"I spent most of my life on this farm; it was the only source of living for my family. My heart burned with this farm,” said Fakhir Hameed after fire ripped through his cropland.
The fire which broke out earlier this month in Shalyar village in southern Kirkuk’s Daquq district was devastating. Large areas of crop fields were turned to ashes.
More than 3,000 olive, peach, pomegranate and grape trees in the orchard which Fakhir spent nearly all his life with were all gone.
It is unclear what caused the fire in the area where security responsibilities are undertaken by Iraqi federal police and Popular Mobilization forces (PMF), serving under the Joint Operations Command in Kirkuk.
A PMF commander, who spoke to KirkukNow on condition of anonymity, said the fire began in the southern part of Shalyar and grew fiercer devouring many large areas of farmlands in the village.
Shalyar, located southwest of Daquq, is inhabited by the Kakayi religious community. More than 20 families currently live there. These fled the village after Islamic State (IS) militants overran the area in 2014, and returned soon after the group was ousted.
“This is the second time we face displacement, but this time the fire burned all our hopes,” said Farhad Nazr, a villager.
Farhad was unable to hold back his tears as he mentioned the fire damages. “More than 15 donums of farmland, which was the only thing I had, burned.”
Several houses of the villagers were also burned by the Shalyar fire.
Hussein Safar, Shalyar village headman told KirkukNow that residents of the village fled in fear of IS threats. Although security forces have asked us to return but the group still pose grave threats to Kakayi families in the area.
Daquq has witnessed a surge in crop fire incidents during the past few months, damaging thousands of donums of wheat and barley farmlands. In some cases, farmers were targeted by unknown gunmen and roadside bomb explosions as they tried to put out the fires; as a result, 2 people have been killed and 20 others injured.
Rajab Asi Kakayi, an activist and head of Mitra organization says, “In addition to the killing incidents and the displacement, large areas of crop fields in Kakayi-inhabited villages, including Shalyar were burned this year.”
He added that the Kakayis were the community most affected since the fall of the Ba’ath regime, indicating that hundreds of them were killed by armed groups.
“Seven Kakyi-inhabited villages in Daquq are still abandoned due to IS threats; only few families have returned to two villages in the area,” he said.
Although the Iraqi parliament ordered the compensation of farmers affected by the fire incidents, the committees which are supposed to assess the damages are yet to be formed by the government.
According to the Iraqi civil defense directorate, 36 thousand donums of crop fields have burned across the country, 6 thousand donums were in Kirkuk.
Daquq, a disputed territory 44 km south of Kirkuk was a frontline in the war against IS. After the Kurdish Peshmarga forces withdrew from the area in October 2017, the security dossier fell in the hands of Iraqi federal forces.