ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – As the harvesting season begins, Islamic State members have warned farmers in the disputed town of Mahmour that they would need to pay taxes to prevent their grain fields from being set on fire, a farmer told Kurdistan 24 on Sunday.
A delegation of farmers from Makhmour on Sunday visited the parliament of the autonomous Kurdistan Region to present their concerns to the top Kurdish legislative body.
“Now it is harvesting time, and Da’esh [ISIS] has become a source of threats on Mount Qarachukh,” Nasih Rahman, a farmer from Makhmour, told Kurdistan 24 at the Kurdistan Parliament.
“They [ISIS militants] threaten our farmer brothers and those who own livestock of burning the grain fields in the area should the farmers refuse to pay a tax,” Rahamn said.
The delegates met with both the parliamentary committees of Agriculture and Irrigation and Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, the latter which focuses on disputed territories claimed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government of Iraq.
Following the meetings, the committee members and farmers held a joint press conference.
“We reached an agreement to increase the number of firefighters in those areas. We also agreed to visit the region in the nearest future to meet with local officials in Makhmour and discuss these threats,” Osman Kani Kurdayi, the head of the Agriculture and Irrigation Committee, told reporters.
Makhmour is a disputed territory located on the outskirt of the Kurdistan Region’s capital, some 60 kilometers southwest of Erbil.
The town used to be jointly administered by the two governments since the fall of the Iraqi authoritarian regime in 2003.
Following the emergence of the Islamic State in 2014, throughout many disputed areas, the Kurdish Peshmerga forces held their frontline and prevented militants and sleeper cells from entering their territory despite the terrorist organization controlling adjacent land.
Security in those areas, however, significantly deteriorated after Iraqi forces backed by Shia militias, in response to the Kurdistan Region’s September 2017 independence referendum, overran Kirkuk and other disputed territories and drove Kurdish forces out.
Since October 2017, Iraqi forces have been in charge of protecting the area, but locals question their abilities.
Residents described the Islamic State militants as fearless and out in the open, approaching people and forcing them to pay taxes or give them livestock.
Over the past years, the US-led coalition along with Peshmerga forces and Iraqi troops have launched several military operations to eliminate sleeper cells hiding on Mount Qarachukh.
In the past few months, dozens of villages in Makhmour have been evacuated, with residents warning of the reemergence of the Islamic State in the area.
Editing by Nadia Riva
(Additional reporting by Nawras Abdullah)