A Kurdish lawmaker called on the municipality of Khanaqin district, northeast of Baghdad, and the concerned authorities to provide clarification on the issue of bulldozing palm groves, converting it into residential areas, based on the data and information mentioned in a report by KirkukNow.
On Thursday, April 7, 2022, Suzan Mansour, the representative of Khanaqin, Diyala province, in the Iraqi parliament sent a letter to the municipality of Khanaqin requesting to provide the necessary clarifications about the bulldozing of Khanaqin palm orchards and the abuses on the lands of the ministries of municipality and finance in that district.
Susan, spokesperson for the parliamentary bloc of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan PUK in the Iraqi parliament, said in a statement directed to the relevant departments in the Khanaqin, calling for clarifications, "to find out the people behind what happened, in preparation for the filing lawsuits against them through the courts and the Integrity Commission."
We benefited from the KirkukNow report by 10%, we benefited from the data and information
In August 2021, KirkukNow published a report on the issue of bulldozing palm groves in Khanaqin, in which it stated, “Dozens of farmers in Khanaqin uproot and burn palm trees in order to convert them into residential plots and sell them for larger amounts, without referring to the government and with the support of influential people, at a time government offices in town affirmed that they need the force of law and higher authorities in order to put an end to these abuses.
According to statistics from the Khanaqin District Agriculture Department, there are 2,254 dunams of orchards registered in the district, most of which are palm orchards, in addition to 160 dunams with contracts.
"The area of orchards starts from one dunam and reaches 70 dunums, most of them are located in the center of the district," said Kamran Abdullah, Director of Khanaqin Agriculture Department, who stressed that "the past four years witnessed the bulldozing of 200 dunams of orchards, which were later converted into residential areas."
Mansour said in a statement to KirkukNow on April 7, "We have benefited from the KirkukNow report 100%, we have benefited from the data and information. Palm groves were removed, so we asked for clarification at first.”
Video by Media office of Mansour shows she vowed to bring perpetrators to court in 15 days
"Previously, Khanaqin was called the city of orchards. The age of the orchards ranges between 50 and 70 years or more. It is not reasonable for the Khanaqin Department of Agriculture to say that more than 200 dunams of orchards have been razed," she exclaimed.
The civil activist and environmental activist in Khanaqin, Sarbast Birzo, confirmed that in Iraq there are 360 varieties of dates, most of it were produced in Khanaqin, “but they are gradually disappearing, while preserving the types of dates is important... Dates are an important national wealth."
In a previous statement to KirkukNow, Aws Taher, Khanaqin Municipality Director, stated, "Stopping these abuses requires the force of law and higher authorities."
KirkukNow has found out that in many cases, the farmers set fire stealthily and purposefully to their palm farms so that they are not held accountable by the government for draught, cut out and fire in the farms.
According to law for protection of agricultural lands number 3 of 2008, owners are not entitled to turn agricultural lands int residential unless approved by the government.
The law has supported Khanaqin directorate of agriculture to file lawsuits against the farmers.
Kamaran Adullah, Khanaqin agriculture director, in August told KirkukNow they have taken six farmers to court as each of them has eradicated their 15-donum farms and sold it as residential plots.
Owners of the farms taken to court or those involved in the process have denied to comment on the issue in fear that it might be used as evidence against them in court.