“It does not seem that we will see planes flying over this city. Where is that airport?” 38-year-old Saywan Mhedin told KirkukNow in despair about the construction of Kirkuk International Airport, the opening of which officials have been talking about for two years.
Saywan, the owner of a car dealership, says he has been eyeing the road leading to the airport being under construction for two months, but it still hasn’t been finished yet. "I wonder how construction inside the airport is going [when constructing the road takes so long]!"
Opening the Kirkuk International Airport faces dozens of hurdles and technical problems, so Kirkuk’s residents will not be seeing planes flying over their city soon.
Government officials had pledged dozens of times that the airport would be opened in January 2019, but it kept being delayed.
The latest difficult hurdle to overcome is the evacuation of the Hamzali neighbourhood which is right next to the walls of the airport and consists of 620 houses.
Ali Hammadi, the deputy governor of Kirkuk for technical affairs, told KirkukNow: "The problem of the Hamzali neighbourhood remains unresolved. Before opening the airport, the houses in that neighbourhood located next to the airport walls must be removed."
The Civil Aviation Authority in Iraq, through the Kirkuk administration, instructed residents of the Hamzali area at the beginning of May 2019 to vacate their homes.
Najat Hussein, a former member of the now-defunct Kirkuk Provincial Council, has previously told KirkukNow that “the houses of the Hamzali neighbourhood were built more than ten years ago. When the plans were made for the construction of the airport, they should’ve chosen a location farther from Hamzali so that demolition of residential homes wouldn’t be necessary."
a promotional video on Kirkuk International Airport
The airport’s location lies in the southwest part of the city, which had been designated for an international airport in 1957, but a US military base built on it in 2003.
On 30 June 2019, Kirkuk Interim Governor Rakan Saeed confirmed that more than 85% of the airport’s construction had been completed, which he described as "similar to Baghdad International Airport."
The governor’s statement came during a visit by the delegation of the Iraqi Parliament’s Committee for Services to inspect the progress of the airport’s construction.
Three months after that statement, on 26 July 2019, the Federal Integrity Commission stressed in a report that "only 1% of the construction of Kirkuk International Airport completed, and it will take several years for the airport to be ready for opening.”
According to the Integrity Commission, the government has allocated an amount of $93.5 million in the airport project.
They keep promising to open the airport, but nothing happens
40-year-old government employee, Ibrahim Muhammad, told KirkukNow: "They keep promising to open the airport, but nothing happens. In my opinion, it will not be opened soon, because a lot of work on it has to be done. From what I have seen and heard, so far work has only been done on the structures.”
Hammadi said that "there is still work that has to be done on the technical aspects of the project, and there are some measures that have to be taken before the airport is ready to be opened."
“We want to finalize the work on the airport by the end of the year and start flights,” Hammadi added.