ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Residents of a disputed district in the Iraqi province of Diyala told Kurdistan 24 that crops covering roughly 400 acres of Kurdish-owned farmland were burned on Thursday night in what they claim is part of a coordinated campaign of "Arabization."
Kurdish civilians said that it is a commonly-known fact in the area that the local administration of Khanaqin city is using every method available to them to force ethnic Kurds from their property in an effort to replace them with ethnic Arabs who have been brought there specifically to replace them.
The fires, set in the villages of Mubarak, Dara, and Mekhas, come just as local Kurdish farmers in the province of Kirkuk have complained that a group of Iraqi Arabs secretly harvested wheat cultivated over the past few years on hundreds of acres of Kurdish-owned property.
Kurds living in Khanaqin and surrounding villages say they have been intimidated, kidnapped, and murdered at the hands of purportedly unknown armed groups in the area that have now moved to the tactic of burning Kurdish agricultural lands as part of their coordinated program of intimidation.
The incidents will likely be catastrophic for local Kurds whose livelihoods depend on the crops they have sown and spent significant time and resources cultivating and is seen as a continuation of previous Arabization campaigns enacted during the reign of Saddam Hussein.
A Kurdish farmer in Khanaqin told Kurdistan 24 that the main aim of Iraqi forces operating in the area ”is to help new Arabs resettle on Kurdish property, not to protect the people from terrorist groups.”
With about 20 Kurdish villages having already been evacuated in the district of Khanaqin, Kurdish residents say the events are part of a pattern that started with Iraqi forces and Shia militias militarily taking control of several disputed territories in October 2017 in response to the Kurdistan Region's independence referendum held the month before.
Kurds in Diyala, as well as in Kirkuk, have repeatedly complained about a renewed systematic campaign taking place to change the local demography in an effort to weaken the Kurdish position in the ongoing dispute.
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