Iraqi Christians victim of land-grabbing
Iraq’s Nahla Valley, located within the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), is a historically Assyrian Christian area that has long been subjected to land-grabbing attempts. The village has fought these attempts through a court of law. However, an earlier court’s decision protecting their rights over the land has now been reversed.
These families hold a land title deed from the 1950s confirming their right to this land. The title deed was updated in 2015. The current problem with land-grabbing traces back to the early 1980s, when a radical Islamic sheikh encouraged Kurdish families to build homes and other structures on the Christians’ land.
Today, these families have lost access to approximately 75% of their property. Such critical loss makes it impossible to sustain their normal source of livelihood. Kurdish families continue building new structures on the remaining land, as witnessed by ICC during a fact-finding trip.
Nahla’s Christians have made several attempts to resolve this issue through the KRG’s legal system. In the past, the authorities have made attempts at blocking these Christians from leaving Nahla and attending events which would raise awareness about their plight.
Earlier this year, the courts confirmed the rights of Nahla Christians on this issue. However, the Kurdish families appealed on the basis that they have lived there for years. This appeal was won.
The next steps for Nahla’s Christians remain uncertain, although it is widely believed that a political solution is the only remaining option. Without access to this land, they will not be able to continue surviving in their homes, forcing them to be displaced elsewhere. It is also worth noting that the KRG has tightly controlled media relating to this issue.