File photo shows Iraqi forces stationed at a military base west of Kirkuk in October 2017 after the fall of the oil-rich province of Kirkuk. File photo: AFP / Marwan Ibrahim
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – A decree allowing Arab families to settle on land belonging to Kurds and Turkmen in the disputed province of Kirkuk has been put on hold by Iraq’s Ministry of Agriculture pending an inquiry.
The decision came after a delegation of Turkmen and Kurds from Kirkuk city travelled to Baghdad to meet with the minister of agriculture, Falah Hassan al-Zidan.
“In our meeting with the agriculture minister, we explained the matter and he agreed to put the decree on hold,” Rebwar Taha, a Kurdish MP for Kirkuk in the Iraqi parliament, told Rudaw.
On October 16, 2017, Kurdish Peshmerga forces withdrew from Kirkuk in the face of a major incursion by the Iraqi army and Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitias.
Following the takeover, 250,000 acres of land owned by Kurds and Turkmen in Kirkuk were made available to Arab settlers, according to a decree from the acting Kirkuk governor, Rakan Saed al-Jabouri.
Now the agriculture ministry has launched a committee to assess the controversial plan before a final decision is made.
If consensuses cannot be reached, the agriculture ministry has pledged to completely annul the decree.
“The committee is comprised of the Kirkuk Agriculture and Lands Department and the disputed land owners,” Hamid Idel Naif, spokesperson of the Iraqi Agriculture Ministry, told Rudaw.
“The aim of the committee is to return the land to its owners after evaluations are concluded,” he added.
Many Arab settlers were brought to the disputed city by Saddam Hussein in the 1980s in a deliberate policy of Arabization.
After 2003, the land was taken back and returned to its original owners. The Arab settlers were compensated 20 million IQD in accordance with article 140 of the Iraqi constitution.
However, acting governor Jabouri is allowing these Arab settlers to return.
The land, which originally belonged to Kurds and Turkmen, stretches from K-1 military base to Haftaghar near the town of Daquq.
Decisions made by the leadership of the Revolutionary Council of Saddam’s Baath party were revoked by the Iraqi parliament following his overthrow, including the decision to Arabize Kirkuk.