‘Our area is rich in agriculture, oil and gas, but economically we were pushed back below zero’
MAHMOUD HUSSEIN HAJI a Kurdish lawyer, hails from a once prosperous village called Chiftik, which was situated on the western banks of the Tigris river, close to Iraq’s border with Syria. This village no longer exists.
‘Arabs are still occupying the land that belonged to my grandfather’
In the 1960s Kurdish farmers were driven off their farms near Kirkuk and replaced with Arab settlers. SADOUN REZA MAHMOUD returned home after the 2003 Iraq war, but his claim to his family's land is still being challenged by the Arabs who took it.
‘If a bird flies its nest, doesn’t it always want to return?’
For decades Kurds living near Kirkuk strongly resisted attempts by the Iraqi regime to drive them off their lands. MOHAMMED AMIN RAHMAN ALI returned to Chalistan repeatedly, only to be forced to leave his home again and again.
‘My Kurdish family were the original inhabitants of Mama village, not Arabs’
In the 1960s Arab militia drove Kurdish farmers from their homes near Kirkuk and established control over this oil rich territory. ABDUL QADIR ABDULRAHMAN describes how the Ba'ath Party made his family suffer.
‘The Arabs are still occupying our lands 45 years later’
Hundreds of Kurdish families were driven off their lands near Kirkuk in the 1960s by Arab militia known as 'The National Guard'. FAKHRADIN KAKASHEEN MOHAMMED tells how, as a five-year-old, he was forced to flee with his family.
‘The Iraqi National Guard stole everything of value in our houses’
In the early 1960s the Iraqi authorities confiscated Kurdish lands north of Kirkuk. To this day, legal title has yet to be formally restored to its original owners. MAJID MOHAMMED ISMAEL describes how Arab militia looted his family home in Qara Dara and killed one of his neighbours.
‘The Iraqis tortured, looted and killed so the people of Qara Dara rose up’
Iraq's ruling Ba’ath Party used brutal tactics to "arabise" oil-rich Kurdish lands near Kirkuk in the 1960s. HADI HAMA MUSTAFA, a child at the time, witnessed a Kurdish smuggler being shot dead at an Iraqi checkpoint.
‘We escaped the village with nothing but our souls’
The Iraqi Ba’ath Party ethnically "cleansed" areas near Kirkuk of their Kurdish and Turkman population in the early 1960s. TAHSIN OMAR BEG, a Turkman from Kutan village, remembers how Arab militia stole his father’s livestock, looted their home and executed their neighbours.
‘The Arab militia were firing at us from our village graveyard’
Arab militia groups supporting the ruling Ba’ath Party drove Kurdish villagers from their homes near Kirkuk and replaced them with Arab settlers from the south. ARRAS ABDULLAH MOHAMMED remembers how his neighbours resisted for two days before they were forced to flee.
Turkman farmer YOUNES AHMED OMAR says he still holds the title deeds to his family's farm near Kirkuk, which was seized by Arab militia in 1963. However, the Arabs who have occupied it since then refuse to accept recent court rulings in his favour.
‘The Iraqi National Guard burned down whatever they could: houses, belongings and crops’
In the early 1960s Iraqi soldiers and tanks supported Arab militia as they moved into Kurdish villages northwest of Kirkuk. SAMAD KARIM AZIZ witnessed local people being overpowered as they tried to prevent the invaders from seizing their livestock and land.
‘The Iraqis razed 24 villages and drove people from their lands’
The 1963 Ba’athist coup against the Iraqi leader Abdul Karim Qasim led to a worsening of relations between Arabs and Kurds. Arab farmer SHAHAB AHMAD AWAD witnessed the expulsion of Kurdish farmers from the Kirkuk region by Ba’aathist National Guards.