Iraqi farmers in the town of Safwan in the southern Iraqi province of Basra have called upon the Iraqi government to compensate them for harvests they could have had from farms and agricultural land that was lost to them in a May 1993 Security Council resolution affirming the demarcation of the Kuwait-Iraq border.
A U.S.-led war ended Iraq’s seven-month occupation of Kuwait in February 1991. In 1994, Iraq accepted its land borders with Kuwait which were demarcated by the U.N. in a 1993 resolution.
But Iraqi farmers who lost farms and land to the demarcation still consider the land their property, even though it now falls within Kuwaiti territory, or within a 500-metre no-man’s land buffer zone which Iraq and Kuwait agreed to create on either side of the border in 2010.
Rebah al-Salhie is a farmer whose farms were incorporated into Kuwait territory and the buffer zone. He and a number of other farmers in the area say they have lost numerous harvests, and have lost control of agricultural water wells, because of the U.N. demarcation, and they want to be compensated by the Iraqi government for their losses.
“I own three farms, two of them were incorporated into Kuwait’s territory. The third one is this one, which you can probably see through your camera, it was also incorporated into Kuwait when the United Nations committee demarcated the borders in 1993. We call, and I mean my words, we call for all the agricultural harvest which we have lost through the 19 years, and during the period before and after the U.N. border resolution. We also call for the composition of our wells that were bulldozed and the houses that we lost before and after the demarcation of borders,” al-Salhie said.
Residents say about 85 farms that were previously owned by Iraqis have been incorporated into Kuwait territories or the buffer zone. Dozens of families living close to Iraq’s borders with Kuwait were ordered to leave the area and move to new homes after the buffer zone was set up.
Sabah Hassan al-Bazouni, head of Basra’s provincial council, said that the Iraqi government has set up committees to compensate those affected by the U.N. resolution.
“The Iraqi government has set up branch and supreme committees in the Basra province to compensate farmers who were affected by the demarcation of border in accordance to U.N. resolution 833 in March 1993, “ he said.
Some 206 houses and dozens of oil wells on Iraqi territories were also incorporated into Kuwait.
“We have borders inside Kuwait territories, based on it, the government formed committees to compensate those who were affected by demarcation of border and the agreement of Safawn’s tent signed by former regime .Eighty six of Safwan farms, in addition to 206 houses and the naval base have been joint together in al-Handya in Um Qasr, “ Hassan added.
Local officials and farm owners called for compensation from the Iraqi government and rejected any compensation from the U.N. or Kuwait.
“We have voiced our rejection and objection to the compensations by Kuwait or by U.N. and we honestly said that the Iraqi government should compensate its own citizens. If the federal government could not do so , we demand authorizations to compensate our citizens in Basra , but we do not accept compensations from U.N or Kuwait because these lands were taken by force from Iraq at a time when Iraq was in a weak position, “ Hassan said.
Hassan added that it was also the farmers’ demand to object to any compensation from Kuwait or the U.N. Many of the farmers feel that accepting compensation for their land from Kuwait or the UN would mean giving up all claims to the land.
“Even the farmers have the same demand and said that we do not want a price for the lands but it is a price for the harvest seasons that we lost since 1993 to this moment and we do not want compensation from Kuwait but we want compensation from the Iraqi government,” Hassan added.
Kuwait was invaded by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 1990 and a shaky relationship has continued even since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam in 2003.
Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah attended an Arab league summit in Baghdad on April 2012 in first visit to Iraq since the 1990 invasion.