Report / IRIN – 2006-06-13 23:12:41
BAGHDAD (May 16, 2006) — The issue of compensation for those who have lost property or land since the 2003 US-led invasion of the country will be a top priority for the new government, said officials.
“As we are concerned about rebuilding Iraq, we also have to guarantee that families return to the secure lives they were living before the eruption of the war, and funds are urgently required for this,” said Bassam Saleh, a senior official in the Ministry of Reconstruction. “But for this to happen, security must be maintained to prevent more families from losing their homes as a result of fighting and terrorism.”
Saleh added that the most affected areas were the western Anbar governorate, particularly in the cities of Ramadi, Fallujah, al-Qaim and Rawa.
Massive US air strikes during the initial invasion in April 2003, as well as subsequent fighting between insurgents and US troops, have been the main causes of property destruction. Others are also claiming compensation for land lost as a result of the “Arabisation” process imposed by former President Saddam Hussein in the 1970s and 1980s.
At that time, many families, mostly Kurds and Turkoman, were forced to leave their properties when Shi’ite Arabs from the south were relocated to oil-rich areas near Kirkuk in the north.
To date, some 37,000 housing and property restitution claims from those displaced between 1968 and 2003 have been submitted to the Iraq Property Claims Commission (IPCC). But according to the IPCC, which says it is under-staffed and under-resourced, only 600 cases have been ruled on so far.
Lack of Compensation Increases Violence
Local NGOs say that at least 80,000 families throughout the country are still awaiting reimbursement, with expected payments ranging from the equivalent of US $1,000 to US $25,000.
“According to our studies, thousands of families are still awaiting compensation from the government,” said Fatah Ahmed, spokesman for the Baghdad-based Iraq Aid Association. “Each day there is fighting, their numbers increase, and more funds are required.”
Officials also point out that the issue has served to perpetuate the cycle of violence. “Issues of property claims have generated an increase in violence resulting from disputes over land rights,” said Ahmed Abdel-Kader, a senior official in the Ministry of Displacement and Migration.
“In the meantime, thousands of families are homeless or living with relatives because they haven’t been compensated for the loss of their homes.”
Meanwhile, families who have lost property continue to press for a swift resolution of their cases. “I lost my home in 2004 due to fighting between insurgents and US forces,” said Sabah Mahmoud, 54, now living in the capital after his house was destroyed in a combat raid on Ramadi city. “Until now, neither the government nor the US military has done anything for my family.”
While government authorities in Baghdad could not confirm the number of families awaiting compensation, they said that the issue was expected to top the list of the new government’s priorities.
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