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[casi] [Fwd: Harvest time: occupier vs. occupied -- please fd to casi]

-------- Ursprüngliche Nachricht --------
Betreff: Harvest time: occupier vs. occupied -- please fd to casi
Datum: Thu, 15 May 2003 18:13:42 +0200
Von: KRGinGermany <>

As I have no access from this account to casi, please fd from my home
Alexander Sternberg

Wheat and barley are the main crops of northern Iraq. Harvesting begins now.

Farmers have their tractors, trucks, and combine-harvesters ready to roll.

They need only two things: diesel and a market. In the past, in this
oil-rich country, diesel was readily available, and cheaper than water.
The Iraqi government was the market, it set the price and bought it all.

More than a million metric tons of wheat is expected to be produced this
year. Today, diesel is unavailable, and the market no longer exists.

The oil-for-food program provides 9 kilograms of wheat flour per person
per month to all 24 million citizens (the Iraqi government claimed 27
million). This amounts to about 250,000 metric tons of wheat grain per

This free food distribution needs to be continued. 60% of the population
is dependent on wheat flour and 9 other items provided free under the
oil-for-food program. Incomes are so low that without this free food
these 60% would not be able to feed themselves if the program stopped.

The situation is compounded by salaries not being paid to government
servants including the hundreds of thousands who were in the Iraqi

During recent decades many farmers were forced off their lands by the
ex-regime. Others were brought in to occupy and use these lands. The
farmers who were involuntarily displaced are returning and reclaiming
their lands. In many cases, this has gone as smooth as possible. In
1991, it went as smooth as possible with no external intervention.

There is no reason to expect it would not go smoothly this time.
External intervention could be the cause of the process not proceeding
naturally and as smooth as possible under the circumstances.

There is an ethical system in operation that apparently is not receiving
the respect and support that is due. The occupied knows he has the
right-of-return and is prepared to exercise that right, perhaps one way
or another. The occupier knows the occupied has the force of his right
in his favor, and the local ethical system obliges him to honor it.

When a third party intervenes, the prevailing ethical system is upset
and the occupier sees an opportunity and advantage to maintain what
others strongly believe to be a wrong and unfair status quo.

Because the right-of-return strongly prevails, the consequence of third
party intervention could very well be conflict with violence, burning of
crops, or worse.

Arabs who have traditionally always had the right to their lands remain
in their places, among the Kurds they grew up with years ago who have
recently returned. Many occupier-Arabs have left.

There are Arabs and there are Arabs. There are Kurds and there are
Kurds. In 'old' liberated Iraqi Kurdistan, occupier-Arabs left and
Kurds, and Assyrians, returned to the lands they were earlier forced
from. I've asked a number of people and they all confirm that in 1991 no
Arabs were harmed, there was no conflict, the Arabs knew they were
occupiers and had no right to remain. They left.

What's very interesting is that in 1991 there were pro-regime Kurds who
left their lands in 'old' liberated Iraqi Kurdistan because they felt
threatened by anti-regime Kurds. Now that the regime no longer exists,
however, in recent weeks there has been a reconciliation process in
motion based on the prevailing ethical system. Those pro-regime Kurds
are exercising their right- of-return. The Kurds who have been occupying
and using their lands since 1991 know they are occupiers and do not have
the right to remain. They will vacate.

Another example? There's an Assyrian village from where the villagers
fled to pro-regime Mosul years ago. Since 1991 some Kurdish families
occupied their village and used their lands. A few years ago the
Assyrian villagers came back and reclaimed their properties. The Kurds
left. This occurred in a predominantly Kurdish area.

Third party intervention into prevailing environments could generate
undesirable and avoidable consequences. Yes, there are probably cases
where third party intervention may be helpful. But this would be on a
case-by-case exceptional basis, and done carefully in close consultation
with the local powers-that-be who have far more experience in dealing
with such situations.

A third party could help to reaffirm among all concerned the principles
to be followed in adjudicating exceptional cases, serving as a
facilitator and catalyst, but only where needed.

Stifling the right-of-return in a manner perceived to maintain the
status quo is just not on. The occupiers know who they are. The occupied
know who they are. The fault line is clear. Pressure is building that
could be released through earthquakes or through harmonic tremors, to
use volcanology terms. (This terminology is a function of where I come
from, but I believe it very aptly fits the situation here.)

Ashley Gilbertson/Aurora, for The New York TImes
With no government in Baghdad, the wheat and barley harvest in northern
Iraq could face serious difficulties.

May 12, 2003
The New York Times
Ahead of Harvest, Farm Fears Grow

MOSUL, Iraq, May 11  The sound of clicking prayer beads made a worried
tick in the landowners' hands. Just nine days remained before the barley
harvest here in northern Iraq. The farmers and landowners  some of this
region's biggest  had gathered to talk crops.

