Occupation hinders Iraqi agriculture

Once the region's most prosperous people, Iraqi farmers, are suffering under harsh living conditions since the occupation of Iraq last April.

    Destroyed fields have left farmers without an income

    In provinces such as Diyala and Tikrit, which have witnessed Iraqi resistance attacks, thousands of hectares of farmland and forest have been razed by the US occupation forces, who claim they have been used as hideouts for Iraqi resistance fighters.

    Hundreds of farmers have lost their income overnight. They are neither able to ask for compensation, nor have they been given a date by which they can replant their destroyed crops and resume work.

    "They flattened our farmlands in front of our eyes," said an Iraqi farmer in Diyala. "W

    e are unable to work and feed our families anymore. They allege that Iraqi fighters had been using our farms as hideouts, it is not true."

    Arrests

    Arrests have also badly affected the rural population in Iraq. Thousands of rural workers believed to be involved in anti-US forces attacks are being kept in US custody. One Iraqi farmer in Diyala says people from his community have been arrested and imprisoned for unlimited periods of time.

    An Iraqi farmer explains how
    arrests leave the future unclear

    "Dozens of farmers in the area have been taken away from their homes. Their wives and children are lost and do not know what to do, especially since no charges are being made against the detainees and no one knows when they are going to be released," he said.

    "We want to know if our people are really guilty or not, and how long they are going to be detained. That would let us determine how we are going to help their families." 

    Crops

    While levelled farmlands have heavily restricted the flow of fruit and vegetables to the cities, active farms are also suffering serious obstacles preventing farmers from running their businesses efficiently.

    A potato grower near Baghdad has complained of harsh practices by US forces pursuing alleged Iraqi resistance fighters.

     "We often wake up to see our harvest of potatoes destroyed by US tanks"

    An Iraqi farmer

    "We often wake up to see our harvest of potatoes destroyed by US tanks.

    "They have no hesitation about driving their heavy machines into planted farms," he said.

    "Normally we water during the night but we are unable to do that anymore, the coalition forces are all over the land during the night. You know that they might shoot anyone and then tell you afterwards that they are sorry."

    Prices of agricultural products have reached unprecedented levels in Iraqi cities amid widespread unemployment and scarce resources.

    Sabiha Qasim, an Iraqi employee of the former Iraqi Airways company, said: "Prices of vegetables and fruits are too high to us. My family of six is living on my salary, because my husband was dismissed with thousands of Ministry of Information employees. We can not afford to buy fresh produce like fruit on a regular basis."

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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