Erbil (Agenzia Fides) - The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) Council of Ministers issued an order to form a Committee to solve the phenomenon of illegal expropriation of properties - houses and land that are mostly owned by members of ethnic and minority faith communities, starting with Christians. The Committee will consist of representatives of the Presidency of the Kurdistan Parliament, Presidency of the Council of Ministers, Presidency of the Supreme Judicial Council, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Municipalities, and Ministry of Finance. The Committee will be chaired by Diya Butros Sliwa, Chairperson of the Independent Human Rights Commission, who recently submitted a memorandum to the Government of the autonomous region on the urgency of addressing the problem of property illegally seized from Christians and other minority groups in Iraqi Kurdistan, and the need to protect property rights under the law.
The willingness to establish an ad hoc government committee to verify and stop the systematic illegal expropriations suffered in recent years by Christian property owners in Iraqi Kurdistan and especially in the Dohuk governorate, has matured from requests from the Independent Commission of Butros Sliwa and has gained momentum from a contribution received in August 2020 by the Government of the Autonomous Region (see Fides, 6/10/2020): The investigating commission will have to collect documentation, also listening to the requests and justifications of the parties involved to draw up a real mapping of the property of Christians turned into the object of abusive expropriation in the years in which the entire northern-Iraqi zone lived the dramatic experience related to the conquests of the Daesh jihadist militias and the creation of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
Large-scale expropriations of land and real estate belonging to Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian families in the Iraqi Kurdistan region, as reported by Agenzia Fides (see Fides 14/4/2016 and 7/7/2016) were denounced with particular vehemence in 2016. According to the complaints submitted, the illegal expropriations were carried out by Kurdish fellow citizens, acting on their own account or in collaboration with other members of their tribal clan. Already at that time, Dr. Michael Benjamin, director of the Nineveh Study Center, reported that in the Dohuk governorate alone there was a list of 56 villages in which the area of land illegally stolen from Christian families amounted to 47,000 acres. On April 13, 2016, several hundred Syriac, Chaldean and Assyrian Christians from the Nahla region (Dohuk Governorate) organized a demonstration in front of the Parliament of the Autonomous Region of Iraqi Kurdistan (see photo) to protest against the illegal expropriation of their real estate assets suffered in previous years by influential Kurdish personalities, and denounced more than once, before a competent court.
In recent years, illegal expropriations have focused mainly on the lands and homes belonging to Christians who left the area especially since the 1980s, to flee regional conflicts and sectarian and tribal violence that exploded with greater virulence after the military interventions of international coalitions.
Meanwhile, in recent days, the Iraqi press has released the content of a letter addressed by Pope Francis to Nechirvan Barzani, president of the Iraqi Kurdistan region. The letter, dated March 15, was delivered in recent days to Barzani himself by Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, Apostolic Nuncio in Iraq. In the letter, the Pope refers to his recent trip to Iraq (5-8 March) and thanks Iraq and the Kurdistan Region for having valued "religious, cultural and ethnic diversity". In the letter, among other things, the Pope expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome he received "to his Excellency, to all the authorities accompanying him and to the entire Iraqi people, in particular the beloved Kurdish people". Pope Francis also thanked President Barzani for his attendance at Sunday Mass at the Franso Hariri Stadium in Erbil, a participation "that demonstrates in you the spirit of tolerance, harmony, brotherhood and humanity". (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 14/4/2021)