No water, no jobs: ISIL survivors struggle in northern Iraq

When Father Ammar Yako, a Syriac Catholic priest in the majority-Assyrian Christian town of Qaraqosh in northern Iraq, returned to his church in 2016 he found its floors covered in rubble and its artwork pillaged.

After two years of control by the armed group ISIL (ISIS), Qaraqosh, including the Great Immaculate Church where Yako preaches, had been subjected to looting and urban warfare before it was recaptured by Iraqi security forces and allied militias.

When Father Ammar Yako, a Syriac Catholic priest in the majority-Assyrian Christian town of Qaraqosh in northern Iraq, returned to his church in 2016 he found its floors covered in rubble and its artwork pillaged.

After two years of control by the armed group ISIL (ISIS), Qaraqosh, including the Great Immaculate Church where Yako preaches, had been subjected to looting and urban warfare before it was recaptured by Iraqi security forces and allied militias.“The climate there, there are many challenges – challenges that need a real state who see where [there can] be serious solutions for them,” said Pascale Warda, president of the Hammurabi Human Rights Organization in Baghdad. “Iraq is very rich in agriculture as well as on the industrial side, but all are dying because of [lack of care].”

Administrative corruption’

Warda, an Assyrian Christian herself, lamented inefficiencies, delays in providing farmers with seeds, and a general lack of investment by the Iraqi state in rebuilding communities and supporting farmers in northern Iraq in the post-ISIL years.

According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service, the production of barley, corn, and rice in Iraq is expected to fall in the fiscal year 2021-2022 because of water shortages, while wheat is expected to rise. But farmers in northern Iraq may not be able to benefit from even these partial increases.

Residents and analysts alike have noted how, because of ISIL’s occupation, post-war financial difficulties, and the more recent pandemic-induced global economic contraction, the Iraqi state has been unable to pay farmers in full for crops they have bought after each harvest, decimating the finances of wheat farmers in particular.

John Dakali is a resident of Al-Qosh, a heavily agricultural Christian village in Nineveh that successfully repelled an attack by ISIL in 2014. He said farmers there have only recently begun to be repaid by the government, and some have still not received any compensation since the war.

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