Ad Hoc Commission to Investigate Illegal Expropriation of Christian Lands in Iraqi Kurdistan

Complaint by Independent Human Rights Committee

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The Presidential Office of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan instructed the regional government to create an ad hoc commission to examine, document, and prosecute the systematic illegal expropriations of land and real estate suffered in recent years by Christian owners, especially in the Dohuk Governorate (province), reported Fides News Agency.

This decision was also taken on the basis of a complaint by the Independent Human Rights Committee, which at the end of July had submitted to the authorities of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan to set up such an ad hoc body, which should include representatives of various ministries. On August 12 – according to the news portal – the Office of the Regional Presidency granted the request and sent a request to the Regional Council of Ministers, which is to set up the commission of inquiry, which is responsible for collecting documents and processing inquiries. The Commission is also supposed to draw up a kind of map of the property of Christians that was illegally expropriated in the years in which the whole North Iraqi area lived the dramatic experience connected to the conquests of Daesh’s jihadist militias. The large-scale expropriations of land and real estate of Christian, Assyrian and Chaldean families in the Kurdistan region, also documented by Fides (see Fides, 14/4/2016 and 7/7/2016), were denounced in 2016.

According to the complaints presented, the expropriations were carried out by Kurdish fellow citizens, who operated individually or in coordination with other members of their tribal clan. At that time, Michael Benjamin, director of the Nineveh Study Center, reported that there was a list of 56 villages in Dohuk Governorate alone where properties belonging to Christian families were illegally expropriated. On April 13, 2016, several hundred Syrian, Chaldean and Assyrian Christians from the Nahla region (Dohuk Governorate) organized a demonstration in front of the parliament of the Kurdistan Autonomous Region (see photo) to protest against illegal expropriation by influential Kurdish people, already reported several times without success before the competent courts. The protesters displayed posters and banners, including one in English that read, “The US and Western countries are responsible for what is happening and what is being done against our people in Iraq”.

In recent years, illegal expropriations have mainly affected the properties and homes of Christians, who have left the area, particularly since the 1980s, to escape regional sectarian conflicts that broke out with increasing violence following military interventions by international alliances.

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