Iraqi forces took control of the city of Kirkuk on October 16 after Kurdish Peshmerga forces pulled out following soaring tensions over an independence referendum held by the Kurdistan Region on September 25 which included the oil rich city. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
SULAIMANI, Kurdistan Region — The capture of Kirkuk by Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi forces in October has reportedly given way to the revival of the Arabization policy once designed and practiced by Saddam Hussein’s regime that settled thousands of Arab families from southern Iraq in disputed territories.
“If Kurdish MPs do not address this problem quickly, achievements of Article 140 will be in danger,” an official with Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said.
Mahdi Mubarak, director of Kirkuk Agriculture Department who fled to Erbil after the events of October 16 once oversaw the compensation of Arab families and the return of land they occupied to their rightful owners.
“The Arabs whose contracts we had cancelled for seizing peoples’ land have taken these lands back from their rightful owners and cultivated them again, especially in Dubz, Daquq and Yaychi,” Mubarak said.
According to Mubarak many Arab families who were helped to return to their provinces in southern Iraq following the 2003 regime change are now making a comeback to Kirkuk under the protection of Iraqi and Hashd al-Shaabi forces.
“Formerly settled Arabs have again cultivated some of these lands this year and expelled their Kurdish owners on them. They now own them and work with their old contracts and Baghdad is facilitating this for them,” Mubarak said.
The Iraqi government of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi appointed a new governor in Kirkuk immediately after taking the city last month and now, said Mubarak, the returned Arabs are asking Baghdad through the new governor to give them back ownership papers of lands taken from them through the implementation of Article 140.
These areas include the fertile farmlands of Dubz, Kirkuk, Daquq and Yaychi.
“These contracts were cancelled in accordance with section No. 4 of article 140 in 2007, and the lands were given back to their owners. They (the Arabs) are now asking the agriculture departments of these places not to recognize these decisions, even putting pressure on them in some places,” he claimed.
The committees formed to implement article 140 worked in Kirkuk for six years. They gave tens of millions of dollars in compensation to the Arabs brought to the area during the former regime’s Arabization campaign of 1975-2003.
According to figures produced by Kirkuk Agriculture Department, more than 1.2 million acres of agricultural land was returned to their owners who were mostly Kurds and some Turkmen.
“Arabization is on the rise in Dubz,” Majid Mahmud, Kirkuk provincial council member, said. “Many Arabs have returned to there, and we are monitoring the situation. They have benefitted from current conditions. The ministry of agriculture in Baghdad makes many decisions that favor settled Arabs.”
Mahmud believes that at least 300,000 acres of land is estimated to have fallen back into the hands of the Arabs.