care,” one of the Kurdish farmers told Kurdistan 24 during a live interview on Friday.
“Last night, a group of Arabs found this as an opportunity to harvest the entire wheat crop without even considering or informing us.”
He continued, “The land is ours. My grandfather got it in the 1960s and we have all the legal documents that prove our ownership.”
His father, Saeed Ahmed, also bemoaned the actions and claimed those who harvested their wheat are from Baaj, in neighboring Nineveh province.
Kurdistan 24 tried to contact those responsible and also various local authorities about the case, but so far, none have been willing to comment.
In addition to the unexpected harvesting, one Kurdish farmer said that Arabs had also confiscated farming equipment worth between 20 and 30 million Iraqi Dinars (roughly between $16,700 and $25,000) from his 116-acre plot of land.
Kirkuk, populated by Kurds, Arabs, Turkmen, Christians, is one of the disputed territories claimed both by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government of Iraq.
Kurds in Kirkuk had repeatedly complained about a renewed systematic campaign taking place in the province aimed at changing the local demography to weaken the Kurdish position in the ongoing dispute.
Such moves came after Iraqi forces and Shia militias militarily took control of Kirkuk on Oct. 16, 2017 in response to the Kurdistan Region's independence referendum held the month before. Following the attack, in which the forces pushed Peshmerga and other Kurdish security from of the province, Baghdad then installed a new Sunni Arab governor named Rakan al-Jabouri who Kurds frequently accuse of a strong anti-Kurdish bias.
Since then, multiple Kurdish communities have been forced to leave their areas because others have made claims to the land using the same deeds they were given during previous Arabization campaigns enacted during the reign of Saddam Hussein.
Kurds, the largest ethnicity in the province and the holders of the absolute majority on the provincial council, have been vocal about what they state are racially-motivated policies by Governor Jabouri.
Iraqi security forces on Thursday demolished the homes of four Kurdish families in Kirkuk in what locals claim is another discriminatory action meant to intimidate Kurds into leaving the region.
On Tuesday, around 200 Arab Sunni citizens reportedly arrived in Kirkuk’s Sargaran subdistrict to settle and occupy properties using the previously mentioned documents issued during the era of Iraq's former dictatorship.
Editing by John J. Catherine
(Additional reporting by Hemin Dalo)