Researcher Shatha Khalil
One of the most prominent results of the war in Iraq after 2003, the emergence of militias and multi-parties, including the powerful ones in the State, which are exercising the kidnapping and robbery and seizure of personal property of the people, and then extended and expanded to include the land and properties of the state in Baghdad and the provinces, and militias and armed factions topped the list of those who seized the state property , with government weakness to stop them.
In the shadow of Iraq’s financial crisis, sectarian war, and then the war against the terrorist organization ISIS, parties, political blocs and militias control hundreds of properties, buildings and sites in the capital, Baghdad, and other provinces and strategic, industrial, commercial regions, in addition of their seizure on hundreds of buildings, palaces and tourist places, which belonged to the former regime and its officials. Those parties seized these palaces in the southern and central governorates, while they recently took control of these sites in the west and east of Baghdad. The militias entered the Sunni governorates and took control of those areas and sites worth billions of dollars, as well as the capital Baghdad, which is considered as a divided city between the armed groups and parties.
Where the parties have taken control of entire areas in Baghdad, vital areas such as Jadiriyah and Karrada in the center of the capital, for a particular party, and Zafaraniya areas for another party, as each region has become in the name of a certain person belonging to the influential parties or groups , or outlaws and the state is unable to deter them , these gangs divided these areas and sold them , for example Zafaraniya area was consisting of 28 camp , after the seizure and control was divided into 56 neighborhood , which means that the shops multiplied, and the lands are divided and sold in public offices, and they build on it even though it belongs to the state .
Today, there are 291 random neighborhoods (slums)in Iraq, and are increasing whereas the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Saraya al-Salam and other militias control a number of buildings, headquarters and sites in predominantly Shiite eastern Baghdad, such as New Baghdad, Mashtal, Husseiniya and Sadr City.
The Dawa Party controls parts of Muthanna airport and takes it as its central headquarters. These parties refuse to hand over these properties to the government, which is unable to hold these parties accountable because they are big gangs that are supported and control the state joints . They occupy large numbers of government buildings for nominal rents and fees these parties and their militias are empowered to dismiss, exempt and appoint senior departmental and staff managers in accordance with their mood, animosity and personal and party interests.
Seizure and random construction (slums) in Iraq:
Studies show that more than 10% of Iraq’s population lives in random housing (squatter settlement).
The latest study on informal housing complexes in Basra dates back to 2014, according to Zohra al-Jabri, the urban planning official in the provincial council, which indicated to define 48,520 random houses.
According to the Ministry of Planning, 3.2 million people, including women, children and men, live in about 4,000 random housing complexes throughout Iraq, which means that about 10 percent of the country’s population lives in these compounds.
Seizure and random construction (slums) in Basra:
One out of five of these slum compounds is located in Basrah governorate, followed Baghdad governorate.
The Basra budget, allocated according to its population, depends on the official census, loses an amount equal to the cost of building each house built randomly, because these complexes are not included within the population plan of the province.
As for taxes and water and electricity fees, the slum dwellers do not pay them, stressing that this affects the “budget for education, health and other services.”
Seizure and random construction (slums) in Diyala:
In Diyala province, militias and powerful parties seized public property and claimed their return to political entities belonging to officials and politicians, but they were really belong to state ownership.
According to observers, there is the owner of an orchard in Khanaqin exceeded the territory of the state area of 1600 m, and he went to the concerned departments claiming that the orchard belongs to him in order to seize the land, and obstruct the work of the municipality in the retrieval, and many others are taking advantage of positions for personal gain and private benefit, in addition the existence of the phenomenon of bribes to complete transactions in a number of departments of Diyala province, which requires follow-up by the concerned governmental authorities and the need to take all legal procedures to account for those to reduce these phenomena.
For her part, member of the Committee on Economy and Investment parliamentary “Najiba Najib said,” The chaos that overwhelmed Iraq after 2003, and the absence of central state, contributed significantly to the seizure of political parties and blocs on real estate in all provinces under the patronage and nepotism.
This is in addition to the weakness of the SAIs and the lack of state control over the property, which allowed for the domination of the parties and even the armed factions to occupy the buildings, palaces and public properties, and the existence of some official bodies that take over the state’s properties, but are not authorized to occupy these places. As they were unable to seize public property if there were strict measures.
Najib added that the Iraqi state can bring lawsuits to the Iraqi judiciary and fined those who benefited from those properties that belong to the ownership of the people. Today, the parties in Iraq have huge property and are not poor.
The government’s Finance Committee confirms in its clarifications that only 60% of the property is still available to the government, while the former government of Nuri al-Maliki has sold 40% of the state’s properties. Now the government has begun to study the idea of disposing of more than 600,000 state-owned properties as part of its plan to face the financial crisis due to the decline in oil prices.
In a related context, the member of the Economic Committee in the Iraqi parliament, Nora Albjari described , the volume of corruption and suspicious transactions in this file as “the largest file in which there is a corruption,” asserting that “some of these real estate and palaces and buildings worth billions of dollars, while the government sold some cheaply, on the basis of which is the price of the state, or in the fake auctions it advertises, which are also corrupt, where they are not subject to the real auction criteria and are subject to the interests of influential people in the state. ”
“Some political parties and personalities have taken over these large buildings, as if they were their own, and claimed they were sacrificing for the country and they have the credit to change the former regime, and so many properties have been taken over by this argument,” al-Bijari said.
al-Bijari added : “Some influential people seized large houses of officials in the former regime that were overrun, and some of them forged its bonds and purchased them from the state at cheap prices that is worth nothing.”
Al-Baijari pointed out “Some 600,000 properties owned by the state are now exploited by influential people, and most blocs do not want to open this file because it hits their interests, explaining that some properties were sold to people and political parties.”
law experts asserted that some of the properties have been rented out, some others have been bought at low prices, indicating to some kind of corruption deals and these deals are done under pressure from influential people. These buildings are subject to the law of selling and renting state funds.
And those valuations were manipulated under the pretext of market prices, although these financial assessments are clearly damaging to the state. Such legal actions are subject to criminalization item under Iraqi penal laws, and the Integrity Commission is competent to consider such cases when they are moved.
The phenomenon of the seizure of state property by political parties and militias has raised concern among human rights activists of the growing influence of armed factions, which poses a serious threat to their civilian lives and raises questions about the role of the government and its ability to stop this chaos, as many of them say.
Economic Studies Unit
Rawabet Center for Research and Strategic Studies