Their concern is that with no government in Baghdad, a looted central
bank, fuel in short supply and ethnic land disputes flaring, the harvest
will face serious difficulties. Timing is crucial. Just one week of
delays, and the barley will begin to rot in the fields. On Monday,
farmers from the north are to meet with American officers to discuss the

"We expect failures," said Abdul Aziz Nejefi, in the guest room of his
large two-family house on the outskirts of Mosul. "We've never had this
situation before. There is no government."

The Mosul region produces half of this country's wheat and barley. In
the past, the central government in Baghdad would set a price at which
it would buy the grain and pay the farmers for what they grew. Now as
harvest time approaches, local officials here say they are not sure the
central bank has the 150 billion Iraqi dinars  about $75 million  to
pay the farmers.

"Everything is unnatural," said Azeldin Muhammad, director of
agriculture in Mosul's local administration, who expects a record crop
this year. "The receiving centers are not ready. The banks are not
ready. All this will put us and the farmers in a very difficult situation."

American military forces are working on the problem. Brig. Gen. Benjamin
C. Freakley of the 101st Airborne Division based in Mosul said
arrangements for the money were "in the works." Chaos at the central
bank has meant long delays in cashing checks, even those from the Iraqi
Ministry of Finance. Food stored in warehouses here was distributed over
the weekend for the first time since the start of the war  a serious
delay caused by holdups with a ministry check.

But the farmers in the room today were skeptical. They questioned
officials' reassurances that the eight million gallons of diesel fuel
needed for the harvest had indeed been set aside.

"So far it's just promises," said Mr. Nejifi's son Osama. "In reality,
it has not yet been provided."

Mr. Nejifi is well off. His family has owned wheat and barley fields
since 1630, when his relatives came with Ottoman conquerors to occupy
the area now known as Iraq. Three of his nine children live abroad. His
son Osama works with him in the grain business. Another has a Ph.D. from
Oxford in agricultural engineering.

Large farms were broken up during nationalization in 1971. The
government made a rule that no farmer could own more than 250 hectares,
or nearly 618 acres. At that time, Mr. Nejifi lost most of his land. The
new ruling class  the Baath Party  gradually gained privileges as
well, and some big farms were restored. Mr. Nejifi said he hated the
Baath Party. His vast holdings, however, hint at some accommodation with
the government.

In fields just east of Mosul, in a village called Shakuli, a poorer
farmer had a different problem. His son was crossing one of the family's
wheat fields with a herd of sheep when a land mine exploded, killing
some sheep and wounding the young man. The farmer, Ibrahim Haddi
Gabrail, said he was afraid to gather his crops. His son is convalescing.

Shakuli is typical of villages in northern Iraq. About 2,000 people live
in small mud huts surrounded by sweeping, treeless plains. Villagers get
water from an irrigation system. Incongruously, men play pool on a
billiard table set in the dust just outside the village. Gas for cooking
has not been available since the war. Electricity is sporadic, but then
it always had been.

"I wanted to bake bread this morning for my family," said Hassin Rashid,
a village woman dressed in black, but there was no gas or wood to start
the stove. "Please help me."

Perhaps the most emotional complication for the harvest is the farmland
dispute between the Arabs and the Kurds. Under Saddam Hussein, the
government drove Kurds from their northern homes and settled Arabs
there, fanning ethnic tensions. Now many Kurds are returning to their
former land, ejecting Arabs who have been planting crops.

Mr. Aziz said about 10 percent of the land was contested. He worries
that fleeing Arabs may begin torching fields. Firefighting teams are
down to a bare minimum. Many engines were looted. Of 46 vehicles, only
12 remain. General Freakley is intervening in many of the conflicts.

"We are going to derive a solution for landowners versus those who were
farming," he said in an interview over the weekend in the government
building in downtown Mosul. It will be "some percentage decision  50-50
would be the bare minimum for the farmer."

Despite the dark side of the story of the returning Kurds, there are
bright spots. Twenty days ago, a stout Kurdish farmer had an ecstatic
homecoming, to the fields from which he was evicted in 1986. The Arabs
were already gone when the farmer, Hammad Amin Marool Bais, arrived and
pounded his tent into a strip of farmland. Nearby is a small cemetery
where his great-great-grandfather is buried.

"It was like my birthday," he said, gesturing broadly with his hands,
the wind hissing in the wheat and barley around him. Mr. Bais refused to
work in the city, continuing to herd his goat and sheep on the outskirts
of Erbil, about 50 miles away, and selling yogurt at the farmers' market.

Back in Mr. Nejifi's home, the farmers had moved to the garden for
coffee, but the worrying subject of the harvest resurfaced.

"Mosul is known as the breadbasket of Iraq," said Abdul Satar al-Gulami,
one of the landowners. If the harvest is bad, that will no longer be the
case. "It would just be Mosul."

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