Saturday, October 23, 2010

Jalawla is "kingdom of orphans"

Kurds evacuate Jalawla

A man in traditional Arab dress walks through the central market of Jalawla town on February 9, 2010. GLOBE PHOTO/Ako Muhammed

The Kurdish Globe
Arabs from other provinces are replacing Kurds in disputed town of Jalawla.
Hundreds of Kurdish families escaped threats and shortage of services in the disputed town of Jalawla, and Arabs from other provinces are replacing them, according to Kurdish sources.

More than 450 Kurdish families left Jalawla, a district in northern Diala province, because of bad security and other difficult conditions, said Amir Raf'at, a Kurdish former member of Diala provincial council in an interview with Erbil-based Payamner news agency. He added that a large number of Kurdish families also left nearby Sadiya and Qaratapa districts. These districts, which belong to Khanaqin town, are considered a part of the disputed areas covered by constitutional Article 140.

The Kurdish official also doubted the existence of "an organized agenda" leading Arab families from other parts of Diala, Baghdad, and from other Arab provinces toward the Kurdish towns. "The Arab families are coming in groups of 40 to 50 families...they easily transport their food coupons from the Arab province to Jalawla and to other disputed areas, but transportation is hard for a Kurdish family coming back from Kurdistan Region provinces," he stated. Food coupons now are taken as the most reliable civil document in absence of accurate population and residency data.

Payemner also reported an anonymous source accusing Arab armed groups of "threatening Kurdish families to the point of evacuation."

Ako: In the Last seven years, no KRG Minister has made visit to Jalawla town to question about the Kurdish families' situation there, Jalawla Mayor told me in an interview conducted in February 2010. the following is the report conducted that time.

Jalawla is "kingdom of orphans"

A grocery shop owner sells fruit in a Jalawla market.

By Ako Muhammed
The Kurdish Globe
Poor services are a way of life in a town "exploited by both Kurdish and Arab families"
No governmental entity has shown any concern about unemployment, poor electricity, and lack of sewage in Jalawla, a disputed territory that the KRG claims as its own.

Looking too slim to work as a laborer, Mustafa Hussein Wali appeared much older than his real age of 51. In his youth, he divorced only three months after his wedding and before he entered prison for having relations with Kurdish political parties. Prison stole 15 years of his life, and he was never able to remarry. He cannot be recruited in the army or receive compensation for his imprisonment.

"You are old" is the only answer from the police when Rahim Majeed Faraj, 41, asks to be recruited. He lost a brother who was a Peshmarga in the 1980s. "Hundreds of times I asked them [government] for employment, but nothing ever happened," said Faraj, who sells fish for a living. He is also unmarried.

With their ability to speak both the Kurdish and Arabic language, grocers, meat and fish sellers, shop keepers, and laborers in the central market of Jalawla, northwest of Diala province, hope their voices can be heard and cared about. In the market, where electricity stayed off for two weeks at one point, each can earn an average of 10,000 Iraqi dinars (almost US$8).

Only 1,500 graduates have been employed by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Jalawla over the past seven years. For 2010, the Diala governorate--in coordination with the federal government in Baghdad--has agreed to employ 740 people out of nearly 5,000 appliers of both illiterates and educated, who will receive a monthly salary of 140,000 ID, and graduates, who will receive 200,000 ID. This employment, which is the first of its kind by the Diala administration in the town, is based on temporary, six-month contracts.

In reply to the runor that bribes were received--according to a number of people in the market--during the offering of the applications, town mayor Anwar Hussein says the issue is not within their authority as the employed people are selected in Diala and Baghdad.

Jalawla became a sub-district in 1958. Its population is currently 77,000; 51,000 live in the central town, while the rest live in its 36 villages. The "Globe" was informed by Kurdish officials that Kurds now comprise only 35% of the population while they were the majority according to the official census of 1977.

Kurds originally from this town have recently left, fearing insurgents' threats such as Majid Majeed Kareem, an element of the Kurdish police. His unit had to move out of the town when the Iraqi army launched its "Good Will" military operations in August 2008. He says he is aware of 20 other families like his who moved out and settled in safe towns under the control of the KRG.

Kurdish sources count nearly 400 families that have migrated toward KRG towns or Baghdad. However, army and police are seen everywhere in the town, particularly around government offices and condolence gatherings.

Similar to other disputed areas considered by Kurds as part of their northern region, many Kurdish families from Jalawla were pushed for three decades before 2003. Their houses and agricultural land were given by the Baath government to Arab families brought in to the area.

Meanwhile, the town was exploited by both Kurdish and Arab families. Returning Kurds built nearly 2,000 houses illegally in Hamreen and Sawz quarters in the northern part of town. And imported Arab families settled in a similar number of houses in Tajnid, in the southern part. The Arab families, mostly from the Kurwi tribe, have been in Jalawla and Khanaqin over the past decades.

"The Kurds and Arabs--we deal with them equally as both have built houses illegally. We try to put an end to this illegality," noted Mayor Hussein. He also expressed his "surprise" that the KRG carried out an electricity project in the Tajnid quarter while such a project was never offered to other quarters.
Poor service

Jalawla remains ignored by both Diala and the KRG, as its situation as a disputed area falls under the mercy of Iraq's constitutional Article 140.

The town never had properly functioning sewers, only a single school has been built since 1979, the drinking water system has remained underground without renovation since the 1960s, and the electricity supply is no longer adequate and is overloaded, said Jalawla's Mayor Hussein.

When asked why the town is so dirty, he said: "A sewer system does not exist in the town and we don't demand it. Other crucial necessities we need, such as electricity, drinking water, and the other basics of life."

People were satisfied after they were informed that they would receive drinking water for two hours every two days. The water is pumped through three water projects from the Sirwan River, which passes by the town. The Mayor says the pumps and the pipe nets are old and cannot hold until the coming spring. According to him, nearly 30,000 meters of pipes are needed to renovate water net.

The town's electricity is provided from Diala--two hours on and two hours off. The electricity net is vulnerable and has weak voltage. Two years ago, people had to collect money to buy two giant voltage apparatuses so as to increase electricity power for their town's drinking pumps, said Mayor Hussein.

"The KRG has a ministry; I only heard about it, I think it is called the Ministry of Extra-Regional Affairs. No representative from them has ever visited us. I am astonished by that ministry that has to care for the disputed areas....This ministry is for our areas and must link between us and the KRG; but I doubt if they have any information about Jalawla," said Mayor Hussein. He noted that the neighboring areas of Qaratapa, Sadiya, and Hamreen all face the same problems. "To me, Jalawla is the kingdom of orphans," said the Mayor.

Diala's provincial government has offered no more that 2.5 billion ID, which was spent on paving a number of roads and building a single school in 2008.

In 2009, no projects were carried out in the town, and no budget was allocated. "We have been informed from Diala that the local government is in debt--how is this possible?" wondered the Mayor, who accused officials, including Kurds, in the Diala provincial council and governorate with corruption.

The province's 2007 budget has been allocated for providing supplies, said the Mayor. Jalawla received a shuffle truck for 260 million ID, while the real price is about 100 million ID. Also, an Isuzu tanker truck was bought for 173 million ID. Two garbage trucks were bought for 280 million ID. Four laptops were sent to Jalawla for 10,400,000 ID. With the same amount, they bought four air-conditioners.

As the Iraqi parliamentary election nears, perhaps Kurdish and Arabs politicians will go to Jalawla during their electoral campaign. Will they dare to deliver promises?

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