Iraq property disputes 'critical'

Wext: Wednesday, 04.August. @ 00:00:00 CEST


03. 08. 2004 Many Kurds say they cannot afford to reoccupy their own homes
- US-based group Human Rights Watch is warning that unresolved property disputes in northern Iraq have produced a crisis which may turn violent.

The crisis stems from decades of forced displacement of Kurds, Turkmen and Assyrians.

Hundreds of thousands of Kurds and other ethnic groups have been forced out of their homes in northern Iraq.

The policy, practised by successive Iraqi governments over several decades, is known as Arabisation.

Since the fall of President Saddam Hussein they have started to return.

But the Human Rights Watch report, Claims in Conflict: Reversing Ethnic Cleansing in Northern Iraq, says ethnic tensions are now close to breaking point and urgent action is needed.


The report says the authorities' failure to resolve property disputes in northern Iraq threatens to undermine security there.

In rural areas, it says many Arabs are now living in overcrowded conditions in public or military buildings.

Large numbers of them fled their homes before the end of last year's war; others were allegedly evicted by returning Kurds.

Meanwhile many Kurds remain displaced. Some say they cannot afford to reoccupy or rebuild their former homes, while Kurds who have returned to the city of Kirkuk but have no claim to property there often end up living in wretched conditions.

Hania Mufti, co-author of the Human Rights Watch report, says attitudes over property disputes have been hardening.

"When Human Rights Watch first entered the Arabised districts of Kirkuk city, for example, we talked to a number of Arab families who were, at that time, prepared and willing to consider moving out of homes that they knew were originally Kurdish homes," she said.

"During the past year, ethnic tensions have risen to the extent that neither side is prepared to compromise now."

'Breaking point'

Meanwhile, the report says, some Iraqi Kurdish officials have been demanding that Arabs settled in Kirkuk by the previous Iraqi government should be resettled to other regions.

Human Rights Watch says ethnic tensions are close to breaking point and urgent action is needed.

It is calling on Iraq's interim government to implement a judicial mechanism which has already been put in place to resolve property disputes.

And it is calling on the international community to help provide assistance for thousands of displaced families, from all ethnic backgrounds, living in desperate conditions.

Source: BBC

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