A general view of the Hanjira village, Kirkuk. Photo: Facebook
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Some 600 Kurdish families from three villages near Kirkuk allege they are being forced off their land.
Residents of Hanjira, Choplija, and Bajwan villages say they have received eviction notices from the North Oil Company (NOC), a state-owned entity.
"Our village had in the past fallen within the working area of the North Oil Company. In 2003 we visited the Kirkuk governorate. They compensated us with the place now we are in and we reconstructed it in 2005," Nuraldin Saadun, chieftan of Hanjira village, told Rudaw.
The former Iraqi regime’s Arabization policy was brought to an end in the new Iraq after 2003 and the new government took efforts to make reparations for the regime’s policy.
After October, fears of Arabization returned when Kurdish forces withdrew from the disputed areas – ethnically mixed territory claimed by both Erbil and Baghdad – and Iraqi forces assumed control.
Villagers say they have received warnings from NOC to leave the area and police have asked them to attend court to formalize the process.
Saadun said NOC should offer compensation because residents had built the new villages themselves.
Some have declared they will refuse to abandon their homes.
"This is the land of our ancestors. We are being pressured to leave it,” said Mohammed Ali, a resident of Bajwan. “We will not abandon it for anyone.”
The chieftain of Bajwan village echoed the sentiment that this decree is an attempt to revive the Baath regime's rulings.
"These three villages have been reconstructed by the Kirkuk Provincial Council and Kurdish sides and they compensated us for our lands. They did not allow us to build houses in our original places because there were oil wells and gas pipes, thus, they gave us this place as compensation," said Fathulla Saed.
Bajwan village had an agreement with the oil company on where they could build their village.
"They advised us that we could build houses behind the fences. We signed pledge forms that we would not transgress the fence's limits,” Saed explained.
He thinks the new eviction notices are “the implications of the October 16 events as Kurds lost administrative and military authority over Kirkuk."
He alleged that former Baathists are now working in the Kirkuk administration and asked why Arab villages in the area have not received similar eviction notices.
"We have promised we will not abandon our homes, even if they destroy them on top of us,” said Saed.
Kirkuk police and administration within the city did not respond to requests from Rudaw for comment.
Kirkuk’s former suburban police chief, Brig. Gen. Sarhad Qadir, said they were aware of attempts being made by the Kirkuk police to forcefully evict Kurdish villagers from their homes.
Kurdish parties and MPs are in contact with local authorities to resolve the matter, Qadir added.