No Houses for the Arabs: Iraqi Kurdish Council’s Controversial Ruling About Who Can, and Cannot, Buy Property
Tensions between displaced Arabs in Iraqi Kurdistan and local Kurds are growing. Which is why some fear a recent council ruling that bans Arabs from owning real estate will just make things worse.
In an ordinary sitting late last month, the provincial council in Sulaymaniyah, a northern Iraqi province, made a decision that some locals thought was appalling but which others welcomed enthusiastically. The council decided that Iraqi Arabs would no longer be able to buy property in Sulaymaniyah, which is one of three provinces making up the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.
In Sulaymaniyah the sale, transfer or purchase of property by non-Kurds is now banned. Of course, the new rule also applies to other foreigners. But clearly the main targets are the many Iraqi Arabs who have flooded into the more secure, semi-autonomous northern region due to the security crisis.
The council members justified their new rule by saying that so many Arabs have moved into the area, formerly dominated by Iraqis of Kurdish ethnicity, that the demography of the area was changing. Additionally the Arabs tended to be better off than many Kurdish people and they feared that Arabs would end up owning all of the property.
“Around 400,000 Arabs have come to the province and without some controls, the city’s demographic make up would have changed,” explains Haval Abubaker, the head of Sulaymaniyah’s council, justifying the decision. “What we have done is also completely constitutional because the Iraqi Constitution prohibits any development that could lead to demographic change in an area. We should also add that this decision is only temporary, and that it also targets other non-Kurdish individuals, not just Arabs.”