Project around Baghdad Airport Raises Demographic Fears among Sunnis
A government decision to allow a foreign company to invest in more than 100,000 dunams of agricultural land around Baghdad International Airport has raised concern among the local Sunni community.
They charged that the decision was taken without taking into consideration the possible demographic change that could occur in the area, known as the Baghdad Belts.
The move has sparked popular concern and parliamentary action to halt the deal. Residents of the area have been living there since the Ottoman age and have the documents to prove their ownership of property.
State of Law coalition MP Ammar al-Shibli said that the deal will force the displacement of thousands of locals.
Speaking at a press conference with MP Zeitoun al-Dulaimi at parliament on Tuesday, he said that the deal was struck during the transition period before Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi assumed his post.
Dulaimi called on the premier to “save more than 7,000 homes and agricultural properties that will be bulldozed as a result of the project.”
She revealed that Abdul Mahdi had pledged to review all decisions that were made during the transition period and he has indeed so far fulfilled this promise.
“We have hope that he will stand against this decision,” she added, revealing that the it was taken without consulting the concerned parties and the residents themselves, who refuse to be vacated from their homes.
MP Mohammed al-Karbouli told Asharq Al-Awsat that the investment deal is aimed at “creating demographic change in the Baghdad Belts area,” indirectly referring to Sunni tribes residing there.
“We, along with the people, will not remain silent over such a plot,” he declared, warning against “violating the social and tribal fabric that has existed in these regions for hundreds of years.”
Moreover, he revealed that several fake investment projects were approved in the past only for the seized property to be distributed to non-locals.
“This cannot take place again,” he demanded.
Former MP Iyad al-Jubbouri, who also hails from one of the targeted areas, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the project has “an obvious goal that has nothing to do with investment.”