Oil companies continue to steal and destroy land 

On 29th February 2016 two CPT team members - Julie and Mohammed - went to Hajji Ahmed to meet with Kak Miro, the village leader. Villagers have been struggling to maintain their land rights and have also been trying to gain adequate compensation for lands already confiscated by Exxon Mobil. CPT has been helping to raise the voices of villagers since August 2013.

Julie and Mohammed wrote: "We arrived mid-morning and stopped in front of Kak Miro's home which overlooks the small village of Hajji Ahmed. Kak Miro greeted us with a warm welcome and walked with us to the entrance of his home stopping to show us his garden and sharing plans for where he will be planting new trees this spring.  After that he invited us inside where his wife brought us tea and Kak Miro began to update us on the current situation.

Exxon Mobil have finished one oil well and capped it for later use in a nearby field. During this process, the company, with the assistance of the Kurdistan Regional Government, appropriated land from local farmers. Some of the land gave way to the construction of the oil well, other parts were made inaccessible.  The construction and drilling polluted some areas of land, causing plants, trees and vines to suffer or die. Kak Miro has heard that digging for a second well is to start soon.

Kak Miro asked us to help him write a letter to the Committee of Human Rights and Natural Resources of the Kurdistan Parliament about not receiving any compensation for his lost and damaged land. He was waiting for a phone call from a committee member to set an appointment to deliver the letter.

As Kak Miro began drafting the letter, his phone rang. A Parliament member (PM) had called to say that he was ready to come to Hajji Ahmed in person, whenever the letters were ready. Kak Miro told the PM that CPT was with him helping to write the letter. The PM agreed to speak with Mohamed and gave advice on how to formulate the letter and which information to include.

Before lunch time we drove to the oil field. As we approached the site we saw that, unlike during CPT's last visit, all the company's staff had left the project and only few guards stayed at the entrance. Without any questioning they let us pass the checkpoint and enter the farmers' lands.

Kak Miro showed us to a large gravel lot overlooking the capped well. The lot we were standing in had once been productive farm land but was now completely destroyed.  All the dirt had been removed and only gravel and rock remained. He told us that Exxon Mobil had informed the villagers that they can have their land back now that the oil well was drilled and they no longer needed it. Kak Miro pointed to the gravel - now devoid of life - and said "Do you think a villager can use such a kind of land?"

We asked Kak Miro if the villagers who got compensated last year hadreceived any compensation this year. He said some of had while others had not. He also said that some farmers had refused compensation this year because it was not adequate. One farmer settled on an amount last year, but this year was only offered a fifth of that.

We also heard some sad news from Sartka, another village that CPT has previously accompanied. Kak Muhsin, a former CPT partner and the village leader, refused compensation this year. We asked Kak Miro how Kak Muhsin was. He said, "Kak Muhsin was very upset emotionally after watching the beauty of his land disappear at the hands of the oil company.  It affected him so deeply that he died."