Iraq: Arabization continues to thrive despite Ba’ath regime’s fall

SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region — Almost 20 years after Iraq’s Ba’ath regime fell, Kurdish farmers in the disputed areas between Erbil and Baghdad continue to suffer discrimination from the Iraqi army, prohibiting them from ploughing their farmlands.

Under the former Iraqi regime, Kurdish farmers suffered discrimination for over 30 years. They were displaced from their hometowns and replaced by Arab settlers until the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, when the regime fell.

In the aftermath of the defeat of ISIS and the staging of the Kurdistan Region’s Independence Referendum, the Iraqi army launched a military operation, expelling the peshmerga and other Kurdish forces from the disputed territories on October 16, 2017.

Since then, Kurdish farmers have suffered not only threats from ISIS sleeper cells, but also discrimination from the Iraqi army, forbidding them from ploughing the land they inherited from their forefathers decades ago.

The Sargaran sub-district is located approximately 70 kilometers west of Kirkuk’s city center and contains 42 villages, 40 of which are populated by Kurds.

Due to the fertile land and the Bai Hassan oil field located in this subdistrict, it has become a focal point for Kurdish and Arab conflicts. Daquq district, located 40 kilometers south of Kirkuk, is also similarly affected.

There is a conflict between Arabs and Kurds over 400,000 dunams of farmland in Kirkuk, according to the province’s agriculture department.

The disputed territories are located in Iraq’s Nineveh, Kirkuk, Salahadin, and Diyala provinces and are contested between the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the Iraqi central government.

A major threat to the Kurds under the Ba’ath regime was Arabization. To change the demographic of Kurdish areas in the disputed territories, Arab families were imported from southern Iraqi provinces.

The Kurds were granted ownership of the land by the government in 1938, and they continued to cultivate it.

However, things started to deteriorate in 1975. In a decree, the Revolutionary Command Council of the Ba’ath Party transferred control of the land to the Ministry of Finance. This was the point where problems arose. Farming in that area was prohibited for Kurdish farmers.

Following the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, the Arabization process ceased. Kurdish farmers, however, have experienced a new process of Arabization since 2017.

Kurdish farmers in the region have been threatened, arrested, and even violently attacked over the past five years.

In the latest incident, two Kurdish farmers were injured over a land dispute on Wednesday. In addition, Iraqi forces arrested dozens of Kurdish farmers.

It was their practice to arrest Kurdish farmers whenever they were discovered ploughing the land.

As the problem is rooted in the 1975 Leadership Council decision, this decision should be used as a basis for resolution.

The Ba’athist decision will be annulled in two steps. First, the Iraqi Council of Ministers must do its duty and officially request that parliament should suspend the 1975 decision. However, the Iraqi parliament has not yet taken action, and several Sunni parties are preventing the cancellation of the Ba’ath’s decision, Zoom News has learned.

Therefore, it is now up to parliament to decide whether the second wave of Arabization should come to an end.

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