The owners of vegetable stores in one Kirkuk greengrocery wholesale markets decided to permanently shut their stores next Tuesday, due to the imposition of "illegal" taxes, as they described it, which threatens the only source of income for thousands of Kirkukis.
Khan al-Tamir (House of Dates) market, one of the largest markets in the city of Kirkuk, specializes in selling fruits and vegetables wholesale and retail, and is often crowded in the morning.
Early September, the vendors protested collecting fees between 15-80 USD per truck size by an investor while local authorities affirmed the investor has a valid contract with local administration of Kirkuk.
One of the shop owners in Khan al-Tamr, Atheer Muhammad, told (Kirkuk Now), "All merchants decided, as of Tuesday, to close all shops selling vegetables in Khan al-Tamr, because we suffer from the predominance of someone who imposes taxes on all sales of vegetables and fruits over the last year and half."
According to specialists in the historical affairs of Kirkuk, “Khan Dates” was called by this name, because it previously contained more than 60 shops selling various types of dates.
"The shop owners in the wholesale market demonstrated more than 10 different times and appealed to the officials in Kirkuk from the governor, the municipality and the police chief to intervene and find out the reasons for imposing taxes on those who shop and engage in buying and selling," Muhammad explained.
someone is imposing taxes on all sales of vegetables and fruits
And he affirms that "all workers decided to suspend all activities related to the sale and purchase of vegetables and fruits, starting from Tuesday and for further notice, as the attacks on workers in this market were repeated by people claiming to have a legal contract with the municipality."
KirkukNow obtained a document containing a complaint submitted by the shop owners, submitted to the “Judge of Heaven,” as they said, after their despair over their demands and appeals to the government authorities in Kirkuk, they conclude with “Our complaint to the Judge of Heaven, there is no judge on earth in present day".
The oil rich-city of Kirkuk, located 238 kilometers north of Baghdad, is an ethnically mixed province for 1.7 million Kurds, Sunni and Shiite Arabs, and Turkmen. It has long been at the center of disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil.
In October, 2017, Iraqi troops backed by pro-Shiite militias expelled Peshmerga Kurdish fighters from Kirkuk following a referendum to join Kurdistan region held by the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.
The investor who concluded a contract with the local administration, through which he has the right for the management of the wholesale grocery that is specialized in the sale and purchase of vegetables and fruits in Kirkuk, Hardi Sheikh Tayeb, said that “everything that the shop owners talk about in the Khan al-Tamr market is incorrect because it is illegal to locate a public wholesale grocery in a residential neighborhood.”
"I have signed a legal and official contract with the municipality of Kirkuk, approved by the Ministry of Construction and Housing, and the value of this contract amounts to 509 million Iraqi dinars,” Sheikh Tayeb affirmed.
“According to this contract, I organize the market for selling vegetables and fruits."
I have signed a legal and official contract with the municipality of Kirkuk
"The administration has built a wholesale greengrocery at the southern entrance of Kirkuk which will be rehabilitated within weeks for trading. We want to organize buying and selling according to legal formulas, where the greengrocery wholesale is a place designated for these businesses and not a chaos among homes," Sheikh Tayeb added.
Regarding assault against traders by the contractor, he confirmed that "there are some people who obstruct the work of our workers and misunderstandings occur between them and a quarrel occurs. There is a police station and there is a law.”
He stressed that "the opening of the modern wholesale grocery in Kirkuk will contribute to the elimination of many illegal activities in the field of buying and selling vegetables and fruits."
Local officials prefer transfer of all groceries into the new wholesale market.
The mayor of Kirkuk Falah Yajli said trading in Khan al-Tamir is “chaotic and we are with the transfer of this market to the typical greengrocery wholesale, which is located in a spacious and clean place and contributes to removing the abuses from many in the main streets of Salahaddin Street and the grand bazaar.”
As soon as you head towards the big market and walk over the bridge, and at the beginning of the market, you will find on the right and on the north mobile greengrocer carts selling at affordable prices suitable for middle classes and even attracting customers from suburbs of Kirkuk.