Two farmers in Kirkuk are seeking "tribal reconciliation" after that court found them guilty following a complaint by Arab farmers upon dispute over farmland.
The Daquq court’s decision, which was issued a few days ago, came based on a lawsuit filed by a number of Arab farmers two years ago against two Kurdish farmers from the village of Kuli Tapa of Daquq district, 44 km south of Kirkuk province, following tension and clashes between the two sides over the ownership of agricultural lands.
Daquq, home to 97,000 Turkmen, Kurd and Arab communities, Muslim and Kaka’is, is part of the disputed territories between Baghdad and Erbil. Part of Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution to resolve issue of the disputed territories deals with the issue of resolving the ownership of agricultural lands, particularly in Kirkuk province where thousands hectares of agricultural lands were distributed to Arab settlers originally from the middle and southern provinces of Iraq during the period of the Baath regime in the last three decaudes of the last century.
The return of Arab farmers and their quest to return to the use of agricultural lands in Kirkuk began after the events of October 16, 2017, when the Iraqi military and security forces returned to Kirkuk and the rest of the disputed territories and ousted the Peshmerga forces of the Kurdistan Regional Government KRG.
With the emergence of ISIS in 2014, and years before that, the Kurdish political parties and the Peshmerga were controlling Kirkuk and the disputed territories.
The disputed agricultural lands of expelled Kurdish and Turkmen farmers were distributed to the Arabs in the form of contracts in the 1970s and 1980s per a decision of the Revolutionary Command Council of Ba'th Party chaired by Saddam Hussein which is valid up today since its abolition requires a counter law by the Iraqi parliament.
Fahmi Habib, the brother of one of the two convicted farmers, told KirkukNow, "We spent two years with this court case and now my brother has been sentenced to six months in prison, so we seek to solve the problem by concluding a tribal reconciliation, and hope they withdraw the case."
The two farmers are currently imprisoned at Daquq Police Station.
"We were sitting on our land, but they (Arab farmers) attacked us and we had to defend ourselves and block their way, because this is the land of our fathers and grandfathers, even though they registered a case against us," Habib added. "If they take our lands from us, it means we can’t stay here anymore."
Kurdish and Arab farmers are quarreling over the ownership of nearly two thousand dunums of agricultural land in the village of Kuli Tapa in Daquq.
"We are seeking to reach an agreement with the Arab farmers who filed the case, hoping that they will drop their case, otherwise we will demand an appeal to the court's decision," said Shikar Mardan, the lawyer for the two Kurdish farmers.
The two Kurdish farmers were sentenced under Article 477 of the Iraqi Penal Code about causing deliberate damage to the property of others.
KirkukNow tried to obtain statements from the plaintiff, but to no avail.
Video: Fahmy Habib talks about the court's verdict to imprison his brother for six months
Azad Kuli Tapa, a farmer from the village, says, "Disputes often arise over land ownership in Daquq, without finding a solution, although we visited officials, including the Iraqi president, but in vain."
The issue of agricultural land ownership is one of the thorny issues in Kirkuk governorate and other disputed areas that have not yet been resolved and lead to clashes and problems in different areas from time to time.
Early January, the federal cassation court in Baghdad has decided to return 4,000 dunams of agricultural farmlands in the village of Tareq of Daquq used by Arab settlers to the Kurdish owners.
On December 23rd, Daquq court has decided to annul the contracts of Kurdish farmers for 60 dunums of agricultural land in a village of Daquq district in favor of a number of Arab farmers.
The court’s verdict was delivered in the village of Tareq in Daquq district on December 20, 2021 to two Kurdish farmers who had been using these lands for agricultural purposes for years.
The area of Talaban in Daquq is home for 17,000 donums of farmlands and the case of the rest 13,000 is pending in the federal court. The 17,000 donums were cultivated by Arab farmers in the villages of Ashtana and Ouzeri.
Located 238 kilometers north of Baghdad, the oil-rich city of Kirkuk is a multi ethnic province for 1.7 million Kurds, Arabs, and Turkmens, Muslims, Christians and Kaka'is. It has long been at the center of disputes between Baghdad and Erbil.
Currently, Iraqi army, local and federal police, Brigade 61 of Special Forces along with Shiite paramilitary of Popular Mobilization Forces PMF, are under Kirkuk joint operations’ command, an umbrella for the security forces running the security of Kirkuk province.