Oil industry destroys Kurds’ land and livelihoods

oil extraction

By Harem Karem:

KT Exclusive

The shadowy extractive industry in Kurdistan supposedly brings nothing but benefits to the indigenous population, according to the natural resources minister and other Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) officials.  However, the latest oil discovery in the Shaqlawa area in Hawler province tells a different story about the industry’s local impact.

Following the discovery of oil by an American company, residents of three villages near Safeen Mountain say that their livelihoods, land and gardens were destroyed without any prior consultation. The residents of Haji-Ahmed, Alawa, and Saska villages say they awoke to shocking scenes two weeks ago, as many of their green fields, vineyards and figs and pomegranates gardens were being wrecked by heavy machinery. To the villagers, it seemed like a bad dream of industrialisation.

What’s more, they now find themselves restricted from gaining access to the gardens that were left intact.

Kurdistan Tribune (KT) tried to contact the governor of Shaqlawa, Rizgar Hassan, but could not reach him. He has, however, made a short statement on Monday 24 June, claiming that the restriction is for residents’ own safety and that those whose lands and gardens are affected can fill out a form to claim compensation.

But the residents and owners of the lands refute the claims and they are demanding access to the remaining gardens – arguing that their gardens need to be watered and looked after, otherwise they will soon be destroyed too.

One local resident told KT: “We have spent lots of money on our gardens and vineyards, we depend on them, and now the exploration company have destroyed them – using heavy machinery without our consent. We demand a good compensation”.

Mirza Hassan, a local farmer and resident of Haji Ahmed village near Shaqlawa, said: “They never had our consent when they destroyed our gardens. Nobody has spoken to us about what they are doing or whether or not we will be compensated. They were our own gardens, now we are not even allowed to go near them.”

KT has learned that local police and the company manager told residents about the restrictions imposed illegally on them: they are no longer allowed to visit their gardens using own cars and, should they wish it, the oil company will arrange ‘special transportation’ for them, but they will have to inform the company in advance.

When asked about possible compensation, Mirza Hassan told KT: “We are not even asked when they have destroyed our gardens, let alone giving us compensation. This is absurd, they are our lands, and we have owned them for generations. How could some company come along and invade it and the local authority support it?”

Local residents have contacted Islamic Union of Kurdistan and The Change Movement MPs for help, KT understands.

Mirza Hassan told KT: “The American exploration company came two weeks ago, and fenced around 300 acres of land. When they arrived with their heavy machineries, they immediately began levelling the lands”.

“60 of the 300 acres land are owned by the village chief, Muhsin Khider. Chief Muhsin Khider along with other villagers went to stop them but he was later arrested by the police and kept in custody for two days. While in custody, there are rumours that Chief Khider has been forced to sign a document, and then released.”

A source has told KT that the plan is to dig thirteen wells after they have completed the preparation process and levelled the lands. There are around three hundred houses in all three villages and more than half of the residents have lands that have been taken over by the exploration company without their consent. Local residents do not know the name of the company although Exxon and Chevron are two oil giants operating in the area. The authority in the area is affiliated with the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Copyright © 2013 Kurdistantribune.com

2 Responses to Oil industry destroys Kurds’ land and livelihoods
  1. Lorenzo Garcia
    June 25, 2013 | 18:24

    Yes, this partially true but not the whole truth.
    It is a matter of priorities for the kurdish government. Does Kurdistan need 20 000 kg of fruit and 100 000 kg of wheat every year or can the oil taken out from the soil pay for the wheat and fruit and the Lexus for the common people of Kurdistan?
    Kurdistan is a blessed country relying in a sea of oil which do not demand chemicals, destruction of ground water as the Americas new discoveries of gas in the USA which will not last long, are very expensive allowing kurdish oil to have increased value and prices for everybody in Kurdistan.
    The fracking techniques from the USA costs approximatively +60 USD/barrel and in Kurdistan it costs 2-3 USD/barrel.
    The issue here is not of pumping oil vs agriculture but rather of distribution of wealth for the kurdish society.
    Of couse, this discussion “could be” a disguised discussion for asking more money to the land owners and not of a national priority

    • Halmet
      June 29, 2013 | 15:17

      Mr. Garcia,
      From economic point of view, yes, oil generates more revenues than fruits. The problem is not the oil companies but KRG itself due to its lack of economic development plan. As you know that those Lexuses you mentioned will be driven by political elites not the villagers but villagers will pay for it.
      At the end, KRG should be blamed for not the oil companies even though those companies have moral obligations to provide jobs, better roads and etc for the villagers. if KRG doesn’t respect its own citizens, how the heck we should expect foreign oil companies respect the villagers where their aim is only making profit.

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