Kurdish farmers face potential risk of Arabization and evacuation amid land dispute

KIRKUK, Iraq — Tensions escalate in Chakhmagha village, situated in the western region of Kirkuk province, as Kurdish farmers and Arab settlers clash over landownership rights, igniting fears of Arabization and possible evacuation from ancestral lands.

The dispute, exacerbated by recent court rulings favoring Arab farmers, centers around 400 dunams of farmland claimed by Kurdish villagers.

Omer Shaswar, representing Chakhmagha village farmers, recounts the village’s history, marked by displacement during the Aylul Revolution of 1975 and subsequent return in 2003.

However, Arab settlers, originally acknowledging Kurdish land rights and their forced settlement under the former regime’s Arabization campaign, now seek to reclaim disputed territory, pressuring Kurdish residents to vacate their homes.

The resurgence of Arabization fears resurfaced during the ISIS attacks in 2017, prompting a mass exodus of villagers and leaving their properties vulnerable to further land disputes.

Fryad Ibrahim, a villager, laments recurring raids by Arab settlers during planting and harvesting seasons, obstructing Kurdish farmers’ livelihoods despite possessing legal documentation proving land ownership.

Hassan Ali, another villager, highlights the compounded challenges faced by the community, from ISIS assaults to recent legal actions by Arab settlers, backed by Iraqi authorities, jeopardizing Kurdish land rights and forcing residents to contemplate abandoning their village.

Despite all 3,700 dunams of land belonging to Kurdish farmers, administrative bodies and judicial authorities, citing Arabization rulings, seemingly side with Arab settlers, continuing the marginalization of Kurdish land rights and threatening the village’s existence.

With reporting by Aram Jamal 

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