Iraqi Kurdistan: Defending the Land: Exxon-Mobil pollutes Kurdish villages

by CPT-Iraqi Kurdistan

Kak Miro shares the bounty of his grape harvest with CPTers in Iraqi Kurdistan.In early March, Kurdish farmer Kak Mirro from the village of Haji Ahmed committed an act of civil disobedience by working in his own fields.

The day was bright with a spring chill in the wind.  Members of CPT-Iraqi Kurdistan accompanied Kak Mirro over the tortuous roads up to a spot overlooking the recently-completed ExxonMobil oilrig.  Kak Mirro said that the oil company, with the backing of the Kurdish government, had ordered local farmers to stay away from their fields precisely at a time when the fields needed extra attention.

Kak Mirro had decided to work his fields anyway and he invited CPTers to witness his act of resistance.  He was nervous, energetically watching the vehicles around the rig to see if any were coming our way.  He wanted to make tea so it would seem as though we were only having a picnic, but we had forgotten the kettle.  So he lit a fire and began burning his pruned grapevines in preparation for spring.

As he worked in defiance of the order, we strategized together about ways to support the farmers’ claims for compensation for their confiscated lands and destroyed livelihoods.  We talked of petitions and protests and collecting more data and appealing to different parliamentarians for help.  

Since February 2015 ExxonMobil has been releasing large amounts of excess gas from the drilling rig near the Kurdish villages of Sartka, Haji Ahmed, Allawa and Sorabani.  The loud noise, black smoke and bright flame of the burning gas reeks of petroleum and sends noxious fumes throughout the farms and villages.  How can anything compensate for that?

In mid-March, Dr. Sherko Jawdat, the head of the Natural Resources Committee of the Kurdish Parliament, visited the region but was denied access to the drilling area.  Two days later, Kak Miro received a threatening phone call from a Zervani guard (security for the oil field provided by the Kurdish Regional Government) telling him to stop bringing parliamentarians to the site.

CPT-Iraqi Kurdistan continues to partner with Kurdish villagers who are speaking out against ExxonMobil’s oil exploration and drilling as part of their struggle to protect the sacred land that sustains life for all of us.