ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi Security Forces are allegedly forcing Kurdish farmers in Kirkuk to abide by a non-farming agreement until a court decides the ownership of their farmlands, the head of a farmers union in Kurdistan said on Sunday.
Mardan Abdulrahman, the Head of the Kurdistan Farmers’ Union-Kirkuk, said security forces had asked farmers and community leaders in the disputed province “to sign an agreement not to farm or grow anything on their lands.”
Abdulrahman explained that the decision was being enforced “until the lawsuits charged by Arabs who were brought to the area and claim ownership of the lands are settled in court.”
According to Abdulrahman, the paperwork which the Arab residents are using to claim ownership of the lands date back to the previous Iraqi dictatorship regime where a campaign of Arabization took place.
“The Kurdish farmers, on the other hand, have official papers and documentation for the ownership of the land that dates back before the Ba’ath regime.”
Luqman Salaye, a local farmer, told Kurdistan 24 that the Iraqi security forces are enforcing the decision, while also supporting Arab residents who continue to build homes on Kurdish-owned lands and forcefully harvest their crops.
“This year has already brought hardship to the Kurdish farmers who live in territories that fall under the criteria of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution as suspicious fire incidents have consumed most of their crops,” Salaye added.
Over the past few months, there have been many incidents of wheat fields and farms being burned in many parts of Kirkuk, in what some consider an intimidation tactic to force the Kurds out.
Kirkuk is one of the multiple disputed territories claimed by both the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Federal Government of Iraq.
According to Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution, a referendum was to be held in the oil-rich and ethnically-diverse province by the end of 2007 to determine its future, but it has yet to be implemented by subsequent Iraqi governments.
Many Kurdish communities have been forced to leave their homes in recent months 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.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany