Garmian farmers say Iran regime blocking them from accessing their lands

Shepherds and farmers in the Kurdistan Region’s Garmian area say Iranian forces are preventing them from accessing their lands near the border.

Resident of ten villages near the towns of Qoratu and Maydan said Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) have harassed them along the border – seizing animals and temporarily detaining shepherds.

“They held our sheep three times in 10 days. They even arrested our son and took him to Sarpol [Zahab], but they released him that night. On another occasion, they held some other sheep, but the owner brought the sheep back by force,” local resident Sherko Mohammed told Rudaw.

With the mountains behind him, Mohammed sat next to a pot of tea boiling over a campfire in a grassy plain. His sheep and goats contentedly munched on the green shoots around him.

“It’s our land where they took the sheep in full view of our border patrol guys,” he said.

Confusion over just where the border lies is part of the problem, according to a Kurdistan Region security official.

“We always discuss this matter in our meetings. We don’t know whether these areas lie in Iranian or Iraqi territory. We have called for a joint committee of Baghdad and Tehran to completely demarcate the border and establish whether these areas are Iraqi or Iranian territory,” said Major Fakhradin Abdullah, commander of Brigade 3 of Sulaimani’s Border Patrol Unit.

The present-day border between Iraq and Iran roughly matches the frontier that was established nearly 400 years ago. Kurds inhabit the lands on both sides along the northern stretch.

Iran is concerned about security along its border with the Kurdistan Region. Several armed Kurdish parties opposed to the government in Tehran are based in the Kurdistan Region’s mountains and semi-official kolbars (porters) import goods both legally and illegally across the porous frontier.

Rudaw has learned that the Iranian consul in Sulaimani ten days ago sent official letters to the governors of Sulaimani and Halabja provinces along with Garmian’s local administration, asking them to notify residents living in the border area not to approach the border or they will be arrested.

The consul was not immediately available for comment.

Local farmers now fear they may not be able to access their fields.

“We have 5,000 acres of land here, but it has become a no-man’s land and we can’t approach it,” said Nuri Hussein Saleem, a member of Sarqizl village council.

“They will arrest us if we approach our lands. We can’t even have our sheep grazing there. We took the matter to Garmian’s local government and they said they would resolve the problem. But they haven’t done anything yet,” he added.

In the past four months, Iran temporarily detained seven shepherds and held 11 herds of sheep. They were all later released.

Source » rudaw

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