Displaced Arabs who fled to Iraqi Kurdistan were a boon for village-dwelling farmers. The farmers, who paid low wages to desperate displaced for three years, are now at a loss.
Over the past three years, Kurdish local Ali Rahim’s business has been flourishing. Although the 55-year-old left his village, Diwanah, in the Darbandikhan district in Sulaymaniyah province, in 2003, he continued to keep sheep back home. It was always difficult to make ends meet with the livestock – up until recently.
Over the past three years Rahim has been able to hire Arab families, displaced by the security crisis caused by the extremist Islamic State group, to help him farm.
Both parties benefitted, he says. Rahim did not have to pay very high wages – around IQD300 (US$ 0.25) - because the families were happy to do the job in exchange for lower pay and accommodation. Five different families have looked after Rahim’s sheep since the security crisis began in 2014 and Rahim made good money in part because the wages were so low.
However now that the Islamic State, or IS, group has been driven out of many parts of Iraq, those Arab families have started to return home – leaving Rahim with a lack of labour willing to work for so little.
Ever since Arab families started to arrive in the semi-autonomous northern region of Iraqi Kurdistan, seeking the comparative safety the region could offer, their presence has been controversial. Locals have complained that the influx of displaced Iraqis was a burden on the regional infrastructure, that they were consuming water, power and health supplies.